When it comes to music, Berlin is a wild city. Whether it is the hypnotic electronic beats that you escape into, or countless concerts that you wish you had more time and a fuller wallet, whether it’s classic, funky, metal, or other-worldly, you name it, and Berlin has it.
When it comes to jazz, Berlin has its unique jazz scene, with its intimate yet crowded atmosphere, full of possibilities and freedom. It attracts international young musicians from all over the world to gather together in this musical city. The city jazzes with music festivals, jazz bars and clubs, as well as dancing parties. The annual Jazzfest just came to an end and left the city with flying notes and crazy rhythms. Jazz enthusiast and supporter Lavia Lin interviewed few young Jazz musicians on what makes the jazz scene in Berlin so attractive.
David Guy, drummer, Denmark/France
David has been working in Berlin for two years, active in the Jazz scene since March. Before devoting himself to music, he was working as a restaurant manager and playing music on the side. Growing up in a music family, his grandma was an organist, his uncles are both musically orientated, where one is a trumpeter, the other one owns a saxophone shop in New York.
Why did you decide to play Jazz?
I think that jazz is a form of expression. I play jazz but I wouldn’t call myself a jazz musician because I play a bit of everything, other than classical percussion. I used to play metal music and had a band when I was 12. It was great! But I’m quite out of practice. I wasn’t really exposed to jazz before I moved to New York at 18. I knew about jazz then, how technical it is and how it is about improvisation, more than that I didn’t really know. Honestly, I thought it was pretty boring. Jazz music was something I heard in elevators and lounges. In New York, I had the right introduction to jazz music through great teachers and I fell in love with it.
What is improvisation?
Just as much as how jazz expressed through the means of improvisation is more open and encompassing in the musical context as in relation to other styles, in the end, all kinds of music are improvisation. Because you are making micro decisions in the moment, even if it is a very thoroughly composed piece, you are still making decisions, even in classical music, you have so many different ways in which you make decisions in small nuances of how to improvise, how to make interpretations.
Music, being a form of expression, what do you want to expres/say?
Sometimes it is not about what to say, but how to say it. When you are playing in a jazz combo, the soloists take turn to play and together we say something. Playing together is about how you communicate your ideas with the others, and when you are playing the solo, you take turns to be the commander of the group with a leading flag.
I was enchanted by the ideas and possible ways of how to tell a story. This whole new world opened wide in front of me when I was introduced first with John Coltrane. I realized that I went through phases of listening to different music, rock and roll, funk, hard rock, I got into metal music, death metal and even Norwegian black metal. I was looking for a kind of intensity, then the intensity of a higher level. I remember listening to Coltrane and Miles, I was fascinated by the way how you can build a story from something very small to something big. Metal for me, was like kindergarten in relation to this. John Coltrane got into another dimension.
As much as I got into jazz music and improvised music, I also developed a new appreciation for all kinds of music. Today jazz can be everything, it can per example be a mixture of Cuban music and electronica.
What was your impression of New York’s jazz scene?
it is not the place where jazz music was born, but it a place where it developed a lot.
The greatest jazz musicians who I like today are living there. New York in its every single aspect is very dense. Whenever and wherever you are in New York, you can go and see amazing music. It is very inspiring. New York was a big learning experience. You have to work very hard, and you can’t sit still in a city that is in constant movement – that is great and very motivating.”
Why did you move to Berlin?
I was considering moving to Paris, Berlin or London. I heard about great things about Berlin. I never stop appreciating the decision of moving to a completely new city where you know no one. It was the first time for me to go to a city where I was not studying, the first city that became my base. It is where I have to confront myself in this brand new environment.
What are your impressions of Berlin’s jazz scene?
There is a lot of different kinds of jazz in Berlin. There is the free, the modern, the be-bop, hard-bop, the swing, and the classic. There are a lot of things going on with original music and jazz music mixed with other music. Soul, Neo-Soul, Funk and a lot like this going on.
Compared to New York, there is this European mentality to the jazz scene in Berlin. It is a bit more relaxed, and it has a nice balance between the relaxed and but there is actually a lot going on. Another great thing about Berlin is the friendly vibe in the music scene, especially at jam sessions. That is great for positive reinforcement, but it can also make things a bit too open sometimes.
Favorite places to play and jam?
Donau 115, Zig Zag and Peppi Guggenheim.
I like places with great energy. It feels as though there is an idea that jazz is this fine-art where you have to sit with you legs crossed and drink wine when you listen to jazz. I think it can be experienced and it can be appreciated like that, but I do not think it is only confined to that context.
Recently I have been touring with a blues/rock/soul band in Holland and in Germany and recently played at Jazz festival in Stockholm with a group that mixes polish psalter music and jazz. Other than that I side-man in a few projects of very different styles – some things are jazz, some are indie, rock, latin, funk. In the past couple of months I have been getting more and more work as a recording-musician – which is great fun and very enriching.
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