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Music

How to create a jazz festival with a climax

For the last six years, the Jazzfest Bonn has been giving the city a new groove. Artistic director Peter Materna tells DW what makes the festival so intense and why the concerts are a must.

DW: What's the most challenging part of putting together the festival program?

Peter Materna: I'm on the road a lot and I do quite some scouting myself in the jazz scene. I'm really interested in finding out who the interesting artists are out there, no matter whether they are young or old.

The challenge for the entire program is to create a progression that works well, from the opening concert throughout the whole festival right up to the highlight event, which can be at the end or maybe even in the middle. I aim to pair artists that complement each other. Ideally, one is relatively well-known and the other completely unknown, but both have a comparable artistic level.

Is there a special theme for Jazzfest 2015 ?

Jazzfest 2015 has several themes. There are many women, which isn't usually the case in jazz: With Marilyn Mazur and Terri Lyne Carrington, we have two of the most famous drummers. The trumpet is another focus. We have a smorgasbord of great trumpeters, for instance the New York star Peter Evans.

Jazzfest Bonn is in its sixth year. How has it developed over the years?

We've become more intense. We have more concerts, but we haven't had to compromise on quality. The public has really embraced the festival: The concerts are always sold out. Jazz needs more public attention and its promotion is one of my main goals - that means even more intensive work with the media. It's already working wonderfully well with DW.

Without a doubt, this year's highlight is the Nigel Kennedy concert. The artist has a reputation of being a bit excentric: Was it difficult to get him to accept?

Yes, incredibly difficult. It took me a year and a half to get him to accept. He's certainly the most prominent artist at the festival, and he plays so many different genres that you can easily lose track. Originally, I wanted to book him with his jazz program. Now he'll show up with a totally new project that will be premiering in Germany at the Jazzfest: "Nigel Kennedy plays Jimi Hendrix."

JazzFest Bonn 2012 Peter Materna

He's also a musician: Jazzfest artistic director Peter Materna.

Which five concerts should people be sure not to miss?

I like the less well-known acts in particular, because of their surprise effect. I'm looking forward to Peter Evans on May 11, a trumpeter who is almost unknown here but a household name in the US and the international jazz scene because he is a stunning virtuoso and highly musical to boot.

On May 14, we present the Julia Kadel Trio with Julia Kadel at the piano. I heard them play live and they blew my mind. I never thought such a young band could play in such a fresh way while being so mature.

Then, there's Pat Martino, a living legend, who accompanied me during my own career as a musician: That's the opening concert on May 7, and certainly my own personal festival highlight.

Another one of my favorites is the singer Norbert Gottschalk on May 8 with the Norbert Gottschalk Quintett, and last but not least, Stefan Schultze with his Large Ensemble on May 9. That's always a surprise, a kind of symphonic big band - great arrangements played by incredibly good musicians.

Festival artistic director Peter Materna, born in 1965, is also a jazz musician and plays the saxophone. He studied in Cologne and Essen and has been a recording artist since 1989. He became the artistic director of Jazzfest Bonn in 2010.

Jazzfest Bonn runs from May 7 through May 16, 2015.

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