The Moers Jazz Festival is one of the most important events for jazz, experimental and improvised music in Germany. The 44th edition showed that modern jazz is more than ever not just radically hybrid but also highly political.
«When we found our name, we felt quite rebellious, and now it will be on the fucking money». Said Melvin Gibbs, bass player of the Harriet Tubman trio, when he entered the stage of the Moers Festival on saturday night with the project «Black Sun», a collaboration between the trio and the jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. Although around 2000 people laughed, it was quite a serious statement. Because it showed once again, how long it takes the political elite of the United States to process their history of racism, slavery and violence – and honor the people who suffered from it.
Harriet Tubman was an escape agent, who helped slaves to flee from the racist southern states to the liberal north in the 19th century during the secession war. Her picture will soon officially be printed on the 20 Dollar bills. A historical decision, which, according to the «New York Times», «may well have captured a historical moment for a multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial nation moving contentiously through the early years of a new century».
Besides this, questions of gender and europe´s dangerous shift to the right were addressed. Liz Kosack, Liz Allbee and the queer electronic musician Korhan Erel of the berlin based trio «The Liz» performed a postmodern jazz-drone-opera «Book of Birds», in which they posed critical questions on gender and identity, while creating otherworldly textures, from harmonic melodies to eerie subbass shocks, with trumpets, effects, live singing and keyboards.
A few hours before, the german jazz band Tim Isfort «Zaptett» played a cover version of «New Dark Age», a song from the british post punk band The Sound. The title would fit well in our times , «in which a lot of people are guided by their fears», said Isfort before they started to play the song in a quite jazzy, but still recognisable way. And yes, in the first lines of the lyrics one could find accurate descriptions of our present: «In the darkest times/Darkest fears are heard/From the safest places/Come the bravest words». But, as long as music is still able to reflect the times in which it is performed, we should be hopeful to not enter medieval times again. Shouldn’t we?