The sporty character of competitions always seems a little out of place in music. Nevertheless, the finale of the BMW Jazz Award promises to be particularly exciting this year. And that’s not just because of the great bands that will compete against each other.
It is actually a fast business and a puzzling one at that, which, according to its structure, was carried from sport to art. While it can still make sense in classical music to provide proof of performance in the mastery of a fixed repertoire in order to have a vaguely measurable parameter at hand to differentiate between musicians who are almost equally trained, competitions in jazz are actually a contradiction in terms. It is true that for a few decades there have been standards of playing technique that are taught at universities. But if you want to judge volatile factors such as creativity, juries are often faced with the essentially unsolvable task of having to compare apples with pumpkins or perhaps even forest ferns. If you also understand a band as a creative continuum, it becomes even more confusing. Because anyone who has won a preliminary round from a specific stage of development in his ensemble can be in a completely different position just over a year later.
In this respect, the finale of the BMW Welt Jazz Awards 2020 in the pandemic-related postponement version will be exciting on many levels. On the one hand, there is the question of how the two winning groups developed over a year of isolation, slow communication and reflection. At the time of the competition concert, the quartet of the Polish violinist Adam Baldych was already a highly structured team in the stylistic mix of classical, European and traditional references, which it reassessed from the perspective of improvisational interpretation in a jazzy way. The Bavarian drummer Peter Gall, on the other hand, brings together a contemporary all-star group of moderate experimenters in his quintet and combines them on a modern jazzy basis to form a laboratory group of strong stylistic characters who can deal with the demand for freedom within a structured system in an exemplary manner. On the other hand, these artistic factors encounter changed framework conditions. Because the BMW Welt Jazz Award will take place for the first time on Friday evening in the Philharmonie im Gasteig. The brand management, coupled with patronage, is carried prestigiously from the edge of the Olympic Park into the middle of the city and has the opportunity to receive a large audience with the renowned hall. With this finale, the focus of the award will therefore also change. Due to the venue and the ongoing cooperation with the city’s cultural department and the radio station egoFM, on the one hand, it is more Munich-based in terms of its location and, on the other, more international in its appeal. But that doesn’t make it easier for the jury to make a choice on a summer evening under the motto “The Melody At Night”. It remains a task that is as appealing as it is actually impossible.
Final BMW Welt Jazz Award 2020, Philharmonie im Gasteig, Friday, July 23, 7 p.m.