XJAZZ! 2022: Kreuzberg’s musical upstart returns

With 80 concerts over four days, XJAZZ! is taking over as Berlin’s premier jazz festival.

Lady Blackbird will play this year’s XJAZZ! Festival at Lido on May 6. Photo: XJAZZ! Festival

It has only been eight years since XJAZZ! got started, and in that time the ambitious festival has made unbelievable strides to promote live jazz in the city. JazzFest, Berlin’s other big fête, has been going for nearly six decades, and while there’s definitely space for the pair to coexist in harmony, the upstart feels more potent as a tastemaker than the elder statesman has for a while now.

The 2022 line-up is excellently curated, bringing together big names, tip-of-your-tongue acts and exceptional newcomers. On the one hand, there are artists like Nubya Garcia, Angel Bat Dawid and Lady Blackbird that even non-jazz fans will know. While those with a slightly deeper interest will be waiting with bated breath for terrific talents like Nu Genea Live Band, Avishai Cohen and Emma-Jean Thackray. The latter, a multi-hyphenate English bandleader, producer, singer, DJ and more, is one of the most special acts at the whole festival.

The official line is that “the idea was to develop a jazz festival format which should represent a clear antithesis to the established German jazz culture”. While there’s nothing wrong with that culture per se, there has long been a tacit understanding that German jazz, though a proud tradition, needs to be refreshed and reworked. XJAZZ! goes a long way to doing just that with an intense expression of the diversity of sound that jazz has to offer. As is now tradition, the festival takes place in a select number of venues in Kreuzberg on an almost non-stop basis for its whole course, transforming the Kiez into a bonafide hub for live jazz.

It’s easy to go and catch the big names here and while you can be guaranteed a great gig, our tip is to take a moment to check out some of the up and coming names in the genre such as Leona Berlin, Pip Millett and Moses Yoofee. XJAZZ! is all about rewarding new experiences rather than resting on your laurels, and since there is the new option to buy 12-concert tickets, redeemable at any event, there’s no reason that you can’t have your cake and eat it.

XJAZZ! Festival 2022 venues across Kreuzberg. May 4-8