Welcome to fill in!

This first blog post is a very personal one. Over the next few months, I will be covering the festival in detail here, taking a look behind the scenes, introducing the team, the musicians, the venues and much more. Of course, I will also be reporting on the festival and looking back.

My name is Bülent Gündüz, I am an art critic and cultural journalist and what you might call a “jazz maniac”. I have also been press spokesperson for the fill in – International Jazz Festival Saar since November 2023. I have been listening to jazz since my teenage time. The first song that I really consciously perceived as jazz was Dave Brubeck’s “Take five”. I remember very clearly that I was blown away by the first few bars of the drums, then Brubeck came in on the piano as a rhythm instrument and when the saxophone melody came in, I was hooked. No wonder, because not only is the 5/4 time signature unusual, the song has everything that defines jazz: it is vital, vibrant, becomes free and lively through the improvisations. The music is immediately captivating!

I was born in 1971 and jazz was so different from everything else we listened to in the 1980s. I was inspired by this intellectual music, which was nevertheless never stiff and cerebral. My heroes were John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Ron Carter, Lee Morgan – to name just a few of the musicians who inspired me early on. Not only did I collect the records, I also started traveling to the big jazz festivals, and you had to, because to enjoy the atmosphere of a jazz festival, you had to travel a long way. How happy I was when, in the early 2000s, a jazz festival was established in the small Alsatian village of La Petite-Pierre, which was less than an hour’s drive away.

The region, on the other hand, was quiet. Although St. Wendel, Saarbrücken and St. Ingbert had jazz festivals with high-quality music, the world stars of jazz rarely strayed there, especially in the early years, and the Saarland was otherwise successfully avoided by the big names. The festival in Saarbrücken came to an end at the end of the 2010s and St. Ingbert announced a break in 2019, which has lasted to this day. Of course I knew the jazz drummer Oliver Strauch and was also connected to him via facebook. When I heard that he was planning a new festival, I was immediately hooked. I was sure that Oliver would be able to do it if he could secure the funding.

What I then experienced in July 2023 brought back the feeling from my early days as a jazz lover: the incredible feeling of happiness. It was an incomparably great experience. The atmosphere in the German-French Garden was perfect. There were no rigid seating arrangements; anyone who wanted to could simply lie on the picnic lawn with a glass of wine and listen to the music on offer. Kenny Garrett was already one of the highlights of the program on the first evening, but the flamenco pianist Dorantes was also great. I had heard of him before, but it was the first time I had seen him live in the DFG.

In the evening, on the terrace of the Jazz Club in the Victor’s Residenzhotel, I approached Oliver and offered to help if he needed support with his press and public relations work. I would never have expected it, but in late summer Oliver contacted me and asked if I would like to join the team. And how I felt like it! For me, working at the festival is a dream come true. I would like to share the fun I have doing this with you on these pages over the next few months.