To be able to talk about improvisation in music, one first has to experience it live. Several hundred clubs, festivals and concert halls in Germany regularly feature jazz musicians of local, national and international standing. And many a German jazz club has become famous overseas.
Tonne jazz club, Dresden
The Tonne jazz club in Dresden has had a colourful past. It took its name from the cellar vaults under the Kurländer Palais, where jazz concerts were held back in the days of the GDR. The Neue Tonne opened in the cellars of the Kulturrathaus in the year 2000.
Frankfurt am Main became the centre of German jazz after the Second World War thanks to the US army clubs in the city. Founded in 1952 by the legendary Carlo Bohländer (1919-2004), the Jazzkeller on Kleine Bockenheimer Strasse is probably the oldest jazz club in Germany that is still in existence.
Jazzclub Hannover's home since 1966 has been the cellar of a former youth centre on Lindener Berg hill. The 'orange club' was founded by Michael Gehrke (1943-2004), who was made an honorary citizen of New Orleans in 1978 for his contribution to jazz.
The name A-Trane combines Trane, a nickname given to John Coltrane, and A-Train, after the Billy Strayhorn number 'Take the A-Train'. The A-Trane opened in 1992 in Charlottenburg, in the centre of what was once West Berlin. In 2011 it won the accolade of Germany's best jazz club.
The b-Flat club at Hackescher Markt in the former East Berlin opened in 1995 as a counterpart to the A-Trane in the west of Berlin. It offers a cool ambience and a famously long bar, and also hosts occasional concerts in other genres. The popular jam sessions are on Wednesdays.
Back in 1978, jazz used to be played at Zur Unterfahrt, the railworkers' bar near Munich's Ostbahnhof station. Now the international press regularly lists the Unterfahrt club in Munich-Haidhausen as one of Europe's ten best jazz clubs. Its home since 1998 has been the subterranean Einstein arts venue near Max-Weber-Platz.
Bix jazz club in the Gustav-Siegle-Haus in Stuttgart's old quarter is still relatively young. It was named after Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931), the legendary jazz cornet player of German origin. Bix presents its weekly international highlight on Fridays.
This former restaurant at the Stadtgarten park in Cologne was first used as a jazz venue back in 1978. Jazz is still at the forefront of the Stadtgarten's cultural programme – from modern mainstream to the latest experimental sounds.