The heated kitchen for innovative artists
Take Five is a “heated kitchen” for innovative, young jazz artists, with five concentrated days of coaching, learning, sharing and networking (along with some fun and seriously good food). Created by the UK’s foremost jazz producer, Serious, and funded by Pro Helvetia, Take Five:Switzerland was designed to isolate eight Swiss musicians in the lush setting of Bore Place in Kent – think bluebell woods, gardens bursting with wisteria and mock orange, slouchy sofas and log fires – and lead them through sessions with a performance coach (Mary McCusker), music promoters from across Europe, as well as, digital, legal and industry experts including Wulf Muller of Sony.
“It’s been a rich experience,” said Tobias Preisig, as a comment on the variety of “inside information” they could garner, even when that meant facing tedious home truths. Musicians, such as Florian Arbenz, were aware they could improve their social networking and online presence, and some learnt the value of visual presentation, possibly helped by the photo shoot with experienced portraitist, Emile Holba. Scott Cohen of The Orchard gave a blistering session on aggressive digital distribution and ways to make money from music in an era of sporadic CD sales, with pianist Leo Tardin commenting, “He was the one to shake our ground the most, not someone to pat us on the head, but kick us in the butt, and he did that very well.”
“We need some space for our dreams” Andreas Schaerrer
Sometimes the message from promoters was dour, “We’re learning about the business, but there is no business”, said Marc Perrenoud noting that, “You have to build your audience because, apparently, no audience is interested in jazz.” However, as the vocalist Andreas Schaerer explained, “We need some space for our dreams,” and without exception they were resilient to negative messages. They have to be.
Jazz will need to go on beyond the passing of the classic “greats” and continue sculpting its own relevant identity whilst earning a living. Schaerer felt supported by some promoters learning that, “It’s not only our job to build up our career but it’s also that everybody is interested in having a future generation of active people.”
“We are a community, we are coming from the same place” Stefan Rusconi
What became achingly clear was the wall of work that faces these artists on a daily basis and that as they’d been given this break away from emails, calls, rehearsals, travelling, organising, etc, they were keen to squeeze every drop of tangible use out of the time with little patience for anything deemed irrelevant. Although Take Five is an extremely organised and detailed affair, thanks in part to the sterling work of Martel Ollerenshaw, it also tried to be flexible. So when the Swiss crew stood up to say they wanted time to simply hang out to share concepts, contacts and knowledge with each other, they were given it.
Something I was most struck by was the honesty with which the artists spoke to me about issues they were facing. Somehow the bombardment of information along with the intimate environment and maybe the odd glass of wine had enabled them to face up to their personal challenges: do they follow their business head or artistic heart, how can they deal with the amount they should be doing whilst having focused rehearsal/practise days, or time for their family, what step should they take next?
A Tribe Called Swiss
On the last day there was an extraordinary jam session led by one of the UK’s most exquisite saxophonists, John Surman. And there was an impromptu game of “football-piggy-in-the-middle”. It was actually in the kick about that I most clearly saw a key triumph of Take Five: the founding of a connected, bonded and inspired group. Let’s call it, A Tribe Called Swiss. Without exception each artist echoed Stefan Rusconi’s sentiment, “I knew all of them at least by name, but it’s been great to meet the other musicians. Also, to see we are a community, we are coming from the same place.”
Take Five can shake things up and it will take a while for the musicians to digest it all. I agreed with Rusconi when he said, “We need to be proud of what we’re doing. Swiss music is the new thing – chaotic, strange but rooted too.” Now all they need to do is buck the Swiss trend and force the spotlight onto themselves. As John Surman noted after their music session together, “I won’t forget you guys in a hurry,” and if they utilise their newly found esprit de corps, they stand a chance of the music world saying the same thing.