‘Jazz Talks’ with Michael Arbenz of Vein

Vein“It’s more like being a company than being a musician”

Vein know the business of music. Having met their drummer, Florian Arbenz and pianist, Michael (his twin brother) one thing is clear to me, they have a quiet but effective strategy for being a working band. Stay focused on the goal, don’t be afraid of the dirty work and take risks. Along with double bass player, Thomas Lähns, they also work hard. “Today as a musician you can’t say, ‘I just want to have my fee and that’s it,’ explains Michael, “you have to invest some money sometimes and if you do it right you get it back. It’s more like being a company than being a musician just practising and dreaming – that would be very nice!”

Cover_VEIN_Jazz_TalksVein are building their career, brick by brick. Jazz Talks is Vein’s ninth album and features legendary American saxophonist, Dave Liebman. His career includes stints with Miles Davis and Chick Corea – a tangible link to the heritage of jazz of which Vein are clearly so passionate when you hear ‘Walking With a Start’ or ‘Black Tortoise’. Live, Michael ripples with influences from Stravinsky to Bill Evans, but Vein are so steeped in the jazz tradition that they are able to weave in their own voices. Not an overnight achievement. “I think it’s more honest to find something personal and stay with it,” says Michael when we discuss their music style.

Hooking up with celebrated artists has been useful, it nurtures their skills and can connect them to foreign audiences. However, it takes some guts (and talent) to achieve. Greg Osby of the infamous M-Base Collective was the first Michael approached when he was just 23 years old. “It was back in the old days – there was a fax number on the back of one of his CDs and I faxed him and he was very open to play with young musicians, he still is.”

“The good thing was that it was normal to be a musician”

Vein not only make these approaches (a collaboration with a UK saxophonist is next in the pipeline) they also do all the administration and manage themselves. If you check their tour dates below you’ll see what they achieve. Also when you have someone like Liebman in the band, the hotels and travel need to be well organised. Did having parents involved in music (they are both musicians and teachers) help them to understand the business? “The good thing was that it was normal to be a musician,” he says, as musicians can face opposition from their own family, “but it’s more like we’re not afraid to do the dirty work, to call people, it’s a lot of work that’s not nice to do.”

Their curiosity for the piano their father played had them starting music as early as 4 or 5 years old. “The music education was very present but my parents didn’t push us, so it was very natural to get into it.” They also both learnt drums and Michael recalls that making music together was a form of playtime for the brothers, “And after, in our teenage years, it became more serious and it was great to have someone who was the same age and had the same interests.”

“I think we were attracted by the very positive mood of it”

They began listening to their parent’s jazz records and heard Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum and Fats Waller. “I think we were attracted by the very positive mood of it, also it’s kind of virtuoso, and rhythmical with the drums…but I think when we were kids we weren’t analysing it…Louis Armstrong: it’s almost like a celebration or something and we were attracted by that.”

For me, there is almost a telepathy between Michael and Florian onstage but Thomas is an equal member of the crew. “Vein is a collective and this is an important philosophy of the trio…We try to develop to find more possibilities and more freedom on how to play together on an equal level.” The band are always looking for how they can break the traditional roles of a piano trio and be truly multi-dimensional. When I ask what he wants to work on he replies, “Everything…I don’t like to relax and think, ‘Oh now I can do what I want,’ this is dangerous for music. I like to go on and improve everything: to compose better, play better and have more to say – that’s the most difficult”.

Vein will be one of the four Swiss acts that Swiss Vibes is presenting at Montreux Jazz Festival (Château de Chillon) ont the 10th of July. Be there!

16. April VEIN feat. Greg Osby, De Singer, Antwerpen/BE
17. April VEIN feat. Greg Osby, Jazz Celebrations Gorzow/PL
19. April VEIN feat. Greg Osby, Künstlerwerkstatt Pfaffenhofen/DE
20. April VEIN feat. Greg Osby, Jazzkongress Freiburg/DE
21. April St. Ives Jazzclub/UK
22. April Grimsby Jazz/UK
23. April Newcastle/UK
24. April Capstone Theatre. Liverpool/UK
2. Mai Jazzkeller Frankfurt/DE
8. Mai Jazzfestival Schaffhausen/CH
26. Mai VEIN feat. Dave Liebman, Band on the Wall/UK
27. Mai VEIN feat. Dave Liebman, Porgy and Bess, Wien/A
28. Mai VEIN feat. Dave Liebman, Vortex London/UK
29. Mai VEIN feat. Dave Liebman, Jazzlines Birmingham/UK
30. Mai VEIN feat. Dave Liebman, Porgy en Bess, Zeeland/NL
31. Mai EIN feat. Dave Liebman, Platformtheater Groningen/NL
27. Juni Glasgow Jazz Festival/SCO
10. July Montreux Jazz Festival, Château de Chillon

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