Andreas Schaerer wins ECHO Jazz Award

Andreas SchaererI met Andreas Schaerer two years ago almost to the day, when he was on a week-long course for jazz musicians in the UK. It was about 10pm and he was the last of seven interviews I was doing, we were both pretty exhausted. There’s a softness to people zapped of the energy to be nervous or erect the usual social barriers. The room was lit only by the evening sky outside and Andreas was slumped forward, his head rested in his hands. “I’m a bit f***ed up,” he said. Lack of planning and things going better than expected meant everything was coming at him at the same time, “Too much work, pressure and expectations,” he explained.

In a way he didn’t need to tell me. When I’d checked his website for my research I could see this was a man who liked to say, ‘Yes’ and play ball with everyone who asked. He wasn’t shy of taking responsibility, but that evening it felt like there was a truly heavy weight on his shoulders.

On May 28th of this year, Andreas will be walking up the ‘red carpet’ of the ECHO Jazz Awards to collect International Vocalist of the Year, a prize won by Gregory Porter in 2014. This is massive, not only for Andreas, but dare I say, for Switzerland. Another building block increasing the country’s reputation for distinctive music of quality. It was just as well Schaerer didn’t take my advice to slim down his commitments! Instead he developed bigger muscles to face the challenges, releasing four albums in just over a year. Admirably he also scheduled in time for a proper long holiday with his young family.

As I write this, Andreas is at home in Bern surrounded by sheets of scores he’s composing for his band Hildegard Lernt Fliegen and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, no less. That’s music for almost 70 musicians from two harps to eighteen violins and a tuba. “There’ll be some Beatboxing meets classical percussion meets three marimbas,” he told me, “there’ll be fairytale-ish harmonic moments and lots of madness….” That sounds about right. It will be a prestigious, one-off concert in Lucerne on September 5th and I can’t wait.

I know it’s not a Swiss characteristic to ‘blow your own trumpet’ (shout about yourselves) so I like to do it for you. Along with the ECHO Award, Schaerer was nominated for the Swiss Music Prize and voted International Newcomer of 2014 by French magazine, JazzMan. Hildegard Lernt Fliegen won the BMW World Jazz Award – both the jury and the audience prizes (!) and their album, The Fundamental Rhythm Of Unpolished Brains was voted as Best Vocal Release of 2014 by New York City Jazz Record. The album Arcanum with Lucas Niggli won the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis and was chosen as a ‘CHOC’ by JazzMan Magazine in 2014. So not a bad year then. And one that clarifies the importance of originality and drive in a highly competitive and crowded market. I think it helps that Schaerer can have an audience giggling whatever their language, we all need a laugh every so often.

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