Das Treffen von zwei Kolossen

Andreas Schaerers Band Hildegard lernt fliegen wird beim Luzerne Festival symphonisch

Probe 1: Andreas Schaerer (links) und Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra ©Stefan Deuber

Probe 1: Andreas Schaerer (links) und Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra ©Stefan Deuber

Es gibt gleich einige gute Gründe, warum der Berner Andreas Schaerer derzeit der vielleicht interessanteste Gesangskünstler der Musikszene ist. Was damit beginnt, das der aktuelle Preisträger des Echo Jazz in der Sparte „Gesang international“ (und damit direkter Nachfolger von Gregory Porter) weit mehr ist als nur ein Sänger und auch nur bedingt in die Schublade Jazz passt; Schaerer ist vielmehr ein Stimm-Jongleur, der sein Organ nicht nur in den verschiedensten Lagen und Stilen (vom klassischen Lied- bis zum Crooner- oder Scat-Gesang) erklingen, sondern damit auch alle denkbaren Geräusche erzeugen und allerlei Instrumente bis hin zum Schlagzeug imitieren und polyphon übereinander türmen kann. Er ist darüber hinaus ein glänzender Komponist und Improvisator, der diese Fähigkeiten für die verschiedensten Projekte variabel einsetzen und rhythmisch wie melodisch virtuos gestalten kann. Und er verfügt schließlich in reichem Maße über Bühnen-Charisma und die in der „ernsten Musik“ eher seltenen Gabe des Humors, was vor allem bei seiner Paradeband Hildegard lernt fliegen zur Geltung kommt.

Interessantester Vokalist der Gegenwart
Probe 2: Andreas Schaerer mit Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra ©Stefan Deuber

Probe 2: Andreas Schaerer mit Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra ©Stefan Deuber

So ist es folgerichtig, dass Hildegard lernt fliegen vor zwei Jahren den BMW Welt Jazz Award gewann, als dessen jährlich wechselndes Motto „Sense of Humour“ lautete; und dass Schaerer mit der Band nun beim Lucerne Festival ins Spiel kam – lautet doch dessen Motto heuer „Humor“. Dramaturg Mark Sattler, beim Festival seit 16 Jahren für „zeitgenössische Projekte“ zuständig, fragte Schaerer, ob er nicht einen Hildegard-Auftritt mit einer 20-minutigen Komposition für das Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra kombinieren wolle. Schaerer ergriff mehr als nur den gereichten Finger und schrieb gleich den kompletten 70-Minuten-Auftritt als „The Big Wig“ betiteltes Orchesterstück für 66 Musiker. Am vergangenen Samstag erblickte das kurz, aber intensiv geprobte, von Schaerer komponierte, arrangierte und orchestrierte, dann vom Hildegard-Saxofonisten (und ehemaligen Geiger) Matthias Wenger feingeschliffene Werk im Luzerner KKL das Licht der Welt – und riss die Zuschauer von den Stühlen.

Mehr Kraft, weniger Gags
Probe 3: Hildegards Blechbläser ©Stefan Deuber

Probe 3: Hildegards Blechbläser ©Stefan Deuber

Paradoxerweise – hält man sich das Festivalmotto vor Augen – hat man wohl noch keinen „seriöseren“, weniger „lustigen“ Hildegard-Auftritt erleben können. Was die logische und bewusste Konsequenz daraus war, dass Schaerer seine Chance beim Schopf packte und alle Möglichkeiten des sinfonischen Rahmens ausschöpfte. Denn damit traten er selbst wie seine Hildegard-Mitstreiter sozusagen ins zweite Glied, um sich in den orchestralen Gesamtklang einzufügen. Die drei adaptierten Hildegard-Hits „Zeusler“, „Seven Oaks“ und „Don Clemenza“ gewannen so einen neuen Fluss und enorme, mitunter filmische Kraft und verloren die in der kleinen Besetzung latente Zickigkeit. Und die eigens geschriebenen Stücke wie „Two Colosses“ ergaben inspirierte Sinfonik mit einem Esprit und einer stets zugänglich bleibenden Experimentierlust, der den meisten neuen Werken dieses Genres fehlt. Das junge, mit überragenden Talenten aus aller Welt gespickte und vom Dirigenten Mariano Chiaccharini lässig, aber präzise instruierte Orchester hatte sichtlich seinen Spaß und ließ sich sogar vom kurz das Dirigentenpult enternden Schaerer auf Jazz-Abwege führen: Wann hat man je ein Sinfonieorchester gelungen kollektiv improvisieren sehen.

Eine sinnvolle Symbiose

Ohnehin ist die Kombination aus klassischem Orchester und Jazzband ja schon oft genug missglückt, zuletzt durfte man sich bei Geir Lysnes Monteverdi-Morricone-Hybridkompositionen vom Auftritt Michael Wollnys mit den 12 Cellisten in Berlin enttäuscht fühlen. Hier war es eine runde Sache, eine sinnvolle und befruchtende Symbiose, die allen Beteiligten nicht nur unvergesslich bleiben, sondern ihnen auch bei der weiteren musikalischen Entwicklung helfen wird.

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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.

The Schaffhausen Jazz Festival 2014

As I walked into the ex-yarn factory, Kulturzentrum Kammgarn, it was clear the organisers put passion and care into their festival. The place was warm and intimate with candlelit tables and there was a relaxed, convivial vibe. Over four evenings the audience was treated to a variety of Swiss improvised music and there was a day of professional talks.

Without doubt, this is an ambitious festival

I missed the compelling Elina Duni Quartet who opened the event, but was there to experience BASH. I’m getting to know Lukas Roos through his outfit, pommelHORSE, but here the clarinetist/saxophonist played with guitarist, Florian Möbes, Domi Chansorn on drums and Samuel Gfeller on graphic novel, literally. A massive screen behind the band showed the story of a prisoner drawn into increasingly twisted events that lead to his end. The style of Gfeller’s drawings, Robert Crumb in feeling, are so powerful that at times, I tuned out their sensitive and minimal music. On speaking to Roos he explained that cutting the set to 40 minutes affected the balance – a point echoed by Andreas Schaerer and Rusconi on appearing at this festival.
Arte Quartett

Schaerer’s vocal noises ran amok

Andreas Schaerer was performing Perpetual Delirium, his composition for the saxophonists, the Arte Quartett with Wolfgang Zwiauer on electric bass. It had the quartet interlacing with a naturalness that was almost child-like in it’s fun and freedom. There were fascinating textures as soprano sax took over from alto, or tenor had a furious and thrilling exchange with the baritone, whilst Schaerer’s vocal noises ran amok adding sparkle, or hiding within their vibrant sound.

For pianist Gabriel Zufferey the time limit was perfect. His music was fluid with notes as sweet as fluttering butterflies yet underpinned by such knowledge and skill that he came across as an eccentric wizard. I liked the echoes of classical music and he incorporated an Eric Satie piece – it might sound tacky, but in his hands it lifted the hearts of the audience who then demanded two encores.

Is Rusconi’s music, jazz, or not?!

I was recently critical of Rusconi‘s gig at the Cully Jazz festival, but at Schaffhausen they were more confident in their ideas and I totally got into the groove of Hits of Sunshine and am warming to the strangeness of Change Part 1. However, on talking to some of the European promotors invited to the festival, questions emerged – is Rusconi’s music, jazz, or not? Is it gimmicky or authentic? I felt some answers were suggested by Gerry Godley of 12 Points who tackled the issue of the future(s) of jazz in his presentation with cartoons from Patrick Sanders, at the festival. But I’ll go into that more in my next Swiss Vibes’ blog, ‘How is Jazz?’

In the meantime I’ll leave you with the Bill Evans‘ quote that Godley used, “Jazz is not a what, it is a how. If it were a what, it would be static, never growing. The how is that the music comes from the moment, it is spontaneous, it exists at the time it is created.” If the Schaffhausen Jazz Festival has its sights set on being a relevant platform for jazz then it needs to continue putting on bands that question our perception of this rich and challenging music, as well as, those that celebrate it.

Cartoon by Patrick Sanders

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