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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