Bad Bonn @ Cafe Oto

BBSB_Cover_final_23-2-16_simuliertThe day after the successful launch event at Rough Trade East, the celebration of the publication of the“The Bad Bonn Song Book”  continues. Bad Bonn crew moved North to Dalston for a celebratory Kilbi night at the legendary avant-garde/jazz/folk venue Cafe Oto. Another sizeable and appreciative crowd was served a diverse programme of Swiss artists that showed off Bad Bonn´s sense of adventure to good effect.

First off was Strotter Inst., aka Christoph Hess. Operating in a border area between noise and conventional music with a pair of “treated” old record players and a series of similarly adapted vinyl records, Strotter Inst produced a minimalist and yet richly textured drone that somehow pulsated with rhythm and held the audience´s attention with remarkable ease.

Next came percussionist Julian Sartorius who, judging by the conversations afterwards, was perhaps the biggest success of the evening. Playful and yet precise, subtle and yet powerful, his uninterrupted half-hour performance was a master class of innovative and controlled solo percussion. In sharp musical contrast, the synth duo Papiro reconnected the audience with early Krautrock history with their slowly shape-shifting take on dreamy Ash Ra-Temple-type sounds.

 

The evening was rounded off sweatily by Camilla Sparksss, Barbara Lehnhoff’s fiery electro outfit, consisting of just herself and a dancer. Combining punky vocals with minimalist electro rhythms and melodies, her short, sharp bursts of high-octane songs were completely different from everything else that had been heard before then, and all the better for it.

Contributing greatly to the success of the night were the DJs Andy Votel and Doug Shipton whose selection of records was perfectly in tune with the spirit of Bad Bonn. In short – the two Bad Bonn nights in London turned out to be an unqualified success.

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Match&Fuse, London 2015

Climbing the Eiger’s Mordwand is tough, but if you are a band trying to get a gig in the UK, then you really face a challenge. And it’s not much better anywhere else.
Presenting the most engaging artists from Europe’s progressive scenes

The musician Dave Morecroft started Match&Fuse (M&F) in 2011 to attack this problem – with energy. He wanted his band (World Service Project) to tour abroad, so in 2011 he found a Norwegian act to ‘match’ his and asked them to find three gigs in Norway for this double bill, whilst he used his UK contacts to book gigs at home. It worked, and the following year Match&Fuse launched its first festival with the aim of presenting the most engaging artists from Europe’s progressive scenes – giving audiences a taster of music from inside and outside their own borders and, more crucially, enabling musicians to extend their contacts abroad.

GHH

Great Harry Hillman Photos: Steven Cropper

Since then Match&Fuse (M&F) has developed co-producers with festivals in Toulouse, Warsaw, Rome and Oslo. Their annual event in the buzzing Dalston area of London uses venues such as Cafe Oto, Vortex and Servant Jazz Quarters and this year, Swiss bands, the Great Harry Hillman (GHH) and duo, 2henning were invited to play. I spoke to them about their experience.

 

‘We could see our music has many different sides’

‘The gig was big fun,’ said Nils Fischer of the GHH, ‘with a conscientious audience. We would have loved to play more than 35 minutes, but the time was sufficient to present our music and get involved in some interesting talk – feedback and discussions, after.’ Valeria Zangger of 2henning also appreciated getting feedback, adding, ‘It showed us some very important stuff that we still have to do, but we could see our music has many different sides and can fit in with a real variety of music programming which is good.’

2henning_a

2henning (Steven Cropper)

‘Getting all this inspiration in a few days, was invaluable’

They were scheduled alongside other emerging European artists such as Strobes, Laura Moody, J=J, Kaja Draksler and Alarmist as well as unique collaborations such as Isabel Sörling with Leafcutter John (of Polar Bear). 2Henning felt that, ‘There was room for free improvisation as well as for more pop/rock oriented music…Playing in that context with a lot of different bands and styles – and getting all this inspiration in a few days, was invaluable.’

‘The idea to unite the bands in a soundpainting orchestra is great’

The ‘fuse’ of the festival brings the bands together in an improvisation in each venue before they proceed to a square outside where they play together in an ‘orchestra’. Using the soundpainting technique with a conductor and hand signals, it can be powerful, fun and completely chaotic. ‘The idea to unite the bands in a soundpainting orchestra is great. We had a very energetic session inside [at the Vortex],’ said Nils. ‘Maybe we stretched the session too long and missed the right point to stop, but it was big fun to meet everybody in the square.’ 2henning agreed, ‘When we began it wasn’t really defined, but then, as we walked to the square in front of the Vortex and met with the other musicians, it was great…people were listening and we played some cool ideas.’

Orchestra

Match&Fuse Orchestra (Steven Cropper)

‘Everybody was giving their best’

The GHH hope to continue being part of the M&F family, taking part in exchange tours, meeting other bands and contacts, ‘Back at home we discussed the option to do another UK trip during our next tour,’ they told me. 2Henning who also played a Sofa Sound night (gigs in people’s living rooms), did a school workshop and appeared on London Live TV as part of their M&F festival experience said, ‘It is helpful to use the name Match&Fuse, but also to have London as a reference,’ before adding, ‘Everybody was giving their best and I think people could feel that…I really had the feeling we belonged to the Match&Fuse family.’

It is a slow and long process with no guarantees

It’s not just about getting gigs and tours abroad – quality of experience matters and concrete benefits. Despite vital support from embassies and cultural organisations, there is not much financial renumeration so M&F need to build media relations in order that musicians get useful reviews. What they do well is encourage exposure of specialist musics, connect musicians and help them develop fanbases across Europe. It is a slow and long process with no guarantees but what was clear from Match&Fuse London 2015 was not only the breadth of talent but the good feeling, positivity and confidence that came out of it for both M&F and the artists.

M&F also had three events during the EFG London Jazz Festival with the Swiss/Russian band Jazzator. It will develop more ‘threads’ through other festivals both in the UK and abroad. M&F festivals are confirmed for Toulouse and London in 2016 as well as tours in Sweden, Poland and Ireland.
Soundcloud: Match&Fuse, London 2015 Mix
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“Are we selling candles or are we selling light?”

When I reviewed the Schaffhausen Jazz Festival, questions emerged – is Rusconi‘s new album, jazz? What should jazz be in 2014? Gerry Godley of the Improvised Music Company and 12 Points festival worked with cartoonist Patrick Sanders on a presentation that made some vital points for the industry. I particularly liked the analogy – are we selling candles or are we selling light? Put crudely if we carry on focusing on traditional forms of jazz we may go out of business.

© Patrick Sanders Let's be more open to innovation, especially as jazz has become  more porous and collaborative ©Patrick Sanders

© Patrick Sanders
Let’s be more open to innovation, especially as jazz has become more porous and collaborative ©Patrick Sanders

Godley referred to America’s major arts survey of 2012 and although I don’t see Europe in the same grip of the “heritage” of jazz, it’s probably a similar picture here: audience numbers are declining and they are growing older (as I saw at Schaffhausen and see in London). As Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Jazz musicians who want to keep their own…beautiful music alive…have got to start thinking hard about how to pitch it to young listeners.”

“What is jazz about & who is it for? – grows unclear.” Phil Johnson

To be frank, jazz has lost its hipness. Young urban ‘gunslingers’ are more likely to listen to new folk or the myriad forms of electronica. Last year journalist Phil Johnson wrote in the The Independent, “The essential narrative and context – what is jazz about and who is it for? – grows unclear. An increasing lack of visibility in the mainstream media contributes to a growing credibility gap…” This is an issue; print and radio (let’s not even go there with TV) influence tastes and with diminishing support it’s difficult for promotors to take risks. The respected critic, John Fordham commented on the lack of press coverage for jazz in 2010, “…the most routine performances by an orchestra, or the most mundane gigs by fading pop stars will usually grab the space from innovative jazz artists who may well be shaping the future of music…”

 

©Patrick Sanders

©Patrick Sanders

 

Godley also addressed the “J” word and whether it’s doing music a dis-service. I don’t feel overarching terms such as jazz, classical or rock are relevant in the age of the internet. My favourite phrase is ‘music for curious ears’ and London’s Cafe Oto bills itself as a venue for “creative new music”. Phil Johnson suggests Oto could be a good model for other European clubs as it’s found success by, “building an audience from the bottom up through artist-run co-ops and club-nights.” They are managing to attract a mix of ages, at least.

BBC Radio 3 (plays classical music and some jazz) is rightly obsessed with the phrase “replenishing audiences” as their core listeners age. Attracting new audiences requires new marketing tones. Rusconi have been so successful at building an online rapport with their fans that they won the voted-for ECHO Jazz Award for Best Live Act 2012. But the music itself needs to be relevant.

Build on traditions, but break the rules

Some promotors I spoke to felt Rusconi were being gimmicky – maybe they haven’t quite hit the right spot (as they did with Alice in the Sky) but I’m more engaged by them than I am by clever musicians desperately trying to re-create a time that has gone. Build on traditions, but break the rules, or at least put in your own life, your emotion. My musical axis has been informed by being a DJ where it’s all about the new, and I’ve always admired pioneers who faced enormous criticism but changed things up; as much as I adore Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue I’m glad he heard Hendrix and got re-inspired.

A band who is getting the balance right is Hildegard Lernt Fliegen. They played a triumphant set at Moods a few weeks ago. The music builds on traditional jazz and improvisation and yet is modern. They’ve got a strong look going on and their video for the track Don Clemenza  is perfectly pitched. OK, not everyone has to (or can) wear a breadstick on their head, but what brings it all together is that it feels utterly genuine, it’s ‘authentic’. And that’s the word Godley finished his talk with and it’s an important one.

Labels like ECM are “borders-blind”

What I’d like to see is European countries co-operating at supporting talent from a wide spectrum of ‘jazz’ and from regions beyond their own. Labels like ECM are “borders-blind”, venues could be better at this too. I believe: “If it ain’t broke, change it!” Or it dies. Keep jazz relevant, think about new ways to package it and consider who we want to promote it to. There are audiences out there who are missing out on heart-pounding, incredible music.

 

©Patrick Sanders

©Patrick Sanders

 

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