Swiss bands at jazzahead 2016!

One night: eight showcase-acts: the Swiss Night on April 21 will be a highlight of this year’s live program at Jazzahead!  Find out more about the eight Swiss bands below. You can also listen to a track of each band selected at jazzahead! here. If you are not attending jazzahead! this year, Arte Concert is streaming the concerts played at Kulturzentrum Schlachthof live there. Alternatively you can also watch all videos of the showcases the next day on In other words, you have no excuse not to follow those guys  live or on Internet!


Plaistow_pic_LDLast week the editor of a UK jazz magazine said how much the office had got into Plaistow’s album Titan. I think they are something special. Plaistow is an acoustic piano trio driven by experimental dance musics, ancient drones and a desire to distill their sound to its most ‘alcoholic’, most potent. Plaistow make for a thrilling listen. At first I wasn’t sure of Geneva-based Cyril Bondi’s drumming style, it seemed to lack swing, bashing the air out of a beat, but at a sweaty, rammed Berlin Jazz Festival club last November, he was brilliant. Unique and aggressive with an engaging, rhythmic sensibility – perfectly coupled with the imaginings of pianist Johann Bourquenez. Irritating, repetitive notes hypnotise under his touch and at other times he sweeps you off your feet with a sweet melody as in ‘Enceladus’ – it has me in a whirl. Johann’s music is so fresh. Growing in confidence is Vincent Ruiz on bass. His sensitivity connects and subtly reflects the band’s ambitions.
To learn more about Plaistow, read our selection of articles on Swiss Vibes!



Colin Vallon

@Mehdi Benkler

@Mehdi Benkler

I’ve never seen Colin‘s own trio and am curious, especially as I felt his last ECM album, Le Vent (2014) fell into the ‘contemplative hole’ that undoes many an artist exploring prepared or experimental piano. I suspect Colin is currently going through a time of musical reflection about his direction. His trio is a pretty high-powered crew with drummer Julian Sartorius (who impressed London’s Cafe Oto in March) and Patrice Moret on bass and his appearance at jazzahead! will be a chance to discover where he is now – and what he wants to say.
To learn more about Colin Vallon, read our selection of articles on Swiss Vibes!



Elina Duni

© Blerta Kambo

© Blerta Kambo

Seeing Elina playing solo at Cully Jazz last year elevated her even more in my estimation. That woman can sing! She’s been performing since she was five years of age in her native Albania and although she moved to Switzerland when she was ten, you can almost taste her culture and country when she sings. Her experience comes through too – she moves an audience, but is never cloyingly sentimental. I think the drummer Norbert Pfammatter is key to the band, almost the yin to her yang (yes, that way round), responsive to her and tuned in, whilst Colin Vallon leads the music into imaginative landscapes, provoking her to stretch her ideas. The recent addition of Lukas Traxel on bass adds a sparkling energy as I saw when they played the EFG London Jazz Festival last year. I’ve spoken before about Elina evoking universal goosebumps with her emotive expression and that sold-out gig was no exception.

To learn more about Elina Duni, read our selection of articles on Swiss Vibes!



Christoph Irniger Pilgrim

ChristophIrnigerPilgrim includes Stefan Aeby on keyboards and Michi Stulz on drums – I know their work as part of Tobias Preisig’s quartet and both were crucial to the innovation of Preisig’s album, Drifting. In Pilgrim, Aeby draws on his ability to play an evocative jazz, informed by artists such as Bill Evans in order to echo Irniger‘s direction. Stulz walks an intelligent line between the past and the now and his interplay with Irniger, Aeby and bassist Raffaele Bossard, makes the band something special.

I like Irniger’s choice of electric guitar and Dave Gisler is a highlight of the track ‘Italian Circus Story’ from the album of the same name. Here, Christoph almost whispers in evocative drawls on the saxophone; he tells his tales in a spacious and thoughtful style. Along with the Christoph Irniger Trio and other projects with New York-based artists, he uses trips to the US to immerse himself in the heritage of jazz whilst carefully searching for his own expression.

To learn more about Christoph Irniger read our selection of articles on Swiss Vibes!




PommelHORSE ©Simon Letellier

PommelHORSE ©Simon Letellier

This confident and original Bernese quintet are a refreshing flight of fancy on the Swiss jazz scene. They inhabit a surreal terrain somewhere between mutant jazz, prog rock and synthy ambiant rhythms. Cleverly creating a story and atmosphere in each track, they juggle an abundance of patterns and ideas always leaving room for improvisation, tempo changes and general dashing about. With tracks entitled ‘Drunk on Christmas eve’ and ‘The circus is closed and all the animals have gone wild’, it’s impossible to resist their playful attitude and experimental forms, both dark and light. Very popular on the live circuit, PommelHORSE are currently working on their third LP.

To learn more about PommelHORSE read our selection of articles on Swiss Vibes!


Weird Beard

Weird_Beard_2_A5_RGB_PHOTO_RALPH_KUEHNERepresenting the exciting non-conformity of the contemporary Swiss jazz scene, Weird Beard is a quartet led by saxophonist Florian Egli, featuring guitar, electric bass and drums. The weirdness of their beards is less a facial hair reference, more a hallmark of their musical individuality. A band rooted in the jazz tradition in terms of improvisation and composition, but sonically pulled towards trashy metal, punk riffs and quirky noise. Both lyrical and totally unpredictable, their elegant, laconic sound designs can go off in all directions. ‘Everything Moves’ is their second LP just out on Intakt Records and comes warmly championed by Bugge Wesseltoft who describes the group as having ”musical ideas and inspirations merged into a very fresh and new sound.”

Weird Beard, Everything Moves, Intakt Records


Julian Sartorius

@Reto Camenisch

@Reto Camenisch

The Swiss musical ecosystem is a richer place because of drummer Julian Sartorius. What David Attenborough is to nature wildlife documentaries, Sartorius is to the world of sound: a beat explorer, a sound forager, a sonic researcher. His gigs are a masterclass in bashing, crashing and smashing – not just the ordinary drum skin or commonplace cowbell, but squeaky toys, handcrafted gongs, hairdryers, electric toothbrushes. Can he hit it? Yes he can.

Agile in pushing boundaries of the percussive sound from hip-hop to abstract electronica, Sartorius opens up endless possibilities and range. His latest video features cymbals rolling along a studio space, poetically crashing about at will. Previous works include a 12 LP box set called ‘Beat Diary’ composed of 365 analogue beats, each one painstakenly researched and accompanied by its own visual. A true artist in every sense of the word, a national treasure.

To learn more about Julian Sartorius read  our selection of articles on Swiss Vibes!


Luca Sisera ROOFER

roofer_01Luca Sisera is a well­ seasoned Swiss double bass player whose ROOFER quintet describe their sound as “contemporary, liberated jazz music”. Negotiating the fine line between improvisation and composition, the five elements come apart and then reunite in equal measures. There’s a theatrical edge to their music thanks to the horn section adding a lovely big band swing to the complex equation. One minute groovy, sexy, full of bump and grind ­the next angular, frenetic, swarming around one another like agile birds. The interplay between the musicians is extremely confident and general mood leans towards the playful. An exciting band to watch live because of their warm, busy and inventive approach.

Text by Debra Richards and Beatrice Venturini


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.

Montreux Jazz Festival: l’art du solo

Le batteur Julian Sartorius et le pianiste Marc Perrenoud confronteront leur art du solo au Château de Chillon le 11 juillet. Tous deux ont accepté de livrer à  Swiss Vibes quelques-uns de leurs secrets de fabrication.
@Reto Camenisch

@Reto Camenisch

Pour le plus grand malheur de ses parents et pour le plus grand bonheur de nos oreilles, Julian Sartorius a la fâcheuse habitude de taper sur tout ce qui l’entoure depuis qu’il est en âge de marcher. Quelque trente ans plus tard, il a fait de cette pulsion profonde son fonds de commerce. Pendant toute une année, il s’est astreint à la délicate mission de réaliser un beat par jour où qu’il soit. D’abord publié sur son blog, son « beat diary » est sorti l’an dernier sous la forme de 12 vinyles accompagnés d’un livre de photos. Depuis l’homme à la batterie écume les scènes les plus diverses. Il joue au milieu du public au Festival Onze plus, tape sur les murs du Musée Rietberg lors de l’inauguration d’un nouveau pavillon et se risque sur la grande scène du Cully Jazz Festival.

 « Le plus important c’est l’espace »

Le 11 juillet prochain, il investira un haut lieu historique, le Château de Chillon, dans le cadre du Montreux Jazz Festival. «  Le plus important c’est l’espace », explique Julian Sartorius au bout du fil alors qu’il attend un avion pour Copenhague. Le jour du concert, je vais tester l’acoustique de la salle avec ma batterie. Selon la façon dont elle sonne, je prépare des accessoires différents, acoustiques ou non ». Dans sa tête les plans des morceaux s’enchaînent, mais la prestation n’est jamais deux fois pareille. L’homme-orchestre peut à tout moment changer de direction, imprimer d’autres couleurs, d’autres harmonies à son set.

« C’est juste toi et le public »

Après s’être fait connaître comme batteur de Sophie Hunger, Julian Sartorius est devenu un amoureux de liberté d’improvisation, même si et surtout si ce travail est plus accaparant. « Quand tu accompagnes quelqu’un, tu peux compter sur l’autre ou le suivre, quand tu es seul, c’est juste toi et le public.». Julian Sartorius propose également dans le cadre du Montreux Jazz festival un duo « totalement improvisé » avec Benoît Delbecq (Montreux Palace, mardi 8 juillet).

 « Je préfère travailler sur les mouvements »

02 Marc SoloForcément l’exercice du piano solo est plus connu que celui de la batterie solo. Marc Perrenoud le conjugue pourtant à sa manière. « Plutôt que de travailler en improvisant sur un base de 32 mesures comme cela se fait dans le jazz, je préfère travailler sur plusieurs mouvements, à l’instar dans la musique classique ».

Solo de batterie versus solo de piano

Pour pousser l’exercice plus loin, le pianiste, dont le dernier CD en trio « Vestry Lamento » a séduit les critiques de New York à Paris, aime prendre pour point de départ une technique ou une texture. Il peut ainsi choisir d’improviser à partir d’octaves ou s’amuser à retranscrire au piano un solo de batterie. A chaque son – la grosse caisse, la caisse claire, les cymbales – il associe des notes, créant ainsi d’autres formes rythmiques sur son instrument. Le but étant bien sûr de prendre un maximum de risques, de chercher à ce que le résultat soit à chaque fois différent.

 « Ne pas se laisser dépasser par ce qui est entrain de se passer »

« Lorsque tu joues en groupe, tu cherches d’abord la résonnance, l’osmose. Le groupe trouve alors sa propre énergie et se met à fonctionner de façon autonome, un peu comme une meute. En solo, tu dois entrer en connexion avec toi-même sans aller trop loin. Tu ne dois pas te laisser dépasser par ce qui est entrain de se passer, garder un temps d’avance, garder le contact avec le public. Tu dois être en permanence ultra-concentré. Il ne peut y avoir que très peu de déchets. »

Les pierres millénaires du Château de Chillon et la féérie du lac au crépuscule ne pourront qu’inspirer la batterie insolite de Julian Sartorius et le piano expansif de Marc Perrenoud. Ne ratez pas ce moment d’exception !

Julian Sartorius solo/ Marc Perrenoud Solo, Montreux Jazz Festival, vendredi 11 juillet, 21 h.

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