31 October 2018

Best and worst of German history

We’ve discovered the local Hockschule für musik, the conservatory, and it’s a shortish walk. A pair of concerts caught out eye: Bach Sämtliche Werke für Violine und Cembalo in 2 sessions, Teil 1 and 2. These were sonatas for violin and harpsichord, played by “the Professor, he could do it in his sleep”, as someone advised us. There are 6 violin and harpsichord sonatas but 18 in all with continuo. They were free and I was amused by some serious josling for seats, but there was plenty of room in the end. First night was 9 sonatas over about 90 minutes. These seriously were decent players. The violin was a stunning, free and expressive and with great technique. I felt a certain excitement in his playing, sometimes uncomfortable with the harpsichord, but willing to add pauses and accels to phrasing. He played a modern bow and I think steel strings, so he was strongly toned but he could drop to the quietest to allow the harpsichord through. The harpsichord is so often lost in a mix and could clearly be subservient under a firm violin, but we heard plenty here. The harpsichord was more ordered than the violin’s take, but that’s inevitable, perhaps, given the role as accompanist and harmonic underlay. Both were wonderful players and could melt your heart with their music. I talked to a post-doc from Belgium in the interval, about the local galleries, jazz, art. His field was painting and social change in ~C15th. But most interesting was what he told me of this building. I had expected these local grand classical buildings would have been bombed in WW2, perhaps leaving shells for reconstruction. Certainly the local Alte Pinacotek was. I was even more surprised when I heard they were Nazi Party headquarters. Munich was the source of Nazism and this was its administrative centre. The Hockschule building was once called the Führerbau. Hitler’s office was accessed from the other entrance which is now locked up. This is the site of the Hitler’s Munich Agreement (1938, “Peace in our time”) with Chamberlain, Deladier and Mussolini that permitted Germany’s occupation of the Sudetenland (Western Czechoslovakia). But no. The Führerbau had survived intact and after the war been used to collect looted art and later used as the American Information Centre. History is close here.

Ingolf Turban (violin) and Andreas Skouras (harpsichord) played the the first half of the complete violin and harpsichord/continuo sonatas in Munich.

30 October 2018


Like classical, like jazz. A look at the Unterfaht jazz club’s November program had me drooling. The names I recognised were all Americans - Aaron Parks, SFJazz Collective, Christian Sands, Terence Blanchard, David Murray, Steve Coleman & Five Elements, Shai Maestro – but there’s jazz every night and weekly jams. My first surprise was bands I didn’t recognise at €38 ($A61) but I wanted to see this place so I went for the €5 Sunday night jam. The place was busy, in a basement, strangely down a long, coffered passage. Inside it was buzzing, busy, warm with great PA, dreadlocked soundman, nice stage, generous Steinway-Hof grand, cosy space. But this was not the ecstatic music of my Frankfurt jam. This was far more moderate, mainstream, cool. Still standards. The intro trio was capable, perhaps too cool for my wishes with calm, considered guitar, nicely fluent and melodic bassist, cool if sometimes explosive drummer. Amusingly, I recognised the drummer as Rick Hollander from my other Munich jazz outing. Then a string of players in the next set: trumpet, bari sax, guitar, pianox2, replacement bass and drums. The guitar raised the energy level; the second pianist had some nice contemporary, atonal ideas; the bari was amusing with satisfyingly blats as always. But the swing was fairly constant; the harmonies pretty defined; the changes mostly obvious. The band was hotting up with Oleo as I left. So, not David Murray. Nice playing if too cool for my ears, but cheap enough.

Paul Brandle (guitar) led the host band with Andreas Kurz (bass) and Rick Hollander (drums) for a jam session at Unterfaht jazz club in Munich.

PS. I later checked the prices of the visiting Americans and they were similar to my unknown others in the program. That could mean many things.,,

29 October 2018


I was intrigued by the Gasteig so was happy that we could get there , and with some very cheap seats. The Gasteig is, of course, just the local cultural centre for Munich, but the name sounds so hard to us and it looks bulky and brick and uncompromising. In the end, the Philharmonie, the Philharmonic Hall, was a joy: big and timber lined with exceptional acoustics and our back row seats sounded great. I did move to a fourth row seat for the second half and the sound was a little more balanced but the difference was little. I was mightily impressed. The orchestra was the Munich Philharmonic playing a Sunday matinee subscription concert and they played in size: 8 basses, my measure of orchestral size, so about 100 members. The program was commonly structured as intro/concerto/symphony but made distinctly modern demands on the audience: Messiaen Les offrandes oubliées, Henri Dutilleux Cello concerto Tout un monde lointain ... and Brahms Symphony no.1 Cmaj Op.68. The Messiaen was demanding enough but the Dutilleux was an immense challenge for the traditionalists. Gautier Capuçon soloed and David Afkham conducted. Capuçon was great, sounding clear and decisive with his 12-note phrasings and switches between bow and pizz and the rest. The orchestra was impressive and obviously counting for this the relatively obscure music. The tones and harmonies were attractive but demanding. I wouldn’t have guessed five movements, but there are, played attacca. I was impressed that we so easily heard the cello against such and orchestra and the quiet passages still spoke easily. But I was waiting for the Brahms and I loved this and they did it well. I didn’t get the feel of sheer inevitability I felt with the Berlin Phil a few years back, but I did enjoy a wonderfully capable orchestra that spoke well together and was amused by the conductor out front. I find it interesting these days to watch how a conductor leads on stage and wonder of his/her immediate influence and how much is behind the scenes. Whatever, this was a lucky find and a great late morning event (11am-1pm). And walking out, looking at posters for upcoming concerts, I could only drool. Over the next few months, along with experimental music and jazz and rock, this hall was hosting Berlin, Vienna, London, Bamberger, Sydney, Radio France, Swedish orchestras, Murray Perahia, Gabetta, Kennedy, Buniatishvilli, Mayer, Jensen (and more) playing B2,5,7,9, Carmina and the rest. It was like that in Frankfurt, too. Berlin and Vienna Symphs were playing just a few days after we left. It’s obviously the local circuit. You can only drool.

The Munich Philharmonic performed Messaien, Dutilleux and Brahms at the Gasteig, Munich, with soloist Gautier Capuçon (cello) soloed under David Afkham (conductor).

28 October 2018

Rainy day

It was lightly raining all day so good to be inside. Munich is good for such days: it’s replete with museums. We chose two gems of ancient history and were floored. It’s an experience I get moderately often in Europe, as new worlder with some affinity for this history. The museums were the Staatliche Antikensammlungen (State Collections of Antiquities: Greek, Roman and Etruscan art) and the Staatliche Sammlung Agyptischer Kunst (State Collection of Egyptian Art). Just drool over some of these treasures.

27 October 2018


Getting out at night is usually good entertainment but I wondered if Munich might be a quiet stop. We’d looked up the jazz and classical and it seemed costly, and some was. Like one orchestra with tickets starting at €59 ($A95) or an unknown jazz quartet at a renowned club for €38 ($61). Especially given frequent attendance, this was scary. So we looked for some free stuff, perhaps in churches or cheaper clubs. I still plan on that expensive club, if only for the jam session. And we did book in the back row for a matinee for the Münchner Philharmoniker and that was cheap. So not all was lost. And I decided on Cafe Vogler on Friday when they have a jazz band (other nights mostly duos).

I lucked out, not so much for experimentation as for entertainment. This was a noisy, vibrant scene. Standing was difficult and seating was mostly reserved but I moved through a few spots as people arrived and ended sitting up front and chatting with the band in breaks. This was a quartet led by singer/pianist Karen Edwards. The backing trio was pulled together for the night, reading charts that were handed out before sets. I like to see professionalism and that was evident here. Some reads were challenging but the feels were good. Obviously Karen knew her stuff, but I particularly loved her comping behind solos where her movements and colours enhanced the band. Guitarist John’s solos were not flashy but lovely, correct, melodic statements, spelling changes with clarity, both harmonically and tonally on a Tele. Rick had pulled the band together and again was not flamboyant but just correct. Nice. We chatted about remembering tunes and spelling changes and we could only agree on correctness and clarity before all. And Gary was clearly concentrating on the charts and did them proud. I noticed their names: none German. Karen was clearly from the US given her accent on mic and no German names amongst the others. They seemed to be long-term German residents from the US. John told me of playing with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (yep, Wikipedia puts him ~1975-78) and bass with Fats Domino. Also of playing big band with Gary (viz. the reading skills). Rick was about to go off to tour and record with his own quartet. So not surprising that this was a capable night. The music was jazzy with deep soul colours given that lovely gospel voice and lively piano playing and a string of classy popular numbers, from Kern to today, not least Sorry seems to be the hardest word, I’ll never fall in love again, Just the two of us and Chick Corea High wire. So, a lively gig in a lively venue and a waitress offering drinks as required. Then, on the way home, further amusement watching the filming of an episode of a German TV homicide show: entertaining if tedious, as film shoots are. An enjoyed Friday night outing.

Karen Edwards (vocals, piano) led a band with John Paiva (guitar), Gary Todd (bass) and Rick Hollander (drums) at the Jazzcafe Vogler in Munich.

26 October 2018

Mannheim for the day

Mannheim is just an hour’s local train ride from Frankfurt. This was somewhat a personal indulgence, given Musica da Camera’s CD entitled Music from Mannheim. I hadn’t even known of the Mannheim School before that, but UNESCO has Mannheim as a City of Music. It’s ~400,000 population, has an excellent October-long jazz festival now going on with local towns (incl Hiedelburg) with Archie Shepp in residence and visits from Jason Moran, Tord Gustavsen, Jan Garbarek, Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Branford Marsalis and the like. Mannheim is also a UN-recognised centre for innovation (first bicycle, first diesel car, BASF, Siemens, etc), has a lively music scene from classical and new music and jazz to pop, from serious to seductive. We just walked around to see the baroque palace and some museums and hand out a few CDs. Like much of Germany it looks modern (post-WW2 bombing) but I saw many an instrument case and some lovely if local collections. A few pics.

25 October 2018

Perhaps to be expected

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was and I still am as I think of it. Jazzkeller doesn’t normally open for gigs on Tuesday nights but there was a jazz festival concert at the Alten Opera celebrating local success Albert Mangelsdorff and so a special, free late night jam at Jazzkeller. Form the top it was huge. A piano trio was on offer as host but tenor sat in from the first notes. The tunes were standard, obvious enough, but the takes were inventive, imaginative, contemporary and full of energy. The tenor was Peter Klohmann, nicely presented in suit and white shirt, young and hairy, with thoughtful phrasing and substitutions and a blissful tone, playing through seemingly endless choruses with real interest and changing themes. His history in the German Youth Jazz Orchestra "BujazzO" and more. The bass, Hanns Hohn, was a stunner. He’s built for the bass, tall and strong, with big sound from firm strings, big woody tone, strength and flexibility into thumb positions and expressive phrasing. Pianist, Nico Hering, was variously chromatics and melodicism, restrained and explosive. And drums, Mathis Grossmann. At first he seemed simple, unaffected, happy to sit back. This was nice reliable, supportive playing. But then his solo, in the first tune, was probably the best example of solo development I have been aware of. From just single notes, he gradually built rhythms and cross rhythms and complexity to an eventual climax of rock intensity and a denouement so everyone recognised and returned clearly to the start of a new head. Stunning. This was just for openers. A break and other sit-ins. I didn’t catch all names but notably Dennis Sekretarev playing an impressive bop trumpet and a senior master, Tony Lakatos, on tenor. Tony was a revelation. To my ears, bop in style but with an easy overlay of modernity that twisted phrases and introduced contemporary dissonance. He’s on Youtube playing with Joe Lovano, Anthony Jackson and Branford Marsalis at Jazzkeller and otherwise. No slouch. This was a mature master at his best. Wonderful. There were others too, and some who were seriously impressive. I didn’t get all names. I played but shouldn’t have. This was powerful and out. Our Work song disintegrated into free (how could that happen?) and felt more comfortable there. Drums were busy and driving as hell and piano out anywhere but hugely impressive. Then after I was amused to see the pianist had a bandaged hand. A stunner that I should perhaps have expected.

Jazzkeller Frankfurt held a jam session to celebrate Albert Mangelsdorff. Jammers included Nico Hering (piano), Hanns Hohn (bass), Mathis Grossmann (drums), Peter Klohmann (tenor), Tony Lakatos (tenor) and Dennis Sekretarev (trumpet).