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Nik Bartsch: Rhythmically Dancing Around Fugato Fires

By Published: December 6, 2010
AAJ: Ronin has now performed over 300 Monday night concerts at your Zurich club. Do you ever invite musicians up on stage to play with you?

NB: We have done many special concerts over the years, and earlier we had a chamber music ensemble which played with us. More recently we had Bugge Wesseltoft
Bugge Wesseltoft
Bugge Wesseltoft
who played with us. He liked our music very much and played one set with us on the Rhodes while I played piano. It was a great concert because he's an enormous musician in terms of listening, adapting and playing. He's also modest enough and inspired enough to not just play as a soloist over the whole thing. We also invited Eivind Aarset
Eivind Aarset
Eivind Aarset

, the Norwegian guitarist, who has also a certain understanding of group playing, and this also turned out very nicely.

We sometimes work with local friends like the singer Ingrid Lukas, who made a record on our label [We need to Repeat (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2009)]. But when you have a project like Ronin that tours often during the year, we need to meet every week to play and keep the material alive and to develop it for the next tour and to keep it at a high quality level. Our concerts are not just playing some songs at a high level, but it's the tension and dramaturgy over a whole evening, and it's important to train for this constantly.

AAJ: Has Ronin ever missed a Monday night concert?

NB: We have when we are on tour. Then we have a band which is close to our community that we invite to take over. This can happen maybe two or three times a year, and now if we are away, Ingrid Luka's band will play. Sometimes one of the musicians or more are on the road, so then we play as a duo or a trio, and I have also played twice solo on a Monday. Once it was December 31st and my colleagues said, "Come on, the 31st is special. We can cancel it just once." We had also played on the 24th, Christmas, and few people had turned up because they were all at home eating with their families. I thought it was important that we do it, or I could do it solo. We thought there would be 10 or 20 people, but in the end there were 120 people.

This idea of respecting this Monday as a part of your everyday life, and that you are a servant of this music and of the development of this music seems to me a good training in modesty and in understanding the relationship between repetition and change—in you as a person, but also in your surroundings and your community.

Selected Discography

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Llyrìa (ECM Records, 2010)

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Holon (ECM Records, 2008)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Stoa (ECM Records, 2006)
Nik Bärtsch's Mobile, Aer (TMR, 2004)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Rea (TMR, 2004)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Live (TMR, 2003)
Nik Bärtsch, Hishiryo: Piano Solo (TMR, 2002)
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Randori (TMR, 2002)
Tonus Music Labor Research Result, Live, Vol. 1-2 (TMR, 2002)
Nik Bärtsch's Mobile, Ritual Groove Music (TMR, 2001)

Don Li's Tonus, Gen (TMR, 1999)
Don Li's Tonus, SU:N (Brambus, 1999)

Photo Credits
Page 1: Mike Stemberg

Pages 2, 5, 6: Martin Moll
Page 3, 4: Peter Fankhauser

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