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Jazzclub Singen (Hohentwiel, Germany) 15th Anniversary

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Fifteen years ago Jazz-Club Singen was established in relation to the modest little theatre cum cinema (called GEMS) at the edge of the little industrial town of Singen-am-Hohentwiel, in the handsome German hinterland of Lake Constance (the Bodensee). About halfway through this period I became a part-time resident of the region. I hopped on a train one night in February 1998 and there was one of the concerts of my life: Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell celebrating Friday the 13th with lots of Monk.

A starry concert a few years later had a rave review in the local press, and a photo labelled "Phil Barrow and Kenny Woods." Conveniently built against the side wall of a traditional inn, GEMS has gardens around it. Philbarrows may sound like handy things in gardens, but the photo showed Phil Woods and Kenny Barron. Away from here between mid-October and Christmas 2004 I was denied Ravi Coltrane, Simon Nabatov and several more of the Jazz/World performers marking the 15th anniversary with one of the busier seasons.

Jazz-Club doesn't mean the likes of Birdland in New York or Henry's in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's the organization of music lovers whose administration books and programs the one or two starry concert nights each month. A club membership fee earns a discount on tickets to see the visiting Americans, or Swiss (Daniel Schnyder back from New York) or Russians, or South Africans (the pianist Surendran Reddy, visiting from his teaching base in Konstanz).

Konstanz is the university town (and home of Konstanz Jazz Club), where my German bed is. Someday I'll organize an account of what other jazz happens there (or do I mean "here?"). A restaurant opposite the Minster (technically speaking an ex-Cathedral, because a few centuries ago the bishop relocated) has one or two very nice jazz things per annum. Not so long ago the American altoist Allan Praskin came from his teaching post in Bavaria and played a not-to- be-missed straight bebop set with a number of Gigi Gryce tunes. Aged approximately 55, he ought to be at least approximately famous. He'd the outstanding young pianist he deserved, imported from the big city of Freiburg (at least a couple of hours away). I hope to recognize (meaning hear) that pianist again. I took no notes that night. Footnotes will follow. Early October I was in Germany, but out of town, so I missed the more adequately famous altoist Vincent Herring with his own quartet, moving on to participate in a series in the big city of Zürich, 90 minutes away across the border in Switzerland. I'm due to miss him again in March, when I won't be in range of him in Singen.

In Singen I've seen Mark Feldman a couple of times in different company and he was in Konstanz with his Swiss partner during the October-December period when I was away. All the other performers seemed to be German or Swiss or Austrian.

I did hear part of one free admission Friday gig in the Hotel Graf Zeppelin, Konstanz, the night I'd gone to Singen to hear Michel Rosewoman. This being early September 2001 she was stuck at Newark Airport. Their website hadn't quite got their information service into gear, but the organizer sat in the inn adjacent to GEMs to console anybody who turned up. I couldn't complain. Dark days. One local musical highlight in Konstanz in 2004 was the tremendous performance by the Irish "great guitarist" Louis Stewart, with his German guitar duo partner Heiner Franz. Hear these guys play "Body and Soul!" Ethereal. There are CDs.

The area's fairly prosperous, pretty and rural, and, in small towns across the lake like Ueberlingen or Friedrichshafen, others of international star class turn up. A couple of years ago I basked in sunset in the modern hilltop church above the tiny village of Allensbach, listening to Charlie Mariano play south Indian temple music and more American things on his alto, in duo with the pianist Georg Reiter. Here in a little more detail is a concert review from Singen during its current anniversary year:

Eric Watson and Christof Lauer

GEMS, Singen-am-Hohentwiel, Germany

October 5, 2004

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