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Julian Bliss Septet at Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg, 12/04/2019


"Seven British musicians, all high-profile virtuosos on their instrument, had come to the City Hall as the Julian Bliss Septet to pay homage to one of the greats: George Gershwin. He was one of the very few who managed to bring elements of jazz into classical music, such as the orchestral suite "An American in Paris", the "Rhapsody in Blue" or his opera "Porgy and Bess".


    The bandleader and clarinettist Julian Bliss led the programme in German, not missing any opportunity to play comically but sympathetically with his language difficulties ("speaking German is much harder than playing the clarinet... why do you have so many long words?") He not only announced the individual programme numbers, but also told the life story of the composer Gershwin.


    The band played clarinet, trumpet, vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass and drums in the not-so-common cast and used a very cultured sound, approximating to cool jazz, completely renouncing "Dirty Playing". In particular, Bliss himself celebrates, as a student of Sabine Meyer, a very beautiful, warm and modulation-rich clarinet tone, with which he also makes in the classical music career. The individual numbers were then in typical jazz style: usually first a Gershwin song played, then some of the band members improvised virtuosically. The biggest impression  was made by Edward Richardson, who played with his mad, breathtaking drums solos, that left the audience downright dizzy.


    But even the soft tones dominate these musicians, for example in the bluesy improvisations on "Embraceable You" or a song, which they dedicated directly to their idol, after Bliss sensitively told that Gershwin, at the age of 38 years old, died too young from a brain tumour. The enthusiastic final applause in the sold-out Stadthalle was rewarded with two encores, in which the musicians were once again able to play their full virtuosity with pleasure.


    Considering that this evening was the last of only three pure jazz concerts at the "Spring" (with a total of over 70 concerts), so it could also be understood as a plea and advertising in terms of jazz. The seven musicians impressively demonstrated that it was one of the great tragedies of 20th-century music history that there was no connection between jazz and classical music, owing above all to the ignorance and arrogance of the classical musicians. Theodor W. Adorno spoke about derogatory and discriminatory of "Negermusic".


    In fact, only in jazz has one of the most important but otherwise largely lost musical abilities, which Bach, Mozart and Beethoven sovereignly possessed: free improvisation. And how did George Gershwin say himself? "Life is like jazz, it's best to improvise."

Translated from Original Article: Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, Christopher Wagner, 15.04.2019

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