After almost two years of the corona pandemic, many musicians and organizers hope to finally be able to look forward and plan together again. The first festivals are to take place again in the coming year 2022 and enable the live experience. With Corona here to stay, one thing for sure is that the way it used to be will most likely no longer be the way in the near future. A new way of working together, a new way of presenting music will need to be introduced. Fewer people on site, a limited musician-audience ratio, live streaming as an offer for everyone, perhaps this is what the new world will look like.
In an interview with the Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz, an accomplished, well-traveled and well-connected musician explains how he has experienced the past two years. In his own Basel studio, equipped with fine technology and excellent grand pianos, he has decided to record a series of 12 self-produced albums with renowned jazz musicians, two albums have already been released. Conversations number 1 and Conversations number 2, 3 and 4 are improvisations in trio and duo settings are intended to open up new sound spaces for the listener.
Jan Fritz: When and how did the idea for “Conversations” come about?
Florian Arbenz: In spring 2020 as the first reaction to Corona and the frustration. Musicians were no longer allowed to travel, but I was allowed to invite foreign musicians to Switzerland and my studio. I have a wonderful recording room and an excellent grand piano available. So the idea arose to just turn the tables and do everything myself. In general, it is important for me to create spaces with other musicians in which everyone involved feels comfortable. I’ve worked with Jim Hart for a long time and we share a common story: I studied classical music as did Jim, but he switched to jazz earlier than I did. We speak the same language, we are soul mates.
Like me, he has a tendency to take risks, to seek out musical challenges. Blasting open the classic drum vibraphone setting and creating new spaces was a matter of concern to both of us. The aim was to fill the vacancies left by a missing bass, for example. The main focus was on inventing a new world of sound for the various pieces. Since Jim lives near Basel and only needs 40 minutes to get to my studio, we had enough time to rehearse, to try things out. The lockdown was in progress and we had nothing else to do anyway. The intensive rehearsal was a welcome change.
Jan Fritz: Tell me something about the concept of your “conversations”
Florian Arbenz: As a composer, I have little influence on the musical result in the concept of “conversations”. I just give you an idea, a feeling, maybe also a tone color, but as far as the harmonies or the intensity are concerned, I don’t have much influence on them, that makes the whole thing exciting!
With his Basel studio, Florian Arbenz has created a new meeting point, a creative center for improvised music. Deceleration is a key word for it! Musicians don’t jet around the world like they used to. They meet in places like that of Arbenz to concentrate and work together for longer periods. Arbenz sells and distributes the music entirely on his own, but with the help of a good team. He can contact his fans directly via the Bandcamp portal. Personal contact is stimulating and nice, says Florian Arbenz. For the next productions he has invited well-known and legendary jazz musicians who have already agreed. For example Tineke Postma or Nils Wogram.
Last modified: December 9, 2021