Beyond Category…Two Vienna jazz clubs

May 7th, 2023

.

.

 

 

 “I think the music situation today has reached the point where it isn’t necessary for categories. I think what people hear in music is either agreeable to the ear or not. And if this is so, if music is agreeable to my ear, why does it have to have a category?”

-Duke Ellington

.

.

___

.

.

Through these doors and into Jazzland is a memorable jazz club experience, and the first of two evenings spent at fascinating venues during my visit to Vienna

.

___

.

 

…..I just spent three nights in Vienna, which is, to state the obvious, quite a city.  Filled with eye-candy architecture, glorious museums and art, and music of all kinds in countless venues, it is like no place I’ve ever seen.  My suggestion is to add Vienna to your bucket list (and try to spend a week – or a month).

…..Two of my evenings were spent in two different jazz clubs whose interior design and history couldn’t be more different, yet their philosophy for presenting the music and their appreciation of it couldn’t be more similar.  Their vision for jazz, like Ellington’s quote, is that music be listened to without being categorized.  There are no boundaries.    Whether in a brick basement club that was formerly a financially strapped wine cellar – where the atmosphere is loud, the schnitzel famous and the beer constantly flowing – or in a former cabaret theater that is elegant, perfectly lit and acoustically rich, jazz is “beyond category,” and these clubs demonstrate that.

…..The first, Jazzland, has been in existence since 1972, owned the entire time by Axel Melhardt, whose philosophy has been to team touring international jazz musicians with the ample home-grown Austrian talent; a vision that has helped establish jazz as a key feature in Viennese culture, as the city now has several jazz clubs.

…..During my talk with the manager, Michael Schober, he said that over the years the club has hosted the likes of Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Clark Terry, Lee Konitz and Dave Liebman.  He also told a story about how legendary bassist Ray Brown insisted on playing the club, even against the wishes of his manager, who felt there was no financial gain for Ray to play the venue.  Ray didn’t care about the money – he wanted to play Jazzland!

…..The club’s mission is to “present the whole spectrum of jazz, from strict, precisely structured forms to total freedom.  Indeed, even those aspects and styles usually overlooked or neglected in these accelerated times get new and careful attention on our bandstand.”

…..Among the artists appearing in May are Scott Robinson, Scott Hamilton, the Vienna Big Band, and a striking array of local jazz musicians.  The venue puts on a show virtually every night.

…..Here are some photos and comments from my evening at Jazzland, April 29, 2023.

.

…..Europe has many a subterranean jazz club, and I’ve been fortunate to experience several of them over the years.  They are all worth visiting (I recall clubs in Lyon, Barcelona, Paris, and just recently in Prague), but Jazzland felt like a place I’d never been before.

…..The club is a bit chopped up, but that is part of its immense charm.  There are three rooms within it; the performance room is small and holds about 75 people; the bar room (pictured above) is divided from the performance room by an ancient brick wall ; and a room downstairs, beyond the bar, where guests can have dinner or drinks.  The music is audible throughout the venue, but in order to see the band you have to be in the performance space.  (The owner Axel Melhardt is pictured in the suspenders, and his wife Tina is seated to his right).

.

…..Jazzland is a lively environment, with people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, sitting at communal tables, enthusiastically taking in the atmosphere and the music that emanates from it.  Since the club takes no reservations, to ensure they have good seats in this small club, the people pictured (above) near the stage likely arrived at 7:30 for the 9:00 show.

…..The band that played was led by saxophonist Heinz von Hermann, who has been one of the most prominent Austrian jazz musicians for many decades.  Now 86 and leading his sextet that evening, he played his ass off for 90 minutes, and a little bit of everything – a samba, some bebop, swing, and lots of straight-ahead jazz.  The crowd was in love with the band.

.

…..This kind of environment promotes camaraderie among members of the audience.  Case in point…I met two men who were also at the club by themselves. That’s Roy (center) from Tel Aviv, and Joe (left), an American expat now living in Berlin.  That’s me on the right.  By the time the music started we already had an hour to get to know one another, as well as the quality of the beer.  As you can see, we became fast friends.

.

…..An entire wall of the club is lined with photographs of some of the musicians who have played Jazzland.  This is on the way to the bathroom, where this was scrawled on one of the men’s room walls:

.

…..“Google translate” tells me that “Jazz Vertleidliger” means…”Jazz Defender.”  Pretty perfect, I’d say…

.

.

___

.

.

 

The entrance to Porgy and Bess, a ten minute walk from Jazzland

.

___

.

 

 

…..Porgy and Bess is nestled in a typically lovely Viennese neighborhood amid elegant baroque style apartments and fine cafe’s.  Though this club is not a remotely similar experience to Jazzland, it shares a kindred philosophy, and, their website states, sees their venue as a place for “musical encounters, debates and confrontations for musicians and the public.”  Like Jazzland, they see the possibilities for pairing local musicians with traveling international talent, resulting in a club that acts as a “meeting point for the domestic creative scene, enables the exchange of experiences across stylistic and aesthetic boundaries,” and is a “podium for continuous further work and development.”

…..According to the club’s website, in 1993 Christoph Huber, the club’s founder and organizational and artistic director, saw an attempt at creating a modern jazz club out of a former Austrian cabaret theater – with a plush environment but poor technical infrastructure – to be an idea “worth questioning.”  But, after initial concerns and sluggish attendance began to improve, within a few years of the opening the Porgy and Bess club “had become an integral part of the domestic and international jazz scene.”

…..It is an unbelievably beautiful venue, with impeccable acoustics and sightlines to a full stage.  It is manned by a professional box office and wait staff, a bar that mixes nice drinks and pours drinkable wine, and their vision for the music is extremely progressive.    Among the artists appearing at the club in May are the Baylor Project, Stanley Clarke, Julian Lage, Nicole Mitchell and James Brandon Lewis – some of contemporary jazz music’s most notable contributors.

…..On April 30, I witnessed the trio of Masahiko Satoh, Otomo Yoshihide and Roger Turner, presented as part of the clubs “Catalytic Sounds” series – devoted to showcasing “contemporary improvised music creation.”  The experience of listening to this performance was absolutely extraordinary, particularly in this setting.

…..Here are some photos and comments from the performance, which I witnessed with my newfound friend Joe, who I met at Jazzland the night before.

.

photo taken from the Porgy and Bess website

…..The interior of the club is pristine.  Four comfortable chairs per table downstairs, as well as a balcony.

.

…..Joe and I sat on the main floor, about five rows back from the stage.

.

…..Known as the Sea Trio, it is comprised of the pianist Masahiko Satoh, guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, and percussionist Roger Turner, who were able to merge their diverse styles and energies into mostly coherent, mesmerizing, enjoyable music.  I’m not a critic of jazz music (I’m not a musician so I traffic mostly in feelings rather than technique), but I made some notes while listening that may give you a sense of what I heard, saw and felt throughout their 90 minute performance, which was made up of two sets and an encore:

…..“Violent.” “Energetic.” “Devoid of humor and whimsy.”  “Collaborative.”  “Drummer plays the drums like a chemist.”  “Guitarist played his guitar with a tiny bow.”  “Second set is more ‘visual’ than the first.”  “Impeccable acoustics in the room…could hear a pin drop.” “Music is dreamlike and somber until they find, collaboratively and suddenly, a burst of energy, and express it as if their heart is reacting to a bad dream.” “Guitarist sounds like he’s playing the trumpet.” “Pianist has feathers for fingers.”  “The way the drummer splashes sound on his cymbals makes me think of the way Pollock splashed paint on his canvas.” “Guitar sounds like a high speed train.”  “Guitar now sounds like nails on a chalkboard.”  “Playing ‘I Loves You Porgy” for their encore!”

.

…..Having Joe (on the left) share this experience with me was wonderful.  The music inspired much conversation between sets and after the show.    Was this “free jazz?”  In fact, what is free jazz?  Joe wanted to know if, like him, I heard some Monk in any of the pianist’s unique improvisations?  (I didn’t, but when he brought it up, I got it).

….We also talked about how the dramatic difference in the style and architecture and aesthetic of these clubs’ presentation of the music – and in the same city within blocks of each other – demonstrates how impresarios of the music, like the musicians themselves, see the music as being “beyond category.”

…..JJoe and I got to know each other through this fantastic two day experience in Vienna, and, though we live on opposite sides of the globe, hope to meet up sometime and someplace unique in the future.  Another friendship made around this music and its fascinating culture.

.

Joe Maita

Editor/Publisher

 

 

.

.

___

.

.

Click here to visit the Jazzland website

Click here to visit the Porgy and Bess website (they offer live streaming of their shows!)

.

.

This is a video from 2006 that features Heinz von Hermann on saxophone

.

This is a video from Jazzland in 1998 that features the trio of Ray Brown, Monty Alexander and Herb Ellis

.

This is a film of the Sea Trio, taken on April 28, 2023, two nights before they played at Porgy and Bess

.

.

Other posts about and from my European journey

.

Click here to read “My pursuit of the exterior”

Click here to read “In Prague, things just sort of worked out”

Click here to read “Beyond Category…Two Vienna jazz clubs”

Click here to read “A friendship made in Verona”

Click here to read “C’est Si Bon’ – at trip’s end, a D-Day experience, and an abundance of gratitude”

.

.

___

.

.

Click here to subscribe to the Jerry Jazz Musician quarterly newsletter

.

___

.

.

Jerry Jazz Musician…human produced (and AI-free) since 1999

.

.

.

Share this:

4 comments on “Beyond Category…Two Vienna jazz clubs”

  1. Vienna sounds wonderful, definitely a bucket list destination for any jazz aficionado.

    As for the “Pianist has feathers for fingers” observation, it sounds like your travels are bringing out the poet in you, too.

    Enjoying the musings/photos/travel updates, Joe!

    1. Thanks Connie…The trip has been glorious, and it continues…Currently in Lecce, Italy, which is awe inspiring. My trip also included meeting the poet Barbara Gaiardoni and her partner Andrea while I was in Verona, Italy last week. I hope to share something about that wonderful, tender visit soon. Ciao!

  2. Hi Joe!
    This is Michael from the Jazzland front desk with a little correction ;-):
    – I am not Manager of the club! I am just one of apprx 6 front desk guys beeing on his humble duty this evening.
    – and Axels wifes name is Tilly (not Tina)
    It was a pleasure meeting and talking to you! Thanks for the nice words – Sharing a little of my personal experience. Some of the fotographies I took in the last years are to find at https://www.jazzfotos.at – enjoy!

    1. Hi Michael…thanks for setting me straight on all of this…It was a joyful time in Vienna, and in the incredible clubs!

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo via RawPixel.com
“Style” by Laurie Kuntz

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Black History

The Harlem Globetrotters/photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: The Harlem Globetrotters...In this 2005 interview, Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, discusses the complex history of the celebrated Black touring basketball team.

Black History

photo of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
A Black History Month Profile: Zora Neale Hurston...In a 2002 interview, Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, talks about the novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet

Black History

Eubie Blake
A Black History Month Profile – Pianist and composer Eubie Blake...In this 2021 Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Eubie Blake biographers Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin discuss the legendary composer of American popular song and jazz during the 20th century

Feature

Jamie Branch's 2023 album "Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))"
On the Turntable— The “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” in 2023 jazz recordings...A year-end compilation of jazz albums oft mentioned by a wide range of critics as being the best of 2023 - including the late trumpeter Jamie Branch's Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Poetry

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

Playlist

“Latin Tinges in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...A nine-hour long Spotify playlist featuring songs by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Dizzy Gillespie that demonstrates how the Latin music influence on jazz has been present since the music’s beginnings.

Poetry

[Columbia Legacy]
“On Becoming A Jazz Fanatic In The Early 1970’s” – 20 linked short poems by Daniel Brown

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Feature

George Shearing/Associated Booking Corporation/James Kriegsmann, New York, via Wikimedia Commons
True Jazz Stories: “An Evening With George,” by Terry Sanville...The writer tells his story of playing guitar with a symphony orchestra, backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Short Fiction

Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/via Picryl.com
“Afloat” – a finalist in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – is about a troubled man in his 40s who lessens his worries by envisioning himself and loved ones on a boat that provides safety and ease for all of them.

Poetry

The poet Connie Johnson in 1981
In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories...A collection of the remarkable poet's work is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt from Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, by Judith Tick...The author writes about highlights of Ella’s career, and how the significance of her Song Book recordings is an example of her “becoming” Ella.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII

Interview

photo courtesy of Henry Threadgill
Interview with Brent Hayes Edwards, co-author (with Henry Threadgill) of Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music...The author discusses his work co-written with Threadgill, the composer and multi-instrumentalist widely recognized as one of the most original and innovative voices in contemporary music, and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Poetry

art by Russell duPont
Three jazz poets…three jazz poems...Takes on love and loss, and memories of Lady Day, Prez, Ella, Louis, Dolphy and others…

Playlist

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“A Baker’s Dozen Playlist of Ella Fitzgerald Specialties from Five Decades,” as selected by Ella biographer Judith Tick...Chosen from Ella’s entire repertoire, Ms. Tick’s intriguing playlist (with brief commentary) is a mix of studio recordings, live dates, and video, all available for listening here.

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #169

This trumpeter was in the 1932 car accident that took the life of famed clarinetist/saxophonist Frankie Techemacher (pictured), and is best remembered for his work with Eddie Condon’s bands. Who was he?

Interview

From the Interview Archive: A 2011 conversation with Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway...In this interview, Shipton discusses Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII...announcing the six Jerry Jazz Musician-published writers nominated for the prestigious literary award

Poetry

Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Devotion” – a poem and 11 “Musings on Monk,” by Connie Johnson

Photography

photo of Mal Waldron by Giovanni Piesco
Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the pianist/composer Mal Waldron, taken on three separate appearances at Bimhuis (1996, 2000 and 2001).

Interview

Leffler, Warren K/Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin...

Community

FOTO:FORTEPAN / Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár / Petanovics fényképek, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
.“Community Bookshelf, #1"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Short Fiction

photo by Pedro Coelho/Deviant Art/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DEED
“After The Death of Margaret: A True Novella” by S. Stephanie...This story -- a finalist in our recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest -- harkens back to Richard Brautigan's fiction of the '70s, and explores modern day co-worker relationships/friendship and the politics of for profit "Universities"

Short Fiction

painting of Gaetano Donizetti by Francesco Coghetti/via Wikimedia Commons
“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze...A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950’s Quartets...Long regarded as jazz music’s most eminent baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan was a central figure in “cool” jazz whose contributions to it also included his important work as a composer and arranger. Noted jazz scholar Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets, and Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht discuss Mulligan’s unique contributions to modern jazz.

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.

Short Fiction

pixabay.com via Picryl.com
“The Silent Type,” a short story by Tom Funk...The story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest, is inspired by the classic Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue” which speculates about what might have been the back story to the song.

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music, by Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Art

Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance: “Outtakes” — Vol. 2...In this edition, the authors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder share examples of Cha Cha Cha record album covers that didn't make the final cut in their book

Pressed for All Time

“Pressed For All Time,” Vol. 17 — producer Joel Dorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1967 album, The Inflated Tear

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive