Franco Ambrosetti (Photo: JazzAscona)
The 76-year-old trumpet and flugelhorn player has helped shape European jazz history and likes to be described as the “grand master of Swiss hardbop”. An economics graduate and self-taught musician, Franco Ambrosetti started playing professionally in Milan’s jazz clubs and in Zurich’s ‘Africana’ when he was just 20. He won first prize at the Viennese International Jazz Competition in 1966 and throughout his career has played with some of the biggest names in international jazz. Besides Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley and Joe Henderson, these include his Swiss colleagues Daniel Humair and George Gruntz, as well as Italian jazz heavyweights such as Dado Moroni. Franco Ambrosetti’s musical achievements are reflected in his extensive discography featuring many famous names. Composing is also an important element of his work, including film soundtracks. Franco Ambrosetti presented his own jazz programme on Ticino Radio RSI for over 30 years. The 2018 Swiss Jazz Award is therefore honouring one of the biggest names in Swiss jazz.
Bruno Spoerri (Foto: Massimo Pedrazzini)
The 82 year-old Bruno Spoerri is a fixture on the Swiss jazz scene. He is one of its most prominent figures as a jazz musician, and in particular as a saxophonist. Always ahead of his time, Spoerri was also one of the pioneers of electronic music. In a musical career that spans more than 60 years, he has played with countless important musicians in a variety of different formations, and has toured not only Europe, but also Asia and Africa. Spoerri also made a name for himself as a composer of film music, and has already received a whole raft of prizes and awards. He can now count the Swiss Jazz Award among them.
Patrick Bianco's Cannonsoul
Pepe Lienhard (left), Patrick Bianco (right) (Foto:Massimo Pedrazzini)
Patrick Bianco’s Cannonsoul Quintet interprets compositions by Julian "Cannonball" Adderley that date from the period between 1959 and 1967. They include hits like "This Here" and "Sack O’Woe", which sound so fresh that they could have been written yesterday. This homage to Cannonball perfectly combines swing, enthralling ensemble playing, technical brilliance and the successful quest for the composer's soul. The quintet has found the key to the soul of this dazzling alto sax player, whose star was on the rise just when bebop legend Charlie Parker died. "Cannonball" learned a lot from saxophonist John Coltrane in the Miles Davis Quintet ‒ about the spirit and the soul as well as music. Adderley called his funky style of playing Soul Jazz, whose most important exponents ‒ besides him ‒ included his brother Nat, Gene Ammons and Donald Byrd. That's the origin of the band's name Cannonsoul, chosen by alto saxophonist Patrick Bianco, trumpeter Peter Tuscher, pianist Renato Chicco, drummer Bernd Reiter and bass player Andy McKee.
Raphael Jost & Lots of Horns
Raphael Jost & Lots of Horns (Foto: Massimo Pedrazzini)
As a singer, pianist and arranger who feels just as comfortable with pop as with jazz, Raphael Jost‘s first offering is an exciting and impressive work. Together with his rhythm section featuring bassist Raphael Walser and percussionist Jonas Ruther and often with a five-piece brass combo, Jost sings and plays his own brilliant arrangements with verve. The range of mostly self-composed songs with their intelligent lyrics and four selected cover versions move easily between rousing swing, soulful pop ballads and groovy hip-hop beats.
Nicole Herzog - Stewy von Wattenwyl Group
Nicole Herzog - Stewy von Wattenwyl Group Foto: Massimo Pedrazzini
It was by pure chance that singer Nicole Herzog and Bernese pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl met a few years ago – a stroke of luck that quickly facilitated recordings for the band's only publication to date, 'Intimacy', which appeared on CD in 2012. A real gem in intimate, soft vocal jazz emerged from this coincidence. Nicole Herzog's wonderful voice takes centre stage – delicate and fragile, but assertive and clear – gently carried by von Wattenwyl's sensitive, full piano pieces, Christoph Utzinger's bouncing bass and Tobias Friedli's finely nuanced drums.
Chris Conz Trio
Chris Conz Trio (Foto: Massimo Pedrazzini)
Pianist Chris Conz, who was born in Uster in 1985, has rocketed to the forefront of the Swiss blues and boogie scene, putting him in great demand as an artist with a whole variety of bands, including the well-known Swiss swing formation Terry & The Hot Sox. With his own Chris Conz Trio he has already played countless concerts in Switzerland and abroad, and continued his rise through the musical firmament by winning the KLEINER PRIX WALO music prize as best new Swiss band in 2011.
Conz enjoys the congenial accompaniment of two respected specialists in their field: the Swiss expert on traditional percussion styles Martin Meyer, and Nuno Alexandre, who has perfected the New Orleans double bass slap technique in over a decade of concert performances.
On their current album, "Drivin' The Boogie", the three musicians offer a fresh boogie sound, expertly showcasing the many facets of the band-leader's art, from subtle yet expressive blues piano to a captivating boogie groove.
Christina E. Jaccard and Dave Ruosch
Andreas Schmid, Christina Jaccard, Thomas Reinecke, Dave Ruosch
Christina Jaccard is hailed as the “blackest white voice in Switzerland”. She lives and breathes her music, seamlessly blending the deeply frank and sensitive with impressive power and charisma. In the truest sense of the word, it is her soul that captivates audiences and makes any gospel or blues night with her an unforgettable experience.Read the press release
Alexia Gardner & Offbeat Trio
Alexia Gardner & Offbeat Trio
Alexia Gardner is an English singer with Jamaican roots who has been living in Switzerland since 2006. Her collaboration with the Offbeat Trio in 2009 culminated in her first album Chasing Hope which met with a positive response from both press and public alike. The group plays both traditional and modern jazz with original compositions, Latin grooves and emotional ballads in all of which Alexia Gardner’s sensuous voice comes into its own.Read the press release
Dani Felber Big Band
Dani Felber (zweiter von rechts) bei der Preisverleihung.
The Dani Felber Big Band counts as the most versatile in Europe. Founded by the Swiss bandleader, composer and flugelhorn player Dani Felber and made up of first-rate musicians of various nationalities, the band has been playing together for nine years. Having performed all over the world, it has won a reputation for verve, good vibes, virtuosity and professionalism at the highest level.
Dani Felber began his career in the National Youth Brass Band where he played until 1991. He took private lessons with Eisuke Yamamoto, first trumpeter with the Bodensee Symphonie Orchester, and no sooner had he seen the film The Glenn Miller Story than he knew his goal was to have his own big band. After performing extensively both in Switzerland and abroad and working together with such greats as Clark Terry, Al Porcino, Johnny Griffin, Jimmy Heath, Phil Woods and Franco Ambrosetti, Dani Felber is now widely regarded as a worthy heir to Max Gregor, Hugo Strasser and James Last. As a soloist, he is compared with Chuck Mangione and Art Farmer. His big band is made up of eighteen musicians of international renown.
Robi Weber Quartet
Robi Weber Quartet
The Robi Weber Quartet belongs to that rare species that knows how to combine excellence with entertainment. Its metier is soul in the broadest sense of the term with a repertoire that includes both famous compositions by the giants of jazz as well as several compositions by members of the band. With his own distinctive brand of soul, laced with elements of blues, R’n’B and gospel, Robi Weber is one of Switzerland’s best known and most successful jazz pianists. His powerful, if unconventional piano playing was inspired by his model Oscar Peterson and is reminiscent of Les McCann, Junior Mance, Ray Bryant and Gene Harris. Backing him up is a now almost legendary rhythm section: Kalli Gerhards on bass, who with his sure sense of rhythm and harmony is always in high demand, Curt Treier on drums, who for many years set the pace of the Swiss Radio and TV Big Band, and as front man on vibraphone “Junior Soul Man” Thomas Dobler, whose emotional, virtuoso grooves never fail to impress.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Hazy Osterwald
The name Hazy Osterwald stands not just for a legendary bandleader, inspired arranger and outstanding composer, but also for an excellent instrumentalist who rose to fame first as a pianist, then as a trumpeter and later as a vibraphonist. Hazy, who in 2009 turned 87, can look back on a six-decade-long career. It began at school where he was enlisted first as a pianist and later as leader of the school orchestra. At nineteen, he was already arranging songs for Teddy Stauffer, the legendary Swiss musician who in the 1930s was crowned Germany’s “King of Swing”. Having mastered the piano, Hazy turned to the trumpet, which he played first in Fred Böhler’s band and then as one of Eddie Brunner’s “Original Teddies”. Then he founded his own combo, after which the list of those he performed with reads like a who’s who of Swiss jazz.
Like so many of his counterparts on the other side of the pond, Hazy was never afraid of breaking new ground meaning that his repertoire was always up to date. He seized on hits climbing up the charts, rearranged them to suit his band and made them part of his repertoire. He and his band produced numerous film soundtracks, especially in Germany. His 1959 recording of Criminal Tango became a legend in its own time, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. And Hazy’s band was the official band of the Olympic Games both in Munich in 1972 and in Innsbruck in 1976.
Hazy has been taking it easy these past few years. His last live concert was at Schloss Thun three years ago and many of the musicians he used to play with are no longer among us. By presenting Hazy Osterwald with the Swiss Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award 2009, Radio Swiss Jazz and JazzAscona are honouring a great musician who even today is both idol and model for many a young jazz hopeful.
Dai Kimoto & Swing Kids
Dai Kimoto & Swing Kids an der Preisverleihung des Swiss Jazz Award 2008
The children’s jazz band Swing Kids was founded fifteen years ago by the Japanese-born trumpeter, trombonist, bandleader, arranger and composer Dai Kimoto, who even as an adolescent just loved playing Dixieland. The group now numbers fourteen enthusiastic young musicians from eastern Switzerland and has become a force to be reckoned with on the international big band scene. What is amazing is that the youngest band member is barely ten years old! The secret of the band’s success is Kimoto’s belief that playing together should be fun. Instead of being taught individually and made to reel off endless exercises, the Swing Kids play together in a band. That way they get to make music with grownups, too – something they do with extraordinary verve.
What started out as a group of young, inexperienced musicians was transformed in a matter of months into an ensemble that has nothing to fear from comparisons with professionals and has engagements the world over. This is thanks first and foremost to Dai Kimoto, a Japanese who has been living in the Swiss town of Romanshorn since 1979 and whose personal dedication to popularizing jazz among young people has assured jazz a future! Dai Kimoto and his Swing Kids frequently go on tour both in Switzerland and abroad. Their ports of call include not just Montreux, Davos or Zurich, but Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Argentina, Uruguay and the USA. Which other youth jazz band has toured Japan and there given twelve concerts in front of 10,000 people, including one at the legendary Birdland jazz club in Tokyo? Which other youth band, scheduled to perform at the famous Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, has been hailed as “The Legend of Switzerland”? These young musicians have won the hearts of countless concert- and festival-goers, setting off whole avalanches of applause.
The Loverfield Jazzband was founded by six Dixieland enthusiasts in June 1986. The name Loverfield is a literal English translation of “Liebefeld”, which is the district of Köniz that is home to two of the band’s initiators, Rita and Peter Trachsel. Rita and Peter are mainstays of the band even today. As in almost every ensemble, there have been changes over the years, so that today’s formation dates only from January 2000. The Loverfield Jazzband is a very committed group with an outstanding stage presence and a well-balanced repertoire in which Dixieland, blues and swing – sometimes laced with gospels – all have a place. Endowed with an exceptionally clear voice, Rita Trachsel sings the gospels, while bandleader Peter Trachsel moderates the concerts.
The Loverfield Jazzband is a welcome guest at traditional jazz clubs all over Switzerland. Since it goes down especially well in the intimate atmosphere of a club, it performs regularly at the Lutry in Canton Vaud, the Linth in Rapperswil in Canton St Gallen, the Hecht Mammern in Canton Thurgau and at the Jazzclub Delémont.
It is also well represented in the repertoire of Radio Swiss Jazz, Switzerland’s only jazz station, which in 2006 added "Amazing Grace", "Bel Ami", "Love is Here To Stay" and "Mahogany Hall Stomp" from the CD S'Wonderful to its archives. The Loverfield Jazzband’s rendering of “Amazing Grace” sung by Rita Trachsel not only shot to the number one spot among the most popular songs on Radio Swiss Jazz, but also won the band the first ever Swiss Jazz Award presented by Radio Swiss Jazz at JazzAscona 2007.