Tag Archives: Jazz in Switzerland

Creating music in the era of contamination

A discussion on the deceptively simple theme of ‘contamination in music’ provided much food for thought, reaffirming the desire to talk about music and ideas, to try to understand one another better and more profoundly. Text by guest author Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: Creating music in the era of contamination

Round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’: (from left to right) Zeno Gabaglio, Nadir Vassena, Maurizio Chiaruttini (moderator), Gabriele Pezzoli and Carlo Piccardi. (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Writing a report on an event you’ve taken part in comes with one major problem: the conflict of interest. This most partial of creatures precludes any reasonable expectation of objectivity, so readers are warned that every aspect of the account from this point will be marked by the utmost subjectivity.

But let’s rewind: on 7 June 2019, a round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’ took place in the convivial surroundings of Jazz in Bess in Lugano (the closest thing Ticino has to a Jazz club – but this magical venue deserves an article all of its own…). Four diverse exponents of Ticino’s music scene were invited to take part: Nadir Vassena (a composer, teacher and stalwart of the cultural scene for decades, and someone who has enjoyed considerable success across Europe), Gabriele Pezzoli (a jazz composer and pianist who has pursued a distinctly personal and varied creative path), Carlo Piccardi (a musicologist, director of Rete Due for many years, and one of the most devoted connoisseurs and defenders of Ticino’s musical heritage) and the writer Zeno Gabaglio.

It was an eclectic group – like the proverbial box of chocolates – and their mixed backgrounds alone suggested a range of ideas on music. This wealth of opinions emerged rapidly thanks to the moderation – and encouragement – of Maurizio Chiaruttini, a journalist and former producer at RSI.

Search for an own musical identity

‘Contamination seems to have become almost an imperative in every field of artistic expression: contamination between different genres, contamination between languages – cultural and popular, academic and commercial, acoustic and technological – contamination between cultural idioms of disparate origins. In a context such as this, what does it mean to search for your own musical identity, your own style, your own authentic means of expression?’

This was our starting point and, going against every dramatic rule there is, I can tell you right now that there was no arrival point – or at least, there wasn’t just one. Opinions diverged even on the meaning of the term ‘contamination’: some underlined the essentially negative connotations of the word (which, Vassena reminded us, shares the same root as ‘contagion’), while others agreed its distinctness from concepts such as ‘purity’ and ‘identity’. ‘Contaminated’ musicians, of course, cannot be pure; they inevitably lose a small part of their identity to take on something new.

Keeping the focus on terminology, Gabriele Pezzoli suggested a synonym – ‘hybridisation’ – which is less negatively connoted and more open to the variety of stimuli the modern world offers up, and with which Pezzoli identifies.

Masterpieces are often the result of a process

Carlo Piccardi then started off by reminding us that contamination is a broad historical phenomenon that dates back well before the present day. Major historical works – undisputed masterpieces that are universally recognised as uniform creations – were often the result of a process. But the processes required to create a work are hardly ever reported, and even more rarely remembered. It is in precisely these processes that, during the last two thousand years of European music, contamination has played a decisive role.

As mentioned earlier, we didn’t reach any one conclusion, but this discussion on the apparently simple and narrow theme of “contamination in music” led us to secondary themes and observations that – in an era when you might expect the opposite to be true – reaffirmed our desire to talk about music, to discuss ideas as well as sounds, and to try to understand one another better and more profoundly.

www.jazzinbess.ch

Guest author Zeno Gabaglio is a musician/composer and a SUISA Board member.

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A discussion on the deceptively simple theme of ‘contamination in music’ provided much food for thought, reaffirming the desire to talk about music and ideas, to try to understand one another better and more profoundly. Text by guest author Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: Creating music in the era of contamination

Round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’: (from left to right) Zeno Gabaglio, Nadir Vassena, Maurizio Chiaruttini (moderator), Gabriele Pezzoli and Carlo Piccardi. (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Writing a report on an event you’ve taken part in comes with one major problem: the conflict of interest. This most partial of creatures precludes any reasonable expectation of objectivity, so readers are warned that every aspect of the account from this point will be marked by the utmost subjectivity.

But let’s rewind: on 7 June 2019, a round table...read more

Sound space surveyor and ambient sound explorer

Saxophonist Bertrand Denzler is always working on new opportunities to express himself in the delicate balance that lies between improvisation and composition. The 55-year-old musician from Geneva, who is now resident in Paris, now intends to extend the frontiers of his artistic dialogue with others even further using “roaming residencies”. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Bertrand Denzler: Sound space surveyor and ambient sound explorer

Bertrand Denzler (Photo: Dmitry Shubin)

“Tireless”, “adaptable” and “industrious” are just three words that could be used to characterise the artistic craft of Bertrand Denzler. Anyone checking out his website for the first time could be forgiven for thinking the sheer number of projects and line-ups might be their kiss-of-death. Denzler laughs: “I’ve laid the whole thing out somewhat more clearly in the meantime.” In fact: on second glance, it all makes sense. And anyone taking the next step of dipping into the sounds available online will hardly be able to resist Denzler’s artistic vision. At first, the finely balanced sound sculptures seem to reveal a welcoming kind of simplicity. But in the background lurks a complexity with a tremendous pulling effect that is almost hypnotic.

“My compositions are not primarily about the narrative form, but the inner structure. This means my pieces might seem relatively simple, but they are not easy to play. The musician should not be distracted by far too many ideas, but should be able to concentrate fully on the sound and its precision,” is the way Denzler explains his intentions.

He classifies his process-orientated compositions as “spaces”. For the most part, they do not feature traditional notation, but are predetermined by their structure. “I want musicians to be involved and have to think for themselves”, stresses Denzler. He adds: “Often it is just the time structure that is specified, and not the rhythmic structure. The predetermined rules always open up lots of opportunities.”

Denzler practises this “space surveying” with the simultaneous exploration of the ambient sound with very different line-ups, including the Sowari Trio, Hubbub, Denzler-Gerbal-Dörner, The Seen, Onceim and Denzler-Grip-Johansson. At the same time, he is not averse to trying new things, including improvising as a guest musician in such line-ups as Jonas Kocher’s international Šalter Ensemble, in a duo with Hans Koch or quite simply solo.

Denzler actually considers his career to be somewhat typical of a European musician of his generation. He started out with classical music, but at the same time was listening to pop and rock in private. However, an outright thirst for knowledge also made him aware relatively quickly of the most varied ways in this world that music can be played. “And eventually”, comments Denzler, “jazz became my main sphere of activity, because improvisation, in other words implementing your thoughts in real time, fascinated me”.

After jazz came free-form music, even if Denzler is still to this day impressed by the philosophy and improvisational approach of such greats as Albert Ayler and John Coltrane and will probably continue to be influenced by them. As opposed to many improvisers who never return (if they have occasionally diverted from a compositional approach), Denzler has found a space where he can keep creating new things architecturally from the delicate balance between improvisation and composition. “In the last ten years, I acquired the feeling that I am always improvising in the same system. Suddenly, I once gain felt compelled to build structures within my music.”

Denzler’s artistic vision is not only a kind of journey of discovery in a metaphorical sense: he wants to transport this “space” to different geographical locations as a “roaming residency”, so as to meet other musicians there and create new music with them. Up to now, the project has failed, not only for financial reasons, but also because such an open project does not comply with the general conditions of traditional subsidies policies. Start-up funding from a FONDATION SUISA Get Going! grant is now making realisation possible, because, according to Denzler, “… it allows me to pursue my creativity instead of predefined conditions”. Beaming with delight, he adds that it’s as if this grant had been specially tailored for him. And in fact his definition almost reminds you of a Denzler composition, in which the structures defined by the creator open up unforeseen possibilities …

www.bertranddenzler.com

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding.

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20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project To discuss artistic creation is anything but simple. That’s why Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA have come up with something special in the course of the Jazz Festival in Bess (Lugano). Composer Maria Bonzanigo, from Ticino, and composers Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari developed an imaginary composition project in front of the audience. The result was rather fascinating and took those present on a journey into the thought-world of authors. Read more
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Saxophonist Bertrand Denzler is always working on new opportunities to express himself in the delicate balance that lies between improvisation and composition. The 55-year-old musician from Geneva, who is now resident in Paris, now intends to extend the frontiers of his artistic dialogue with others even further using “roaming residencies”. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Bertrand Denzler: Sound space surveyor and ambient sound explorer

Bertrand Denzler (Photo: Dmitry Shubin)

“Tireless”, “adaptable” and “industrious” are just three words that could be used to characterise the artistic craft of Bertrand Denzler. Anyone checking out his website for the first time could be forgiven for thinking the sheer number of projects and line-ups might be their kiss-of-death. Denzler laughs: “I’ve laid the whole thing out somewhat more clearly in the meantime.” In fact:...read more

20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project

To discuss artistic creation is anything but simple. That’s why Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA have come up with something special in the course of the Jazz Festival in Bess (Lugano). Composer Maria Bonzanigo, from Ticino, and composers Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari developed an imaginary composition project in front of the audience. The result was rather fascinating and took those present on a journey into the thought-world of authors. Guest contribution by Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: 20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project

Zeno Gabaglio (Co-moderator), Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Viviani, Alessandro Zanoli (Moderator) and Damiano Merzari (in the picture from left to right) have discussed their most private creative processes as composers. (Photo: Erika Weibel

An entire evening focussing on the subject of musical creation can actually be rather boring. Especially because the topic itself creates a conundrum – comparable to the mysteries that surround each history of creation, or genesis. The explanation of musical creation usually leads to two unpleasant results: erring around aimlessly between contradictory philosophical beliefs or completely rejecting something that conflicts by nature with logical thinking and explanations.

Fully aware of this starting position, Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA organised an evening dedicated to musical creation on Thursday, 25 January 2018 in the Swiss National Sound Archives in Lugano. Naturally, the question arose how you might map out such an evening without ‘dead-ending’ in the above mentioned, fateful cul-de-sac.

Spontaneous composing in front of the audience

The idea was to let three invited music authors directly dive into the subject matter; into a situation which is as practice-related as it is specific, so that there is neither room for philosophical palaver nor any moments of awkward silence.

But how? By sending each of them an invite by an imaginary committee. They got summoned to collaborate on a new project. The text that was only revealed at the beginning of the meeting was the following:

“Jazzy Jams wishes to inaugurate its new hall with a number of concerts and invites musicians from the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland to spontaneously conceive an artistic work. The event is about a performance in a modular-built and technically well-equipped room with a capacity of 400 seats. The composition budget amounts to CHF 5,000. For the actual implementation, CHF 15,000 is available. The time span from concept to implementation is nine months. There are no specifications regarding music styles or duration, and the composer shall have the entire evening to him/herself.”

The only condition for each author was to lay bare their very own creative process to the audience – in a kind of inner dialogue, but spoken out loud.

Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari (members of the band The Pussywarmers) have generously made themselves available for this project by – in a rather unusual open brainstorming – revealed their generally most private creative processes.

Different music styles, different approaches

The result: captivating, electrifying, surprising and sometimes ironic. This was due to the fact that music genres (theatre and concert music in the case of Bonzanigo; jazz, soundtracks and concert music in the case of Viviani; independent rock in the case of Merzari) illustrated rather different ways to access the very same phenomenon which all of us – rather unimaginatively but proudly – refer to under the same term, “music”.

Certain doubts and questions arose in the course of the discussion – apart from solid technical and poetic certainties. And maybe they were the most interesting moments of the event. They revealed the creative process not only as an equation which can be solved with one single result, but also a part of your life map which you need to travel to, even though this entails the usual unavoidable surprises along the journey.

In the second part of the evening, the subject of the creation process moved a little bit into the background; the focus was rather on the question whether artistic creation can be taught. And if so, how?

Tamara Basaric of the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, Giorgio Meuwly and Marco Conti of the Scuola di Musica Moderna as well as Andrés Ortiz of the Scuola di Musica e di Arti Creative were the specialist mentors (as well as authors) and provided answers in both an expert and an exciting manner.

Links
Jazz in Bess
Maria Bonzanigo
Pietro Viviani
The Pussywarmers

Guest contributor Zeno Gabaglio is a SUISA Board member, composer and was the co-moderator of the Jazz in Bess.

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To discuss artistic creation is anything but simple. That’s why Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA have come up with something special in the course of the Jazz Festival in Bess (Lugano). Composer Maria Bonzanigo, from Ticino, and composers Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari developed an imaginary composition project in front of the audience. The result was rather fascinating and took those present on a journey into the thought-world of authors. Guest contribution by Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: 20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project

Zeno Gabaglio (Co-moderator), Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Viviani, Alessandro Zanoli (Moderator) and Damiano Merzari (in the picture from left to right) have discussed their most private creative processes as composers. (Photo: Erika Weibel

An entire evening focussing on the subject of musical creation can actually be rather boring. Especially because the topic itself creates a conundrum – comparable...read more

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years’ old!

Julien-François Zbinden is a pianist, composer, writer and … 100 years’ old. On 11 November 2017, the honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his centennial birthday. For the occasion, the guest author Jean-Pierre Mathez has been invited to review the jubilarian’s life and work.

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years' old!

Julien-François Zbinden, former President and now honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his 100th birthday on 11 November 2017 (Photo: Yvan Ischer)

Ford Model T year 1913. (Photo: Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com)

Julien-François Zbinden was born on 11 November 1917, nine years after the Ford T. He was a privileged and attentive witness to the extra-ordinary technological, artistic, moral and spiritual developments which revolutionised Man’s life on this planet during his lifetime.

His musical adventure started with his beloved piano. In his own words:

“Still today, it shares my passion for jazz music, and our complicity is enshrined in the album ‘The Last Call…?’ which I recorded when I was 93. ‘It’ is my instrument, my more than one century-old piano: a Blüthner Model 190, No. 89293, built in Leipzig in 1910, to which I dedicate this Opus 111 (titled ‘Blüthner-Variationen’, published by Editions Bim PNO67, Author’s note) which completes my series of works for the piano.”

Self-portrait, engraving on linoleum, 1937.

Julien-François Zbinden first earned his living as a bar pianist, passionately initiating himself to jazz and then to composition.

When he was 30, he started his career with the music department of Radio Suisse Romande, which he marked with his administrative imprint and open-mindedness until stepping down in 1982. Glorious years with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Fanfare Perce-Oreille, classical and popular choirs across French-speaking Switzerland, stars of “la chanson française”, jazz orchestras; he participated in and hosted on-air debates with talent and respect for the opinions of others. He brought numerous celebrities from the musical world to Lausanne: the RSR archives contain a wealth of live interviews and recordings with famous artists. He opened the RSR’s doors to all genres of quality music, irrigating a pluralist culture in the Romandie and other French-speaking countries.

When he was in his mid-fifties, he passed his aviator’s licence, reveling in the emotion of his aerial arabesques and the thrill of the miniaturised view of life on earth.

Julien-François Zbinden in front of a Piper L4, initiation to landing (Glacier des Diablerets, 11.12.1975). (Photo: ZvG)

Julien-François Zbinden at the piano, January 2017. (Photo: ZvG)

On reaching retirement age, Julien-François Zbinden left the RSR and devoted himself heart and soul to composing (he would write over one hundred works), to his friends, to travelling and writing (an impressive bibliography and two more recent books), not to forget recording two recent jazz albums on the piano (TCB Montreux).

He was President of the Association des Musiciens suisses (1973 to 1979) and of SUISA from 1987 to 1991.

Julien-François Zbinden is also a valuable living memory, a well of knowledge, a man of letters who has observed and analysed his times with great perspicacity. His musical works have been played worldwide and are published by major European publishing houses (since 1988, all his new works have been published in Switzerland by Editions Bim).

We hope that the Swiss musical world, in the Romandie in particular, will not forget this exceptional artist and will continue to pass on his works to future generations of musicians and music-lovers in our country.

Read (much) more about Julien-François Zbinden: www.jfzbinden.ch

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Julien-François Zbinden is a pianist, composer, writer and … 100 years’ old. On 11 November 2017, the honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his centennial birthday. For the occasion, the guest author Jean-Pierre Mathez has been invited to review the jubilarian’s life and work.

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years' old!

Julien-François Zbinden, former President and now honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his 100th birthday on 11 November 2017 (Photo: Yvan Ischer)

Ford Model T year 1913. (Photo: Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com)

Julien-François Zbinden was born on 11 November 1917, nine years after the Ford T. He was a privileged and attentive witness to the extra-ordinary technological, artistic, moral and spiritual developments which revolutionised Man’s life on this planet during his lifetime.

His musical adventure started with his beloved piano. In his own words:

“Still today, it shares my passion for jazz music,...read more

Mediate between melody, harmony and rhythm

FONDATION SUISA grants Heiri Känzig its Jazz Award 2016. The musician from Zurich is regarded as one of the most prominent double base players in Europe. He is less known as a distinguished composer. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

Mediate between melody, harmony and rhythm

“The richness of his variations and his dexterity make him a virtuoso of his instrument”, FONDATION SUISA writes about this year’s winner, Heiri Känzig, in its press release in connection with the Jazz Award. (Photo: Pablo Faccinetto)

Heiri Känzig is probably more known to the international jazz scene than the Swiss public. The double bass player has never sought out the attention of the broad masses, but managed to convince with humble musical talent. Born in Zurich in 1957, he moved abroad while still young because of music, and lived in cities such as Vienna, Munich and Paris. Heiri Känzig smiles during our conversation when he recalls how Mathias Rüegg had encouraged him to break off secondary school (Gymnasium) in Schiers and to study at the music conservatory in Graz. He later on followed the co-founder of the Vienna Art Orchestra to Vienna, which would become his own springboard into the international jazz scene.

Vienna as a starting point

From 1977 onwards, Heiri Känzig was a member of the Vienna Art Orchestra for 15 years, and already performed on their debut, the single (!) “Jessas na” (1978): “A crazy record”. He thus became part of an innovative scene and obviously gained a good reputation as a double bass player quickly. After all, he became a supporting act for the Bebop trumpeter Art Farmer as early as 1978. Since then, Heiri Känzig has played with numerous big names in jazz such as Art Lande, Kenny Wheeler, Lauren Newton, Billy Cobham and Ralph Towner; he was particularly close to Charlie Mariano. It is also unusual that he became a member of the “Orchestre National de Jazz” as the first non-French national in 1991.

Heiri Känzig insists that he does not just regard himself as a jazz musician: “I like to play different kinds of music.” He showed this, for example, with the “Tienn Shan Schweiz Express” (with musicians from Kirgistan, Khakassia, Mongolia, Switzerland and Austria) or a project with the Algerian Oud player Chaouk Smahi. Furthermore, he was a studio musician for artists like Nena and Andreas Vollenweider. What really amazes is the fact that Heiri Känzig who is usually known as a live musician, has been playing on 130 albums based on his biography. He plays down the fact that there are more in the meantime, and clarifies that at least thirty alone stem from the Vienna Art Orchestra.

Underestimated composer

One constant factor in Heiri Känzig’s career has been the cooperation with Thierry Lang, which had begun before his contract with the legendary Blue Note Records label. For about 25 years, he has been playing with the pianist from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, usually in a trio, but sometimes with guest musicians, and currently even with a string quartet. He also increasingly contributes to compositions. As a co-leader, Heiri Känzig currently works mainly with the jazz ‘institution’ Chico Freeman as a duo, and in the “4-tet” with the “Cholet Kaenzig Papaux Trio”, and with Depart, a trio founded in 1985 with Harry Sokal, which now has Martin Valihora as its drummer.

On the suspense-packed last Depart album “Refire” (2014), the majority of works were written by Heiri Känzig. He is still often described as a “versatile accompanier” or similarly. “As a bass player you are usually not the front man as it is more often the case for trumpeters or pianists”, he says and is relaxed about it. “The bass is primarily an accompanying instrument, and a low one at that, which is not perceived as easily from an acoustic point of view than other instruments.” Heiri Känzig also confirms that the bass has the function to connect the different types of instruments. He adds, laughing: “Bassists are, in a way, the diplomats among musicians, mediating between melody, harmony and rhythm; that’s why we probably are such conciliatory people …”.

Virtuosity and sound

When he composes, he does not worry about the function of the bass, but often just starts playing, usually on the piano. “At the beginning of a composition are bass lines, which I find by playing and which inspire me. These are rhythmic approaches, whereas I fathom the harmonious aspect with the piano.” These are two fundamentally different approaches, and yet the further development of the pieces bear a communality. Composing is always a very exciting process because you never know where it will lead you. You don’t have a clue, and yet something always tells you where to go through next.”

Media reports continue to praise the virtuosity of Heiri Känzig. “And of course you can tell yourself that it doesn’t make sense at all in the case of a bass because the low tones are hardly audible anyway”, he adds and shrugs. “But I add colour to the music by doing so, sometimes even a sound thunderstorm.” This contributes to the fact that his performance has a very individual and unique note. Heiri Känzig can, however, not quite explain this himself. “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have hardly ever copied anything”.

Heiri Känzig was born in 1957 and grew up in Zurich and Weiningen. He studied music in Graz, Vienna and Zurich. Since 1990, he has been living in Meilen and been a lecturer for double bass at the University for Music in Lucerne since 2002. The singer-songwriter Anna Känzig is his niece; a joint performance is planned for May 2017. – The Jazz Award 2016, worth CHF 15,000 is presented to Heiri Känzig in the course of a special matinée concert on Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 11 am in Moods Zurich. Heiri Känzig will perform together with Chico Freeman and Thierry Lang first in a duo each, then in a trio.
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FONDATION SUISA grants Heiri Känzig its Jazz Award 2016. The musician from Zurich is regarded as one of the most prominent double base players in Europe. He is less known as a distinguished composer. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

Mediate between melody, harmony and rhythm

“The richness of his variations and his dexterity make him a virtuoso of his instrument”, FONDATION SUISA writes about this year’s winner, Heiri Känzig, in its press release in connection with the Jazz Award. (Photo: Pablo Faccinetto)

Heiri Känzig is probably more known to the international jazz scene than the Swiss public. The double bass player has never sought out the attention of the broad masses, but managed to convince with humble musical talent. Born in Zurich in 1957, he moved abroad while still young because of music, and lived in cities such as...read more

Schweizer Jazz an der Jazzahead! 2016 allseits präsent

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Jazzahead! 2016: Der Schweizer Jazz im Fokus

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Lionel Friedli, ein vielseitiger Impulsgeber

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  1. JM Tschanz says:

    Fait vraiment plaisir de voir ce super batteur récompensé !

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Die Schweiz ist jazzahead!-Partnerland 2016

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Rückblick und Ausblick auf die jazzahead!

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