March 1, 2024

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Saarbrücken Jazz Festival is finished: Lee Konitz, Andreas Scherrer and others … Video

Bitter end for the highly esteemed jazz days in Saarbrücken. Several musicians are still waiting for their fees, the artistic director has disappeared.

A success story: The marvelous development of the Saarbrücken jazz festival was brought to life in such a simple way over the years. An active sponsoring association, the Jazz Syndikat Saarbrücken, had created this event since 2002 almost out of nowhere. As a matter of course, big names were presented. At the same time, the audience also loved the improvised atmosphere of the jazz days in autumn. even the critics praised almost unanimously. But that is now passé.

The reverse side looks like this: even over a month after the festival ends artists are still waiting for their fees. The responsible, Wolfgang Krause, artistic director of the festival, has disappeared. As the sole director of the Jazz Syndicate, the sponsoring association that sponsors the festival, he seems to have acted virtually solo since the spring of 2017 – and probably without any control. He responds neither to calls nor to emails now, the office of the association is orphaned. In the meantime, unnerved agencies turn to the city of Saarbrücken because the club neither pays nor replies. They have tried everything to get to Krause, says Saarbrücken’s Cultural Affairs Director Thomas Brück (Greens), “but also the registered letter to him came back.” Where Krause is staying, knows Brück, himself a member of the Friends, not. One thing is clear: The Jazz Syndicate, suddenly the name sounds rather ambivalent, owes money to a number of musicians.

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Andreas Scherrer of the New York-based agency “Company of Heaven”, which represents, among others, the star saxophonist Lee Konitz, who played in Saarbrucken on 27 October, has been hunting for Krause for weeks. Such descent is “often in this business, if someone can not or does not want to pay,” Scherrer knows from bitter experience. From three other agencies Scherrer has knowledge that have remained on their bills. A Berlin agent has turned to the state capital. Brück wrote to her: “We also have more information available, according to which the Jazz Syndicate Saarbrücken e.V. agreed fees to musicians did not pay or did not pay properly.” One hopes for an early clarification. Otherwise you have to “turn on the prosecutor”. How much the syndicate owes to the musicians, can not currently quantify. Lastly, the budget of the festival should have been 96,000 euros. But that’s exactly what the leader knows. And there is no answer to that.

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When looking at the club reveals another misery. Wolfgang Krause has been sole director since March of this year, says Gerd Obermeier, former treasurer. In March, he resigned from office – “for personal reasons.” Krause was finally on his own. Last year, the vice-chairman resigned from office, said Obermeier. In June 2017, a general meeting about personal details and the way forward should take place. Krause did not convoke these, claims the former accountant. At least Krause had ensured that the resignations were registered at the registry court.

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Where the chairman of the association is and, above all, where the money was, he does not know, says Obermeier. Surely, the artistic director had expected too much. “He looked bad last time.” Other club members who want to remain anonymous claim that the festival director was burnt out. Also of gambling addiction is the speech.

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Overall, there is the image of an association in which the artistic director with his program ambition increasingly isolated managed. Despite 150 members, the number of actual assets, as in many other clubs, was very manageable. Perhaps Krause was even the victim of his own success, under pressure to make it even better. Although the budget of the jazz days of top-class over 130 000 euros to last 96 000 euros sagged, but Krause offered a wealth of concerts with plenty of stars: 24 dates last. A paradox that obviously did not irritate anyone.

Until 2017, emphasizes cultural director Thomas Brück, the Jazz syndicate always proved correctly, for which the urban funding was spent. The 32,000 euro grant – with about this contribution is Saarbrücken for ten years – was well spent, he is convinced. The city was the main donor, but also the country participated and private sponsors.

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How the musicians get their money, remains open. “We must point out that the Jazz Syndicate Saarbrücken e.V. as an association is not in the action and financial responsibility of the state capital of Saarbrücken,” it says in an urban letter to an agency. In plain language: nothing to pick. Even in the remnants of the jazz syndicate you poke in the fog. “We first have to find out what we are about,” says ex-CEO Gerd Obermeier. For the 20th of January an extraordinary general assembly is scheduled. Although he no longer counts to the top of the club, he still strives hard for clarification, would not like that of the jazz days just a pile of shit remains.

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Incidentally, the same is true of Thomas Brück. If anyone wants to continue the festival with a different concept, he would back up for a promotion, says the department. First, of course, it must be clear why the success story of the Saarbrücken jazz festival was too good in the end – to be true.

Auch Star-Saxophonist Lee Konitz, im Oktober beim Festival zu Gast, wartet noch auf sein Geld.  

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