March 1, 2024

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It works in a similar way to a conversation: Ausserrhoder jazz musicians play freely and without grades: Photos, Video

The pianist Fabian M. Mueller and the saxophonist Reto Suhner come from Heiden and Herisau and are only at first sight an unequal pair.

At first glance, they are an unequal pair. Fabian M. Mueller far surpasses his fellow musicians in body size. Age wise, they are almost ten years apart. And they talk differently: Mueller speaks slowly, gets his words right. Reto Suhner, on the other hand, bubbles out, the sentences only form when they are formulated, and he helps a lot with his hands.

But the impression is deceptive. In addition to their Eastern Swiss origin, the two jazz musicians have much in common. Otherwise they would not have joined together as a duo five years ago and recorded an album (“Schattenspiel”). Now the successor has appeared: «Am Grund» combines seven excerpts from three concerts. The special feature: none of this was planned, agreed or recorded on sheet music. When Mueller and Suhner play, they improvise. “It’s complete freedom,” says Mueller.

«Am Grund» heisst das neue, zweite Album der Ostschweizer Jazzmusiker Fabian M. Mueller (links) und Reto Suhner. Bild: PD

They give themselves the rhythm

As a jazz musician, they are used to improvising. After all, it is jazz that the musicians play new melodies to predetermined chords and set their own accents. Every solo sounds different, no song sounds twice the same: this, among other things, is jazz.

In their duo Mueller and Suhner go a few steps further. There are no more chord progressions or melodies on which they orient themselves. They also do without drum and bass accompaniment, but give themselves the rhythm themselves. Nobody knows what the other will play, and yet they find each other together.

“It works in a similar way to a conversation,” Suhner explains. “It’s a constant sending and receiving. For example, if Fabian is very active at the moment, I’ll take my back. Or I’ll do something for him. “Mueller adds:” If you play so freely, you have to leave the categories right and wrong behind. “What key is that? Such questions would be unimportant, says Mueller and describes an extreme case:

“Sometimes we start playing at the same time, Reto a tone, I a tone. That can almost only go awry, but it’s also a liberation. This first tone is our destiny. ”

To play so freely requires courage. “There can be lengths in between,” says Suhner. “And it can happen that we can not think of anything anymore.” Just like in a conversation.

The piano sounds like a dulcimer

In the songs on “At the bottom” there are no lengths, but many ideas. Mueller and Suhner have put together a fascinating selection of their live performances. The album begins with a piano sound, struck almost like a dulcimer, then the saxophone rises, and after only two minutes, the two instruments combine to a motif that could also be rehearsed so.

It’s obvious that here are two people who work together. They shine with their musical experience. Quotes from folk music and classical music sound, too bulky sound experiments will be omitted. Suhner elicits a variety of shades from his saxophones and clarinets, Mueller extends the sound of the piano with mechanical preparations.

“Mutual trust has grown in recent years,” says Mueller. The two meet regularly for rehearsals to try new things. On stage, however, they start all over again, with the first note.

To the persons

Fabian M. Mueller grew up in Heiden and now lives in Bern. The 36-year-old pianist plays among others in the band of Bernese rapper Baze and combines in the Trio Berg together with Kaspar von Grünigen (bass) and Øyvind Hegg-Lunde (drums) music from mountain regions with modern influences.

Reto Suhner comes from Herisau and lives in Zurich today. Next year, his Reto Suhner quartet celebrates its 20th anniversary. In addition, the 45-year-old saxophonist and clarinetist plays in the Swiss Jazz Orchestra and belongs to the quintet Mats Up of the trumpeter Matthias Spillmann.

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