Yes, there’s an accordion in the Christina Fuchs’ No Tango ensemble.
And no, it’s not tango.
That’s pretty much what’s behind the name of Christina Fuchs’ ensemble No Tango, touring Australia in November with performances at the Wangaratta jazz Festival, Sydney’s International Women’s Jazz Festival and a number of other cities. ‘People would hear the accordion.’ says Fuchs, ‘and think it was tango. In Germany, you would normally hear this instrument in folk music, or Piazzola, and there’s not lot in between. I thought this is a great instrument to be something in between.’
Fuchs enjoys the texture that the accordion brings to the ensemble. ‘It’s an instrument that can breathe, which I really like.’ She says the choice was as much about the musician – Florian Stadler – as the instrument. Fuchs had known Stadler from other projects and really wanted to work with him.
Fuchs plays bass clarinet and soprano saxophone in this ensemble. Of the bass clarinet she says,
‘I like the warmth of that sound – the wooden warm sound – and it has a great range, from very low to pretty high, as clarinets do in general. It is perfect in combination with soprano saxophone. With these two, you can do everything. I play other instruments but they are my favourites.’
She plays the curved style soprano saxophone. ‘I really like the curved soprano because as you can easily imagine the sound comes straight back to you, not to the ground. And the sound is more… you know the straight one sounds more a little bit like this [she makes her voice nasal and high] and the curved sounds more round and full.’
In Australia, No Tango’s tour takes in Alice Springs, Adelaide, Wangaratta, Canberra, Sydney, Wollongong and Penrith. In Wangaratta, they will play with the Andrea Keller Quartet, combining the two ensembles.
No Tango’s collaborations and influences have ranged far afield – Iraq and Japan for example – and Fuchs says this is partly because she loves travelling. ‘I think you can really learn from getting to know other cultures. I think it’s good to look over your own horizon.’ The collaborations have also come about through musicians who have travelled to Germany. ‘ I met these Iraqui musicians here who I have worked with for a long time now.’ She pauses. ‘When you’re open it comes to you, I guess.’
As a composer, she says story telling is important. ‘Without the story it all becomes very technical, to me,’ she says, ‘but it all makes sense if you tell something. I’m convinced about that. Even if the audience doesn’t know the story, I still know, and in live concerts I assume they can hear it. Or people just come up with their own stories, which I’m fine with.’
The collaboration with Andrea Keller came about through Maryanne Piper’s Artpipes project. Keller has been to Europe a number of times and really enjoyed European musicians and their sensibilities so she says it was very natural to want to be involved in this project. Fuchs had heard Keller play at the Moers Festival in 2007 and when the opportunity to play together came up she thought it could be a good connection. The two musicians are approaching the collaboration with very little prior communication or joint planning – each writing music that will be then briefly rehearsed when No Tango arrives in Australia. ‘ It’s all about curiosity,’ says Fuchs. ‘We’ll be in the moment and hope for the best.’
Keller’s approach to her composition for these performances is to keep to a simple structure that allows the musicians to ‘speak with their own voices, speak with the other musicians and get to know them’. When writing for her own quartet, the material can be complex. ‘A lot of the nuance of it relies on the fact that you know each other really well,’ she says, ‘and that doesn’t work in these other types of collaborations.
‘I’ve approached it really with a relatively simple concept, and basically I’ve just created seven minimalistic structures for us which are really a starting point that can improvise on together and then focus on what we can create as an ensemble; using these structures as themes to get us started, or topics of a conversation.’
No Tango and the Andrea Keller Quartet will also be performing at the International Women’s Jazz Festival in Sydney, although not in combination.
Fuchs sees women’s festivals as playing an important role for young musicians. She was co-leader of the (now disbanded) United Womens Orchestra.
‘We weren’t being booked for enough concerts and you might think that this means there’s no longer any need for such an orchestra, but that’s not true,’ she says. ‘Young women need role models, and in jazz especially they need to see what’s possible; where they can go.
‘Just seeing women on stage, and seeing that they can do it, should be normal… much more normal,’ she says, ‘and I personally like ensembles like No Tango where it’s 50/50 male and female, because all the energies are there.’
Video: Christina Fuchs ‘NoTango’ live at Winterjazz Köln 2012
Christina Fuchs (bass clarinet and soprano sax) www.christinafuchs.de
Florian Stadler (accordion)
Ulla Oster (bass)
Christoph Hillman (drums)
Andrea Keller Quartet
Andrea Keller (piano) andreakellerpiano.com
Eugene Ball (trumpet)
Ian Whitehurst (tenor saxophone)
Joe Talia (drums)
Christina Fuchs tour dates in Australia
Oct 29 2012 Montes, Alice Springs, NT
Oct 30 2012 The Prom, Adelaide, SA
Nov 2 – 4 2012 Wangaratta Jazz Festival, VIC
Nov 7 2012 The Hippo Bar, Canberra, ACT
Nov 8 2012 The Sound Lounge (SIMA), Sydney, NSW
Nov 9 2012 Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, Wollongong, NSW
Nov 10 2012 Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Complex, Penrith, NSW
The concert tour is supported by the German Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut.