CR – Jazz Weekend in Lenk, July 14-16 2017

This was not just a Central Region event. Members from Geneva, Basle and Zurich also made up the 17 who attended. We all stayed in the Wildstrubel Sporthotel, situated conveniently in the centre of the town. The hotel was very reasonable, but not quite up to the standard of the Kreuz which we have used on previous occasions. But then we did not come primarily for the food but for the Jazz, with sightseeing on the side.

Some members got there early enough to attend the street parade on Friday afternoon and appreciated the antics of the Bienville Street Band. We were all there for the evening meal, though Andrew and Angela from Zurich only just made it in time and then we all went to the big marquee set up on the Kronenplatz, to listen to the first concert. This was by the Bowler Hats, a group of six celebrating 50 years of jazz. Astoundingly, 3 of the original group were still playing, so understandably this was not a young group. Neither was their jazz, all very traditional well-known numbers. The leader played the trumpet, often together with the saxophone (soprano and tenor mainly), trombone, banjo, bass and drums. Star of the show was their boogie pianist, Moody Rassouli who dazzled us all with his flying fingers. As befits their style, the second encore was “When the saints” and they finished to a standing ovation. Take a look at their website.

The next day we were told that there were no tickets left for the Jazz train in the afternoon (although one devoted member, Valerie, used her Liverpool chutzpah to wangle a seat and then attended the midday session at the Kreuz before leaving to enjoy the Jazz Train – Bienville again). The rest of us took the cable car (an impressive new construction) up to the Metschstand, where we had a magnificent view of the Wildstrubel and of the edge of the Glacier of the Plaine Morte, above Crans Montana. We were also enthralled by a lush display of Alpine flora – a section below the cable car appeared to have been kept free from grazing cattle. It was quite a demanding exercise identifying them from the little booklet provided by the tourist office! We had a typical choice of mountain lunches, before heading down to relax before the evening meal and the next concert. Three members even bravely walked down to the middle station.

The evening jazz session was a group, based in Brighton, but whose members came from all over the place. They, the Swing Ninjas, were much less “trad” replacing the banjo with 2 electric guitars and including a Suzaphone, but no trumpet. Most of them sang in many of their pieces, but their “lead” singer, Helena, was not fantastic! However, she did provide some astonishing solos on her baritone sax! Completely different, but rather disappointing! Even more so because the solos were very short and did not really leave time for appreciation and applause.

Sunday was the last day and a group of us decided to spend the morning going up the Betelberg to Stoos (part of the deal was a free pass to all the cablecars!). Once up there we decided that we had time to go up to the top at Leiterli! However, by then the time was too short to even stop for a coffee since we wanted to be back for the start of the 11:00 concert. We did manage to see a marmot, even though it was only one carved in wood, decorating the walk down. We spotted other members of our group on the way up, as we were going down!

Good job we got to the concert from the start, because the final act, the Chris Conz trio was the star of the weekend! Not only was the leader just as good a Boogie pianist as Moody Rassouli, but his drummer, Mario von Holten, and bassist, Arno Schulz, were almost as good as he was. The many solos were long enough to really enjoy and applaud. But not only was Chris endowed with flying fingers, towards the end he brought on his young protégée, a young man of about 14 who matched Chris in dexterity if not quite in power (as yet). Four boogie hands on one piano – an absolute delight! There were 3 encores and a standing ovation and the youngster came back on for the last two! Find out more about this group here.

Thank you, Joy, for organizing this super weekend. We’re definitely on for the next one. But then you will have to do something special to get such superb weather as well!

Nigel Coombs

You can see the photos here