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Heinz von Hermann

Jazz Ahead

The Vietnam Tour

Jazz Ahead in Malaysia
Jazz Ahead Meets Dracula
Jazz Ahead in Mexico
The South-East Asia tour
The Vietnam tour

About our jazz tour of Chinaóit was very interesting. In Beijing it was so hot I almost melted away and on the Yangtze it was constantly raining. We were on board of one of the last boats that could pass along there. Did you know that the Yangtze river is the worlds biggest floating dump yard? Ii is unbelievable how much dirt and waste is floating there. Of course you only see the swimming part of it, styropore, shoes and once in a while a dead pig! †First of all it took much longer (bureaucratic) preparations than our first tour, two years ago and it was not sure if weíd go or not until just a few weeks before. So Bruno had to say yes or no to a lot of gigs he had and I couldnít keep him on a waiting line until I knew for sure what will happen.

So he took this gig - he is working a lot now with this French girl singer Anne Ducroux who won already the 2nd time the French Grammy and is very good in business now - and Bruno is her steady drummer, apart the fact that he is still the main drummer of Toots (Thielemans), who isnít doing that much anymore, but whenever he has some gigs, they are very very well paid of course.

So instead of looking for another drummer I decided to go on the Vietnam tour with the trio, just Uli and Erwin and it turned out as a perfect decision. We had played already before some gigs in trio, so it was nothing unusual. Since we played most of the gigs in Asia in real concert halls, people were really listening and it was a pleasure to play in a more intimate way than how you would play with a drummer being in the band. Even in the two club gigs it was very nice, because we only played two sets and people again were quiet and were listening. I wouldnít like to play gigs like in the old Domicile (in Munich) without a drummer, where people are loud and drinking and not really listening. I decided that for the future as well, Iíll make it dependent on the type of a location if I play there in trio or with a quartet! Also our program was accepted very well, we played a mixture of standards, jazz standards and a couple of my compositions. On this trip I only took my tenor and the flute. Unfortunately I had really big problems with my reeds; it must be from those airĖconditioned rooms, or more probably the change from the warm outside into the cold rooms inside! The reeds bent and messed up while I was playing!! Can you believe this?! I have a special ligature for those cases, but it is so clumsy, so - naturally - I didnít have it with me (Murphyīs Law).

We arrived after a long long flight in Hanoi and fortunately had a day off to recover - spicy hot Asian noodle soup is the best - and the other day we gave a workshop-concert in the Conservatory there, pupils and teachers were very interested and liked it. It was this Vietnamese saxophone player Minh who runs the jazz club in Hanoi and is a very sweet guy who is really trying to bring jazz to the people over there. He helped us by translating in the workshop and had organized all of that. The next day we had a concert in the soĖcalled Youth Theatre. It was an elderly concert hall but with good acoustics, maybe 500 to 600 people. Luckily the sound man has learned something since the last time we were in Hanoi, he didnít fiddle around anymore on the board while we were playing like he did the last time (or maybe it was another guy?). Anyway we didnít need much of an amplification, just a little for my announcements and the flute. This was one of the series of concerts they were organizing in Hanoi and Ho Tchi Minh City (the former Saigon) as the 2nd Vietnamese Euro Jazz Festival.

Apparently they had one last year as well. This festival goes over a couple weeks with just one concert a week in Hanoi and HTMC, with bands brought to Vietnam from the embassies of the different European countries. Naturally they have no money for that. After this concert we were invited by the Austrian embassy to a very good meal and wine ...

Next day we flew to HTMC for our concert there. This concert hall was very beautiful, sold out with television coverage and all that jazz.... A big success as well. HTMC is much more advanced than Hanoi: you can see the western influence in the shops, everywhere. Of course we went berserk, shopping for silk shirts, dresses.....

Then we went to Bangkok, stayed in the hotel where, in the former Hotel Bar, the manager (a Jazz lover from Switzerland - when he talked he sounded like Charlie Antolini, fortunately he didnít play drums) had installed a jazz club with nightly live music—a Russian trumpet player (not bad!) with a local rhythm section. Their night off is on Monday, which is reserved for special attractions, and this Monday it was us.

The other day we had a workshop in the College of Music, which is located a little out of town, but a brand new building and with an American guitarist leading the jazz department. He sat in with the last tunes of the workshop. There were also two Austrian musicians working there as music teachers in a kind of an exchange program, I knew both of them already from Austria, and one of them, GŁnter Innerlohinger, a trombone player who also subbed in my big band in Salzburg a year ago, fixed this workshop for us. He is a pretty clever guy, organizing a lot of things. He brought Derek Watkins to Austria for a workshop and two concerts with the local big band in Ebensee and Gmunden. Thatís near where I live and in fact thatís where I saw Derek again after a lot of years.

In Thailand the social system of course is completely different from ours, you have a lot of poor people and also a lot of rich people. But when they are rich over there, they are rich. Naturally all the pupils on that music college come from wealthy families, they drive to school in their own BMWs, or have a chauffeur taking them there! But still I met some pretty talented students and they all seemed to be very ambitioned! Naturally there is not such a scene for jazz there, basically just in the schools, but actually over here in Europe there wouldn't be much of a scene left either if it wasnít for the schools. Then we were supposed to go to Ko Samui, this pretty island, but there would have been no way of getting the bass back again. We could have taken it to the island all right, because on that particular day a bigger plane was scheduled, but not back again to Bangkok.

Even days later it was not possible, but we had to go on to the Philippines! For this trip Uli had borrowed a flight case for the bass in Vienna but there were no planes going back from that island big enough to take it. We told them we were playing for the King's birthday, and they had an extra conference with Bangkok Airways to make it possible, but it still didnít work out.

King Bumipol is really of some importance for the Thai people, they really love him. Well, I said, it couldnít be that bad in a country where they have a saxophone player as king! He is also a painteróthey have an exhibition of his pictures there too. Having a dedication to arts seems to be obligatory for a king over there! Not bad, they should have that here in Europe - not only for royals, it wouldnít hurt bourgeois politicians as well. So we left the bass in storage in Bangkok and played that birthday reception just as a duo, Erwin and me, and it was very nice, too. After that we were invited to the special birthday buffet. Thai food is already known as the finest in Asia, but what we had there beats everything. Incredibly good! The hotel was also absolutely incredible. We had bungalows on the hills around a beach of about 250 square meters, the terrace was almost a 100 metres long, with beds outside under a mosquito net, and also a bathtub. So you could lie in the bathtub and have a look at the beach...

Of course even before in Bangkok we'd been on a shopping spree, having suits and shirts tailormade.

Then Manila. One concert in "Monks Dream", the local jazz club, very nice people. When we came to Manila, we had two days off, so we went that evening to the club; there was a band† with a very good girl singer playing, all local musicians. The next day we were on there and were asked to have a session with the local musicians. It was quite nice, with the singer being the best of all. We finished the tour playing for the Christmas party of the Philippine-Austrian Cultural Society. This was a rather strange gig, a big dinner for all ambassadors and other important people. They were listening, and applauded, but were possibly bored by it all. Then, on the way back, we had a stop in Bangkok for a day, stayed at the same hotel as before, made a city sightseeing tour, collected our tailormade suits and got the plane back to Europe. †

Manila is a rather boring city, completely Americanised: they even donít have a language of their own. They speak a mixture of what they think is English with a lot of words from their (or maybe just from this particular island) original language. It has a name, but I forget what it is. The landscape outside Manila is fantastic. We had a driver with a bus for all the time we stayed and he took us around and made an excursion to a famous volcano. The crater is filled with water, so it forms a lake a couple of dozen kilometres in diameter. In the middle of this lake is an island, which is the actual crater again filled this time with hot water. So it is a lake within a lake. Fantastic!

Coming back from Asia I was only one day at home, then I had to leave for Frankfurt to meet Peter Herbolzheimer for a tour of six concerts. †I had big problems with my jetlag, but it turned out to be very nice.

As regards our forthcoming trip to Australiaólast year a woman from the Australian branch of Katrinís organisation came on an European sightseeing tour and she came to visit us in Strobl. She brought a girl friend with her who runs a Jazz radio station in Australia and is part of the organisation of the Wagga Wagga Jazz Festival.

At the time we never planned on going to Australia, but of course I gave her all my CDs and information on my group. We stayed in contact via email. She said she loved my music and played my CDs on the radio.

All of a sudden she wanted me to come to Wagga Wagga and play there with the local musicians. This came about through a percussion player from Melbourne, Carlos Ferreira, who has a kind of a salsa band. He wants me to play with him, and has already fixed two gigs for us in Melbourne. Iím also in contact with Don Rader, who lives in Sydney. Don tried to fix some gigs and/or a workshop for us to play, but somehow it didnít work out, because it is summer holiday time now over there. Doesnít really matter, at least we can see each other again, have a couple beers together and have some fun. Peter (Herbolzheimer) gave me the telephone number of Bob Coassin and I tried to call him, but the number probably wasnít right. Peter said that Bob has a big band in Sydney and maybe I could do something there. Dusko (Goykovic) also asked me to contact Bob. He had sent him a couple of arrangements and has never heard from him since. Iíll see whatís happening when we get there.

On the way back weíll stop for a couple days in Singapore, to stay with Frank Wong, the Chinese Jazz fan and amateur drummer where we stayed the last time when we played in Singapore. He is already very enthusiastic about us coming again. Iím sure he will take us around to some of the jazz clubs we didnít see the last time. And to those fantastic beachside Chinese seafood restaurants!

Austrian Jazz in Asia. 
Text:
Heinz von Hermann
Photos:
  Katrin Kowalski, Jazz ahead Management
e-mail:  jam@jazzahead.com
tel:  +43 6137 5604.
fax: +43-6137-20156