- Series: Ruhr Music
Jazz in the Ruhr area is a region with strongholds (clubs or seasonal events, like festivals), almost uncharted territories and some odd spots. It’s hard to find your way through that jungle. The Jazzatlas Ruhr tries to draw a map and to make it easier to get through the woods, offering a report consisting of words, sounds, and images.
After all the information you have been provided with, you can expect a thriving and pulsating scene when you’re headed for a Jazz experience in the Ruhr area. One of the most attractive Jazz clubs (although more and bigger than the usual dimension of such institutions by now), the Domicil, is located in Dortmund. For almost forty years, one of Germany’s most important JazzVadim Neselovskyi, a young Ukrainian immigrant from Odessa who now performs with a renowned Jazz ensemble in the USA (the Gary Burton Quartet), started his career in Unna – which is also located in the Ruhr area.
Also living in the area (more exactly: in Mülheim an der Ruhr): Helge Schneider, one of Germany’s best comedians – and also regarded as an excellent Jazz musician by many people. Playing several instruments, he is among the better mainstream Jazz performers, and being on stage with Cologne Saxophon Mafia, he delivered quite a performance on his tenor sax.
„Nobody can offer everything, but this area offers it all.“
But - while you’re still in your seat and waiting for permission to land, there’s one thing you have to know about this land of milk and honey: „Separately, the cities in the Ruhr area don’t get overwhelming statistics – but if you see it as an entity, they have a remarkable potential.“
Prof. Jörn Rüsen, former director of the KWI (Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut) in Essen, said that during a conference in January 2002. He didn’t refer to Jazz though, but to the usual cultural canon (as is normal on such conferences) of classic music, theatre, ballet, museums, and cinema. „Obviously, you have to draw the following conclusion“, Prof. Rüsen said - later on, he quoted a remark by culture statistician Gerd Micosatt: “Nobody can offer everything, but this area offers it all”.
Mind you, this sentence doesn’t refer to Jazz. In contrast to most of the other art genres, the Jazz scene in the Ruhr area has been following its meaning for a long time, although sometimes involuntarily because she has experienced this meaning with all the negative aspects, too. The Jazzatlas Ruhrgebiet deals with these many facets: the land of milk and honey is but a brainchild consisting of mostly incompatible elements, its fields surrounded by fallows, in some cities, the Jazz world is sparsely populated, with a diversified, partially unknown base material… Base material doesn’t necessarily mean “some dough from the cultural office“ – it can also contain respect, awareness, networking. Many of the personalities interviewed for the Jazzatlas Ruhrgebiet have accepted the map draft of the Ruhr area Jazz landscape Ruhr.
"The V-shape of the Grugahalle is a symbol of the manifold Jazz activities in the Ruhr area."
Imagine the Grugahalle in Essen: this V-sign with the flat legs. If you change them just a bit – isn’t the result somehow reminding you of the area’s geographic shape? With the Jazz activities in the cities as pins attached to it?
Essen would be one of its focal points, with the Philharmonie and the Folkwang academy. At the end of the left leg, in the west, there’s Moers with the Moers Jazz Festival, and next to it, Duisburg, with the Traumzeitfestival. But in the middle, towards Essen, there’s nothing to mark, as is also the case with the east – at the end of the right leg, Dortmund with the landmark Domicil would be standing there almost alone, apart from a small pin for the Jazz activities of the Hellweg region (which is stretching out east and west of Dortmund), unbeknown to many fans. Of course, this map draft is very rough and sometimes doesn’t do justice to certain spots. It would have to be three-dimensional, so that you could put a small pin on Dinslaken, and another one on Gelsenkirchen, let alone the pins for more historical merits in Bochum and Herne.
But more or less, most of the interviewees thought the V-shape of the Grugahalle is an adequate symbol of the Jazz activities in the Ruhr area.
Dr. Robert von Zahn,
secretary general of the federal state council of music of North Rhine-Westphalia, considers an equal distribution of cultural activities a „politician’s illusion“ anyway. Of course you could try to establish new strongholds – the state does right now in Dortmund (with the „U“ building)… „But that is always a risky operation. Whether such locations are accepted for good is dependent on factors politics can’t really influence.“
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On the author: Michael Rüsenberg is the author of the Jazzatlas Ruhr, who has deepened and expanded his WDR3 radio report on Jazz cities in NRW. In over 20 podcasts - local, regional, national – he draws a map of this region, together with more than two dozens of interviewees. Listen to his insights on 2010LAB.tv now, in the podcast series Jazzatlas Ruhr.
photo credits : Kurt Rade www.kurt-rade.de, Ruhr Tourismus GmbH, Klaus Lindemann, Markus van Offern, Frank Vinken, Stefan Grohmann, Josip Djakovic, Benjamin Lütkemeyer, Isabel Dreesbach, Konstantin Kern, Georg Schreiber, Tourismus & Marketing Oberhausen GmbH, Messe Essen GmbH, Michael Heine, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen, Daniel Junker, Marc Hartstein, Zentrum für Internationale Lichtkunst e. V. Unna/Werner J. Hannappel