“A Dance by Barbara Dennerlein”

Barbara Dennerlein - Hammon Night JazzAscona 2016 - ©An Jae Kyung

Her love for the Hammond organ developed early, and for Barbara this was the beginning of her unparalleled career. She is one of the highlights at Jazz Ascona 2016 and will be performing on Friday, 24th June (9:30pm, Jazz Club Casino) as part of the “Hammond Night”. Performing on the same stage, among many others, is the young and talented Simon Oslender. On Saturday, 25th June, Barbara will perform on the same stage at 7:45pm as part of the Barbara Dennerlein Duo.

While she feels comfortable doing Jazz improvisations and experiments on the Pipe Organ, which she sometimes combines with synthesizers, she also feels comfortable performing in group situations (where she replaces the Bass with an organ pedal – one of her specialties), in symphony orchestras or also individually – or perhaps in other words, in togetherness with her Hammond.

We are thrilled to have her as part of JazzAscona.

JazzAscona 2016 – almost a debut…

Even though I performed at Ascona years ago – I replaced a colleague at the last minute – I can, this year, speak of an official debut. I will be performing with the outstanding Swiss drummer Pius Baumgartner. For me this is a wonderful collaboration, a sense of connection. I can’t wait to perform with him...

Piano is not your background, instead you were an organist right from the start...

I started playing the Organ when I was 11 years old. My first encounter with this instrument was some kind of positive shock, which touched my soul. I love the piano, the bass, and the synthesizer – I love many instruments – but when I can’t involve the feet, I feel that the interaction with the rest of my body is missing.

One of your most fascinating definitions is “The Hammond Organ is a band”...

Yes, that’s right. The pedals are my bass and the keys allow me to deduce accompaniments as well as solo lines and an endless palette of sounds. When I play by myself, I feel completely independent.

You call your performance style “a dance”...

Yes, because it includes the hands and the feet, and thus the whole body. It is a feeling of free expression, typical of Jazz, but also of free movement, which allows us to forget what the feet are doing. You’re able to be transported, without an exact plan…

A unique dance, at least in regards to Jazz on the pipe organ…

It is a personal and compositional challenge. All pipe organs have a different mechanism and different types of sounds. This can vary from a rather dry sound in concert halls, to longer reverberations in large performance spaces, such as the Cathedral in Ulm, where I played recently. This encourages you to create new sounds, as well as to “arrange” them.

Has anyone ever had an issue in regards to “sacred or profane”?

No, I was never met with opposition. Churches are opening their doors more and more. At the moment I have just as many performances with the Hammond organ as I do with the Church organ. Sometimes I also enjoy playing both instruments during a concert. That results in a very special sound combination.

Anyone whose every placed their fingers on a pipe organ may ask themselves, how is it possible to “swing” on this instrument…

That’s true. There can be a delay between pressing a key and the actual perception of the sound. That means that I sometimes have to hit a key earlier. It’s funny, because I sometimes confuse my musicians, because my movements don’t always coincide with what they’re hearing at a given moment. Over time I have learnt to adapt to these mechanisms, and this too is part of the ‘dance’ which I mentioned before…

Your perception of jazz is “freedom of prejudice and discrimination”…

That is partly the reason why jazz originated in the first place, and something which we as Europeans find difficult to understand. Freedom is the spiritual opening, which playing Jazz evokes. It is also my personal approach to the music. If I were greedy, I would not have opted for Jazz. I have rejected major contracts in the past, in order to keep my artistic freedom. Nowadays business comes before music, but art and innovation are embedded within freedom of expression, and they do not ask “How can I sell that?”

Barbara Dennerlein - JazzAscona 2016