The ECHO Jazz, a music award by the German Phono-Academy is one of the many ECHOs that are annually awarded to outstanding national and international musicians since 1992. The ECHO Jazz is awarded since 2010; except for him, musicians can also hope for the ECHO Pop and ECHO Classics. I had the great opportunity to go to the ECHO Jazz Award Ceremony this weekend. It was a wonderful evening full of interesting and amazingly talented people and the best of Jazz music. Even the location was just perfect – something “in between of a smokey club and a big concert hall”, as the Swiss-German moderator Dieter Moor said: it was the Transparent Factory of Volkswagen in Dresden. The factory is made of glass, so that one can actually watch the production of single cars. In the big glass tower of the factory, a great number of the Volkswagen model Phaeton is assembled for clients and passengers to look at.
When my parents and me arrived at the Transparent Factory, it was raining really hard. Men in black suits were walking around the parking area, offering umbrellas to the arriving audience or even driving them up the slope to the factory entrance in Volkswagen Phaetons. At the entrance a red carpet lay on the floor, right in front of a wall full of the logos of sponsors. A big group of journalists and photographers waited eagerly for the stars to arrive. As soon as somebody important arrived, they started shouting and calling for the attention of the award winners and their friends, shooting thousands of pictures, asking about the designers of dresses and about their expectations for the evening. It was very chaotic, but I managed to slip in and take some pictures of the stars, too.
The ECHO Jazz is awarded in 31 categories. Every award winner is presented and introduced with a laudatory by a rather famous person. Collien Ulmen-Fernandes for example, a German TV-moderator, actress and model (and Sexiest Women in the World 2010, as titled in a German magazine), held the speech for Kurt Elling. Elling won the award in the category Best Singer International with his album “The Gate”. “As I work at the TV, I have the great opportunity to sneak around in the private life of other people,” Collien Ulmen-Fernandes told the audience, “and guess what I found out: Mr Kurt Elling is the happy owner of the washing machine of the most powerful person in the world – Barack Obama! How that happened? Well, he took over the old apartment of the dear president, when he moved into the White House, and Mr Obama left him his washing machine, and even his dryer. Now we know, that Mr Kurt Elling doesn’t only produce wonderful music, but – thanks to president Obama – always walks around in clean clothes!” (Photo: Collien Ulmen-Fernandes and the happy award winner Kurt Elling)
The laudatory speeches and handovers of the awards were sometimes paused for live acts by the award winners. The German Tingvall Trio, which is actually very international, as its members come from Germany, Sweden and even Cuba, and won the ECHO as Best National Ensemble, presented a Jazz piece, called “Sevilla”, and the earlier mentioned Kurt Elling and others, such as Jasmin Tabatabei, a German-Iranian singer and actress, who won the ECHO as Best National Singer and was introduced by the German actress Katja Riemann, proved their talent on stage, too. Jasmin Tabatabei sang a song called “Can Love Be Sin?” – and rather quickly reached the conclusion, that it cannot :)
Highlight of the evening was surely the awarding of Götz Alsmann (photo) for this album “In Paris”. His laudatory was not read, but Clueso, a famous young German songwriter, singer and producer, sang his speech. Götz Alsmann is a very known German singer. His trademark is his hairstyle, as his front hair is always pushed up and describes a sort of wave on his head – something, which makes him recognizable wherever he goes. Alsmann gave a live-act of his song “The Wolf Dances Cha-Cha-Cha” on stage – gigantic applause followed. What I realized between the award handovers was, that most of the ECHO winners, when they came down from the stage, wanted to take their award to their seats. However, a lady waited already there, to take the awards and bring them back behind stage. When the award winners were too fast or still to occupied with their joy and ignored the lady, she had to run behind them the whole way back to their seats, trying to get hold of the award and not make too much noise. It looked hilarious, I must say.
Not only singers, but also Jazzlabels and -associations were awarded with the ECHO, and of course the Best National and International Instrumentalists. For those, Magnus Öström (Drums and Percussion), Pascal Schuhmacher (Vibraphone), Iiro Rantala (Piano and Keyboard) and many more could receive their very own ECHO. Iiro Rantala, who had travelled all the way from Finland to Dresden, was close to tears when he received his award. “Some day,” he said, “In my small hotel room, when I wash my dirty socks, I will remember this moment of glory – and it will warm my heart.” Pascal Schuhmacher, who won in the category “Special Instruments”, was introduced by the German Punkrockband Jupiter Jones, who, I have to admit, seemed kind of lost in the whole ceremony and confessed that Jazz was something, that confused them a lot – “especially when it comes to Free Jazz!”, as one of the band members said. They had even printed their laudatory in an extra large size, as they showed the audience, because they were so nervous, and finally offered Pascal Schuhmacher to join their band, so that they could create a completely new style of music: Vibropunk. Certainly a creative idea – but if it will succeed..?
The final highlight was a piece played by the ensemble of six Instrumentalists of the Year and was a tribute to the German composer Klaus Ogerman, who won an ECHO Jazz for his life’s work. The evening was really wonderful, full of charm, humor, joy and of course amazing music. Dieter Moor was a fantastic moderator and the laudatory speeches were each just perfect for the individual artists they were addressed to. After the award ceremony there was a buffet with delicious food from the most expensive hotel in town – mhm! A marvelous ending to a great evening.
For all my readers from Middle-Germany: the German MDR shows the awarding ceremony on TV on the 7th of June, at 11:35 pm.