Jazz in Switzerland (Vol. 1)


The early years from 1930-1950 - Since the early twenties, jazz was played and recorded in Switzerland. Listen to the sound of the "Lanigiro Syncopated Melody Kings" from Basel. A recording dating back to the year of 1929(!). This edition's 1st volume traces back early jazz in Europe and Switzerland.

This content was published on March 17, 2003 - 10:54

Jazz is a constantly changing mixture of various cultural influences. Originating at the beginning of the 20th century in the southern states of the USA, jazz soon had an influence on the musical life of all major American cities.

Before World War I, its influence spread to Europe, with the focal points being such major cultural centres as London and Paris. After war, jazz spread to other cities like Amsterdam, Brussels, Bucharest and Vienna, and by the beginning of the twenties, this form of musical expression had penetrated throughout Europe.

Initially strongly influenced by the popular and rather stereotyped ragtime style, jazz was regarded at first as the accompanying music for new exotic dances, such as the Shimmy and the Charleston.

For many young people, jazz symbolized a particular lifestyle and was an expression of protest against the rigid bourgeois cultural establishment.

Jazz was assimilated into occidental classical music, notably that of Igor Stravinsky, and it also had an influence on arts, as in the case of Henri Matisse.

At this time, authentic jazz was seldom to be heard in Europe – performances of the music were second-hand interpretations which could only convey a fraction of the essence of jazz.

Jazz really made its first presence in western Switzerland. Unfortunately no satisfactory recordings from this "ancient" phase of Swiss jazz history exists.

Contrary to other countries, recording of Switzerland's jazz began when this music was tolerated as manifestation of bourgeois teenage culture.

In the first half of the twenties, first jazz recordings reached Switzerland's music stores. But these did not present the authentic sounds of Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton or King Oliver. It was jazz of a second-hand, even third-hand nature, interpreted by American or European epigones such as Red Nichols, Paul Whiteman, Rudy Wiedoeft, Nat Gonella and Harry Roy. Their recordings flooded the European market. But they couldn't serve Swiss musicians as proper yardstick to measure their own playing. The target group for this repertoire was a predominantly white audience which chose not to give serious consideration to the "unrefined" sounds of authentic musicians who were almost exclusively black.

Production information

Jazz in Switzerland Volume 1 (1997). Musica Helvetica MH CD 107.2. Produced for SRI by Christian Strickler. Music selected by Bruno Spoerri.

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