Today’s interview guest is German-based journalist Ferdinand Dupuis-Panther who currently writes for the Jazz’Halo magazine. He’s been a active on the European jazz scene since the 1970s and, as such, has seen firsthand the influx of talented musicians performing on the continent.
We asked him some questions to get some general insight into how a jazz journalist approaches his or her work, what inspires them to cover something and what sort of workload they are up against.
You can find the full interview below, but a couple of takeaways which jumped out to us…
- “By the way, Vocal Jazz is not my cup of tea at all” – an important reminder about doing your research before pitching to a journalist. They are first and foremost jazz fans and, as such, have tastes and preferences. Find the ones that match your music, rather than pitching to everyone out there!
- “I read the announcements by musicians on Facebook thoroughly” – for every musician who feels (perhaps understandably) that social media is just sucking time out of the day: posting interesting and creative content regularly really can help you spread your music not just to fans, but to industry people too.
- On following musicians over a certain period of time: getting press coverage and booking gigs is a long-term game. You might not get results right now, but keeping in touch with people and allowing them to follow your career may pay off in 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years.
How did you start writing about jazz?
Quite truly it happened by accident. I was hooked up to Jazz since I was 18 years old. A friend introduced me in the early 1970s to the local jazz club.
Instead of being fascinated by songs of the Beatles or Stones I listened to Jazz with its complex and complicated structures I could not figure out straight away.
The chords and changes were not as simple as in „The House of The Rising Sun“ or „Wooly Bully“ (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs).
From the first encounter with Jazz and Jazz pianists like Eugen Cicero and Tete Montoliu I continued to attend Jazz concerts from time to time as long as I lived in Berlin.
After moving to Hamburg I was lucky to be able to attend more regularly concerts at the NDR.
The pianist Michael Naura was in charge of those concerts and he picked quite a range of musicians for the live concerts and live recordings later transmitted to the general public.
I had the opportunity to listen to musicians such as Philip Catherine, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Marilyn Mazur, Gato Barbieri, Charlie Mariano, Albert Mangelsdorff and others but my bread job at the time had nothing to do with Jazz.
When I started my career as a travel writer in 1988 I first wrote travel stories but in 2002 I covered the first edition of Jazz!Brugge initiated by Rik Bevernage I had met some years before.
After knowing each other for a while the editor of Jazz’halo, Jos Demol, asked me if I could write about the Jazz Biennale in Bruges for Jazz’halo too.
Apart from reviewing the festival concerts I interviewed musicians like the saxophonist Daniel Erdmann. As writing travel stories was not my priority any longer I switched the fields of interests so to speak and wrote from then on about festivals, concerts and reviewed CDs and books, such as the biography of the legendary bass player Eberhard Weber.
What attracts you to review an album?
I am always looking for releases off the beaten track and try to discover the not so well known releases by musicians from Eastern Europe like Arkady Shilkloper and Andrey Kruglov or even from Down Under like Andrea Keller, Adam Page, Django Rowe, The Vampires, Jamie Oehlers and Harry Mitchell.
(By the way, Vocal Jazz is not my cup of tea at all. Again settings with strings is not my favourite instrumentation either because it is very much bound to the straight classical music. I’m interested in melodic Jazz like Hard Bop, Post Bebop and Fusion as well as in free Impro.)
Do you review music sent by musicians or do you prefer to work with a publicist?
I always contact musicians directly and follow them over a certain period of time. Sometimes I get new releases mailed through PR agencies or by record companies.
Mostly the mailing is done on demand but as well randomised after I had reviewed one or two releases published by the same record company.
How has the European jazz scene changed during your career?
Well, there is certainly a process to emancipate from the classical US-American Jazz, from Bebop, Modern Jazz or Hard Bop.
European musicians raise their own independent voices and the long tradition of classical music from Bach to Brahms or Schönberg can be discovered in their compositions.
Local folklore is also part of European Jazz, particularly in the Jazz from Scandinavia.
What are your favourite jazz festivals?
I prefer festivals of two days with maybe two or three concerts a day.
I would like to mention the International Jazz Festival at Münster or Jazzin’ The Black Forest (Villingen/Black Forest) at the well- known MPS studio. They present a distinctive selection of European musicians.
My favourite festival in Belgium is Jazzathome in Mechelen (Belgium). It takes place just around the annual day of the open monument in mid-September. Private property owners open their homes to the public and Jazz by Belgian musicians is then on the agenda.
I am not so much in favour of festivals with showcases by American musicians like North Sea Jazz Festival.
How many albums are you receiving and reviewing per month?
Maybe 10 a month I would assume but I did not count the releases so far.
Mostly I get a link for downloading the tunes and it is entirely up to me if I take notice of the new releases or not.
How important is it for an artist to be released on a record label?
It depends on the label.
Many musicians regard ACT and ECM as the most important record labels but … some musicians prefer self-produced CDs or are looking for small labels which guarantee the freedom to pick the style and the composition the musicians are in favour of and do not have to serve the taste of the label boss.
Well known labels tend to put musicians in a corset so to speak.
Where do you go to discover new music?
I read the announcements by musicians on Facebook thoroughly.
Sometimes a musician I got to know recommends another one of his or her releases. It is a sort of snowball-effect.
Jazzahead is a good opportunity to talk to musicians and get to know their music. Considering that the showcase giving you a glimpse of their music this fair is best suited for networking and getting to know newly composed music.
Big thanks to Ferdinand for taking the time to answer these questions and hare his experience. You can find more about Jazz’halo, who he writes for, here.