Three time winner in the 2012 German Blues Awards and a Finalist in this years ‘German Blues Challenge’, the star of Jessy Martens would seem to be on the rise. But how good is a German Blues Award winner? On the evidence of her appearance at the Harmonie on Thursday, very good indeed. If you’re reading this in mainland Europe get to a concert, and if you’re in Britain, America or Australia do yourself a favour and get a copy of the new CD. This girl has a big future!
On my first ever visit to Germany more years ago than I care to remember I heard a dodgy Pop Band singing merrily that Moody Blues classic ‘Nights in ‘vite’ Satin’ and despaired of ever being able to live here and enjoy live music from the locals. Since then of course I’ve discovered much to love about German Music and musicians: Bands who do cover versions justice like Sunny Skies, Bands who Rock in any language like BAP and even Bands who have their own niche in German local culture like Black Fööss. But would I ever like German Blues? Along came a guy named Henrik Freischlader and changed all that with a masterwork of an album produced by Martin Meinschäfer. Then Tommy Schneller came along with his marvelous blend of Jazz Blues, and now Jessy Martens…
It’s not full at the Harmonie tonight by any means. Outside the hall I meet people who are hear because they’ve heard someone special on the internet and are curious. I wonder why more of the Blues loving community of Bonn are not equally curious – could it be that even the German public prefer their Blues to come from Canada or England rather than Germany? Whatever the reason is, those who stayed at home (or maybe went to a football game) missed a band that oozed confidence, musical passion and great Blues music.
Most of the evenings set stemmed from the latest disc ‘Brand New Ride‘. All titles are penned by singer Jessy Martens, all tracks are in English, and all tracks are glorious. Can you criticize a band for being too young and clean-cut for playing mean and dirty Blues? If so, then that’s a valid criticism of the Jessy Martens Band. I suspect that I have ties older than guitarist Roman Werner. During the mid gig break I notice a foot pedal of his with the name ‘Jimi Hendrix’ on it. Werner is seemingly intent on loosening the strings on his Fender for some reason but smiles when I suggest the pedal allows him to play like Jimi. “We have some tricks up our sleeves for the second half” he confides.
A short way into the said second half and the string loosening is explained as Werner holds the guitar to his lips – it is indeed a Hendrix moment, and without even pressing a button on his footpedal. He even lays down a challenge for future guitar clad visitors to the Harmonie to take up – how many bar stools can you walk across from the stage whilst taking a solo? Over to you Mr Sas…
But showmanship aside Roman Werner is actually, despite his 22 years, a super guitar player. Indeed the whole band is high class. What’s that? The singer? Ah yes. If Bette Midler had a daughter with a love for Blues and a raw, strong voice to deliver it, then she would look and sound not unlike Miss Martens. She can Rock ‘n’ Roll as on the new CD’s title track ‘Brand New Ride’ and the Ray Charles classic ‘Don’t Need No Doctor’ or she can break heartstrings as on the emotional ‘You Touch my Blues Away’ or ‘Love Me Like A Man’ which featured an exquisite solo from Roman Werner. She can even travel confidently into Jazz vocal territory as on an emotion charged ‘Summertime’ with moody piano backing of the highest order. All with a vitality and enthusiasm that draws the audience in like a magnet.
There’s a long European Tour coming up next year, the end of which, if there’s any justice, will see Jessy Martens and her Band established as a premier German Blues Band. On second thoughts, strike out that ‘German’ from the title – this is a Premium Blues Band, period. The Band has a long touring road ahead – do yourself a favour, and visit a show. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.