Harps, Kazoos or sax? The answer was indeed blowing in the wind for musicians appearing at the November Bonn Folk Club meet at Haus Mullestümpe. In the event it was kazoos that predominated – but there were still virtuoso performances on Sax and Bluesharp to enjoy…
I’m there well before the start but, as always, still struggling to find a seat. Within five minutes of collecting a chair and finding a small space for it the said space was halfed and then quartered as other ‘early latecomers’ joined me. The man to my left is making his first visit, on the strength of a recommendation by Steve and he’s surprised to find himself competing for space with waiters, new arrivals and the odd passing saxophonist.
Possibly the oddest passerby of the evening is actually MC John Harrison himself, his arrival nearby always being heralded by the tinkling of Morris Bells tied to his left trouser leg. Not that John needs anything to gain attention of course with his loud and concise ‘Ladies & Gentlemen!’ A call to ears rather than arms that sees him launch into the opening musical salvo of the evening, ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ with its frenzied harmonica driven refrain.
What would a Folk Club evening with Bluesharp as a theme be without the man from Trento, Paulo Pacifico? He delivers ‘Puerto de Azul’ with a magic that only someone who knows there instrument like a soulmate could, and is joined for another soul enriching experience by the sweet vocals of Svenja Jesumann. on ‘Angel from Montgomery’
I find it strange every time how the frantic and noisy pre-music atmosphere of Bonn Folk Club so quickly finds it’s own calm waters and sails into them so smoothely. Those waters this evening took us down some unexpected paths – the kazoo showdown between John, Mario and Bob Mirabito on ‘Kansas City’ was one such happy experience. It is clearly an ambition of John’s to one day get an entire audience playing kazoos and he didn’t quite succeed this evening – so be warned, he WILL try again I’m sure!
The Adam & Franciscus Choir had the lights dimmed to a point that must have had the waiters using radar to deliver drinks but it was to especially good effect for their delivery of Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’ with it’s cuttingly beautiful lyrics :
‘Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed’
To single out any music or musicians on another excellent night of music would be unfair but there are certainly several spots that I would still like to ‘mention in dispatches’ as being rather special. John was joined by daughter Jenny on piano and Paulo on Bluesharp for two songs whose beauty is born out of tragedy. Jonathan Ole Wales Rogers was a best friend of Johns who lost his life tragically early at that macabre age for musicians of 27. His songs this evening are by Rogers: ‘It’s getting so very hard’ and ‘Didn’t they even want to know you’. Neither was ever recorded by Rogers himself and so both lived on only in John’s head until Rogers’ family asked him to revive them. Magic moments and proof, if proof be needed’ of the power of music to conserve emotions in a heady bottle.
Yes, there were many other highlights of the evening, including Uwe Gillert’s version of Springsteen’s ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’. There were excellent performances too from Tatjana and Ralf as ‘2 Sunny’ that saw Tatjana prove she is no stranger to playing a cool bit of Saxophone on the classic ‘Summertime’ or getting down a pop beat as with ‘Mr Saxobeat’ that reminded me very much of Caro Emerald.
Biggest applause and best surprise of the evening though must go to Christian Schuster and a lady that my scribbled notes possibly say is named Heidrun. What is not in dispute though is that this lady could play Saxophone very well indeed. Just occasionally you hear two people play music and it seems as if they were born to do so together – this was one of those occasions. I knew that Christian had an excellent jazz tinged musical style because he borrowed my guitar at a past Folk Club once and made me feel disappointed when I got it back to find it wouldn’t make the same sweet noises for me, it’s actual owner. Tonight though he is tackling two of my favorite Chet Baker numbers ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘You don’t know what love is’– two songs that I’ve grown to know and love from Chet’s sweet vocal outings. Closing my eyes I could see Chet, and I would happily have heard these two play like this all evening.
It was a hard week of concert-going (Eric Sardinas and Layla Zoe lay behind me) so I have to admit that ‘Jock Stewart’ was missing my deep and passionate dis-chordal voice at evenings end. I stayed longer than I planned to however – you never know when another Christian and Heidrun(?) are going to step innocently onto the stage and make jaws drop in wonder. And that is indeed the wonder of Bonn Folk Club of course. You listen to a pleasant but unassuming performance and suddenly someone hits you with the ‘Magic Stick’ and you feel guilty that admission for such a performance is free. As messrs Lennon and Mcartney might have said – ‘Money can’t buy you magic’. It just happens sometimes and even sometimes too for free!