Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, The Balkans, anyone who has caught a concert by Marion & Sobo will have been taken on a journey with varied musical destinations. At Fabrik45 on Saturday evening however they were firmly anchored in one land, and with good reason. The duo have a brand new CD to present, Migrateurs, with all tracks in French (not counting a self-written instrumental). Good music though is good music in any language – and spoken French is certainly a language with a sweet melody as Saturday proved.
For readers from outside Bonn, Marion Lenfant-Preus is a Franco-American singer in the Jazz/Gypsy Swing tradition and Alexander Sobocinski (Sobo) of Polish descent graduated at the School of Music in Arnehim. The two met in 2011 and have already brought some very pleasant musical offspring into the world both as a duo, solo, and with the band Antiquariat. I mention that they have been playing together since 2011 but when you actually hear them it seems as if they knew each other much longer – possibly even as long ago as another life-time.
In a place where live music is often seemingly ignored by the City Fathers it’s good to see that it’s actually still highly valued by the City inhabitants. Every seat to be sat upon at Fabrik45 is indeed sat upon and every step up to the balcony is strewn with scatter cushions to protect bottoms from a long evening on a stone step. It turns out to be an evening when even a sore bottom would be small price to pay for the music on offer.
Marion Lenfant-Preus quickly establishes that, despite the French disc that is the reason for this release party, most of the audience do not speak the language. Like me, they are lured I’m sure as much by the sound as the meaning of the songs. Like me too, they are probably also lured by the dexterity of Mr Sobosinski on guitar. “There are two kinds of hole” as Marion pointed out during some re-tuning. “Round and ‘D’ shaped” – and take it from me that Sobo is a master of both kinds. We’re talking sound holes in acoustic guitars here of course – no sniggering at the back. There was some sniggering at the back of the hall I have to admit. All good clean fun of course and there really was a family atmosphere about the whole evening.
Experience tells me that the duo alone, just a voice and an acoustic guitar have the ability to mesmerise with their harmony. The addition of extra musicians was not necessary, but boy, was it appreciated! Really super performances from Frank Brempel on violin, Julian Hahn – double bass ,and especially to me as someone who loves the sound, some cool, killer sax from Kilian Hübinger.
High points were Marion Lenfant-Preus’ version of Dans Ma Rue. It’s a tragic song made famous of course by Edith Piaf but also my favourite in the repertoire of Zaz these days, indeed the evening made me think of that young stars appearance only last year at Kunst!Rasen with an evening dedicated to French standards. Sweating in the hot summer air of Fabrik45 I remembered too with nostalgia (and longing!) the downpour of rain mid set on that evening by the Rhine.
Sobo really is someone who at once makes you want to both play guitar because he makes those runs along the fretboard look so easy but also makes you want to give up playing, because you know you won’t sound as fluent or musical when you fumble around at half his speed. I did love his instrumental ‘Au Bord Du Rhin’, maybe because it seemed slow and easy to copy – until you pick up your guitar that is…
Acoustic guitars, sax, violin and double bass then, but this wasn’t a show that you could take to Bonn Folk Club with its strict ‘No electricity!’ rule. I’m not really a fan of loop machines and both Sobo and Marion made use of them. I did warm to them a bit recently after seeing Ed Sheeran play to 70.000 people at Wembley with just a Little Martin acoustic and two loop pedals for company and I admit they were indeed used sparingly and to good effect at Fabrik45. Would Folk Club Master of Ceremonies John Harrison confiscate Marion’s loudhailer battery though I wonder?.
I keep saying it on this site, but there really is a lot of excellent music coming out of Bonn these days. With Stadtgarten, Kunst!Garten and the many open-air concerts coming our way in particular this really is a good time to close the lid of your laptop, power off your PC, switch off your TV and step out of your door and into a wonderful world of live music – no further away than your doorstep. Having done so, you will find some wonderful local music and musicians like Marion Lenfant-Preus and Sobo are waiting to be heard and enjoyed. Oh, and if you like it, buy the CD as I did. That way the music will still be here next year too!