Marion, Sobo & Friends + Jazz Magic

It’s been a busy time for Jazz fans in Bonn.  The JazzFest itself  has been drawing enthusiastic crowds with top musicians recently, but you don’t have to spend 40 Euros to have a great night of excellent quality Jazz music, as my visit to Fabrik 45 proved on a hot, sunny Saturday evening.  The music came from the Marion & Sobo Group and if it went down like melted honey that’s as much a statement about it’s high quality as about the heat inside the concert hall.

Fabrik 45 is a quirky little gem of a venue for around 150 people to enjoy music.  The ‘bar’ is only a small affair and cold drinks are apt to run out when the fridge next to it is empty.  When the place is full anything with any horizontal structure comes into use to sit on, and that’s the case this evening when all seats are taken but a steady queue still winds from the ticket desk to the entrance door a quarter hour before the start.  It’s a shame they can’t build a tier structure on the balcony, but the fact that Fabrik 45 wasn’t built to be a concert venue is both a charm and a curse at times.  By the time six musicians take the tiny stage all vertical platforms are indeed sat upon, including each cement step to the balcony.  A late-comer actually unfolds a camping stool – obviously a regular here.  From the opening number though it’s clear that sore bottoms will quickly be forgotten and great music will be enjoyed.  Sobo later points out that the band haven’t played together before but you would never guess from the instant way they gel  together.  The power of a shared love for music.

We’re taken on a two hour multi-lingual musical roller coaster.  ‘Jovano Jovanke’ for example is a sad Macedonian Folksong telling the tale of two lovers seperated by the girls mother.  I only know that through the power of the web – not because of my non-existent Macedonian knowledge, but it doesn’t matter, because even not knowing the words you know the emotion in the music which is it’s  power, and indeed the power of tonight’s excellent concert.

Not only did I hear wonderful music I also had the chance to extend my international linguistic vocabulary along the way.  I learnt that ‘Coucou’ means ‘hello’ and that ‘Triste’ is ‘sad’ and that ‘Lule Lule’ means, well, ‘flowers, flowers‘ and is also a very catchy gypsy/Balkan tune performed  tonight with Marion and Astatine swapping vocals perfectly (and their voices fitted like gloves throughout the evening when duetting I might add).

I share Sobo’s desire to one day be able to introduce Astatine’s ‘Sanie cu Zurgalai’ perfectly.  I even hope one day to find out how to accent the ‘a’ in the title when typing it.  Then I can start on working out what it’s all about.  Something about bells on ankles in there somewhere?  Sorry Astatine, I know you tried to explain it during the break, but I was busy trying to talk you into some Gershwin/Cole Porter songs in part two at the time.

I did love Marion Lenfant-Preus’s new composition ‘Till a quarter to three’ and not just because it was in english, but it had a glorious swing about it and found  the perfect foil in Thomas Heck’s saxophone.  This might be the ideal place to mention that the band tonight really was a local ‘dream-team’.  Behind the two vocalists  was of course Alexender Sobocinski (aka Sobo) who always makes me drop-dead jealous at how he seems to skip nonchalantly around his guitar fretboard as if bar-chords were as easily created as Bo-frost ready meals.  Gregor Salz was equally musically ‘intimidating’ but how could you not enjoy his playing when he has the happy grin on his face of a man loving what he’s doing?  He even pulled out the biggest and most pleaseant suprise of the evening with a wonderfully cheeky take of Tommy Engel’s ‘Sauna Boy’!  When called up to the wicket even the seemingly quiet Stefan Rey deliverd a super-solo on Contrabass.  A super-team indeed!

It seemed a shame to dismiss them, even temporarily, as Marion and Sobo took a trip to past shows “When we didn’t have a band like this to make the music shine”.  In those days ‘the band’ was a loop pedal affair, and ‘C’est tout ou rien’ from their excellent CD ‘Migrateuers’ showed they don’t even need an excellent band to shine.  As a proof of local authenticity I am pleased to add that the CD itself was recorded at the Blue in Green Studio in Kessenich.

I could have listened to this combo, well, till a quarter to three at last.  The smiling faces onstage suggest that the band would happily have jammed that long too, and by the thunderous applause from those offstage the audience would still have been there five hours later – a little sweaty perhaps, but also happy to have enjoyed a wonderful band to the full.  More such collaborations please ladies and gentlemen!

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