Around ten years ago The Ortszentrum Dottendorf looked set to close its doors. The solution it seems was for the citizens themselves to look after business. The idea of a cultural centre was put forward and now, as a new decade begins, the Bürgervereins Dottendorf/Gronau e.V. seems to be on the crest of an ever growing wave as The first Dottendorfer Jazznacht show of 2020 with Dad’s Phonkey proved on Friday.
There seemed to be far more chairs set out before the stage than I remembered from last year. It was 45 minutes before Christian Padberg aka Dad’s Phonkey, was due to step onstage, officially at least. Actually he was already there when I looked into the mostly empty hall. Soundchecks are a bit pointless for Padberg, so is instrument tuning. On the floor next to the microphone was an array of instruments that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a stall at the Christmas Market. A blue plastic melodica lay next to a Xylophone, tambourine, wooden flute, cluster-bells and a large keyring chock-full of attached mini whistles. On the other microphone side was a loop-machine. Little did I kow, that Padberg also had a trumpet, bass, guitar, and every sort of drum imaginable also on the stage – only they were invisible.
I’d worked out how to get from one stage side to the other and from front-of-hall to back when I first came in. By 7.50pm I realised that the routes had all gone. In place of them were chairs, and in those chairs were expectant Jazz Fans.
Dad’s Phonkey is described as ‘Solo-a-capella-loop-improvisations’. Which on the one hand was good for me – no setlist. Padberg smiled when I asked before the show what he would play. He had no idea. On the other hand, no setlist means I can’t tell you what he exactly played. I could try and refer to the compositions via the lyrics – except that didn’t lead me anywhere.
A slow rhythm and sad falsetto vocals tremble from Padberg’s lips but, damn it, I can’t quite understand what’s given him the Blues. I listen more intently. Still no idea. I expected this problem with the French song he started the set with – I don’t speak French. It was a jolly number, and a lot of the audience were laughing. I envied them their French language skills. Now it was my turn, English, and I was still lost. I will warn you therefore, that before you start switching up your hearing aid or flossing your ear wax with a Q-tip at a Dad’s Phonkey concert, the lyrics are not actually lyrics, just as the bass is not actually a real bass and the violin… well, that is actually real, at least for some of the show, because there is a man down from Düsseldorf named Sören Leyers who helps to fill up the largely empty stage.
I don’t envy Sören. How do you accompany someone who is inventing everything on the spot? In the circumstances he does a fine job with some gentle musical nuance on the violin and much needed eye contact with Padberg. But back to those lyrics: I did catch the name Donald Trump somewhere in them, and the line “How dare you!” a couple of times. Or was I imagining itand just rying to make something out of what I thought was my native tongue? Credit due to Dad’s Phonkey for taking scat singing to a new, multi-lingual level.
It really is a joy to follow Christian Padberg on his journey towards creating a new composition. Odd vocal sounds are added to various whistles and occasional bells. Each layer brings a smile to both his and the faces of the audience. How will it all fit together? Indeed WILL it all fit together at all? Inevitably it does. Dad’s Phonkey. Jazzman or Magician?
The addition onstage of Bonn Gospel/Jazz singer Soleil Niklasson was a welcome one in that, finally, I could understand English again. Would her voice be as captivating as her smile? Yes, it proved to be. Indeed, the evening’s highpoint for me was how this duo began so nervously and yet within fifteen minutes seemed to be trading ideas as if they had been creating vocal Jazz ‘on the fly’ for years. Magical stuff indeed, and a wonderful start to the Dottendorfer Jazznacht Season 2020.