»We play jazz for the audience«
Martin Sasse is the Artistic Director Jazz at King Georg. With him we use the end of the year to take stock and look back and take a look into the future – also on the occasion of the current award with the program prize APPLAUS by the Initiative Musik.
As the King Georg’s Artistic Director of Jazz, what do you think about the 2022 APPLAUSE award for »a culturally outstanding live music program in 2021«?
I am very happy about it. It is an honor to receive such an award. But I also think we deserve it because we have persevered in difficult times and have managed to engage exceptional artists and put together a varied program. Thanks to the whole team for the excellent cooperation.
Were there any personal highlights for you in the King George program in 2021?
My personal highlights of 2021 were: David Hazeltine Trio, Joe Magnarelli Quintet, Chris Potter Trio and the Harry Allen Quartet.
2021, just like 2020, was not an easy year for the acts and for booking due to Corona. How do you see this time in retrospect, during which the King Georg offered a continuous live program? What role do livestreams play in this regard and what do you think of them?
It was financially difficult, but incredibly important for the artists and listeners that we persevered and set an example. The livestreams were, after all, at times the only way to reach the audience. In our archive , they are and remain a great treasure and have enormous value. Thank you, Dr. Jochen Axer, for your perseverance!
How do you view the development of the King Georg Jazz Club as a whole? As a club for straight-ahead fans, has it caught on with the musicians – as a pianist and bandleader, you regularly play there yourself in various constellations – and with the Cologne audience?
I think more than arrived, because we play jazz for the audience, and people appreciate that. Since the Subway closed, we have been the jazz club that Cologne has been missing. Many international bands finally have a place to go in Cologne again, we are once again a location on the jazz map.
How important is the mixture of acts from the Cologne scene and beyond for you when booking? How international is the live music program?
A good mix is crucial. Promoting the local and young scene is important, but also the one or other international highlight that draws an audience.
How has the weekly Young Talents series established itself and what potential lies dormant in it?
We regularly provide students with a space where they feel comfortable. The series has become very established – beyond the region. Meanwhile, students from Bremen, Osnabrück, Berlin and Mainz come to perform with us.
How important are the regular King Georg sessions and the King Georg 12-Big Band evenings?
With the Jam Session we offer especially the younger scene the possibility to play together with a professional rhythm section. The evenings are always a highlight of the month. The fact that we were able to get Jörg Achim Keller, one of the best arrangers in the world, with such a fantastic all-star band to perform with us once a month is a blessing that many envy.
What is your main focus when booking the King Georg jazz program?
Here’s to a good mix of regional and international artists. Above all, however, is the quality of the music.
What are your plans and wishes for the program of the King Georg Jazz Club for the future and especially for the year 2023? What can the audience look forward to?
I would like to see 2022 continue as it is just ending – with quality, entertaining live music that delights the audience. Then we will certainly gain even more listeners.
Interview: Wolfgang Frömberg, Photo: Gerhard Richter