PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: John-Dennis Renken (Fall-Out tour 27 April – 5 May)

Fall-Out and John-Dennis Renken are about to start a UK tour
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Dave Morecroft writes: “I will work until the very last day to get a solution with a deal for Britain’s exit from the EU and I will work towards having the best relationship,” Angela Merkel said in January of this year, displaying her admirable mix of pragmatism, determination and optimism that we so often associate with our friends and colleagues of a German persuasion. Some in this country have no doubt perhaps wished that she had been leading proceedings from Westminster. It is indeed difficult to imagine a nation such as Germany, as huge, diverse, and yes, also divided as it is, ending up in the constitutional mess of mistruths, bickering and name-calling that the House of Commons has demonstrated so readily since 2016.

German improvising musicians certainly also live a different life to their counterparts in the UK, and our national and regional funders should pay close attention to the functioning and well-oiled German model, with well-funded venues and high levels of cultural export and bilateral agreements. As part of a tour with the Italian artists in Fall-Out at the end of April/beginning of May, Bremen-born John-Dennis Renken will be joining the tour to give a truly European flavour, and add his vast improvising experience to the immersive and culturally varied experience. He sent me a few thoughts on his current position, both musically and politically:

Dave Morecroft: Give us a quick introduction to yourself and your musical work.

John-Dennis Renken: I’m an Essen-based trumpeter and composer from Germany. I studied jazz trumpet at the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen where I’m now teaching jazz improvisation since 2018. I was born in Bremen, which is up in the north of Germany. I’m not just playing pure trumpet, I love to use some effects with it and that started in my Zodiak Trio, with which I’m playing for over 12 years now. In 2017 I was announced as the “Improviser in Residence” in Moers. I’m constantly touring through Germany, Europe and the whole world, playing as a solo artist, with my projects or as a guest with other bands in a lot of different musical contexts.

DM: You’ve toured the UK before, how have you found the experience, audiences, venues, musicians?

J-DR: It was an absolute great experience! We had so much fun together. The combination of the musicians [from WorldService Project and Zodiak Trio] was a perfect match, musically and interpersonally. Playing together was an absolute blast and so was the hang afterwards and traveling and having lunch together and chatting… Friendships were started. Fantastic musicians and music. And not just great music, it was a stunning show as well. The audience was really appreciative and felt the love for the music that we felt and played with. All that fun we had transported over to the crowd. Every city, every venue was different. From a well-known, more typical jazz club, to a modern, more puristic concert hall or a pub, we had it all and each and everyone was great to play at and the people really dug our music. We had a great time.

DM: What do you look forward to in (our) improvised duo? What did you take from the last time we performed (at Moers)?

J-DR: I love these completely improvised sets, it keeps your concentration on such a high level and your ears always open. It can be a musical epiphany or pettiness. Anything can happen. We go way back, but we mostly met in contexts of written and partly complex structures. It is completely different when you just close your eyes, go with the flow and try to feel what the music wants. And I hope, that we can dig deeper into the musical ether than in our last encounter in Moers.

DM: What is your view on Brexit and its potential impact on music/culture?

J-DR: I find it very disturbing and dangerous how protectionism and radicalism is communicated as the right way and the way to happiness, and unfortunately more and more people are buying in. Never ever is hate, fear or egotism the right way. Music/culture shows us, that the exact opposite is true. Artists from different countries, races and backgrounds coming together and merging together their different approaches on music and life, sharing experience and wisdom, laying out the soil to grow something new. Shutting yourself down and building walls keeps you from evolving to another level, it keeps you from inspiration. And that is what will happen with the Brexit. It will drain so much creative potential from the UK and not just in the cultural part of society. Being an artist in the UK is tough enough already, but this will make the challenge even harder. But honestly I don’t think that the Brexit will happen.

DM: What other projects do you have coming up?

J-DR: I recently recorded the debut album with my quintet TRIBE consisting of Angelika Niescier – sax, Shannon Barnett – trombone, me – trp efx, Andreas Wahl – guitar, Bernd Oezsevim – drums. I founded this band during my time as the Improviser in Residence in Moers 2017. It features four extraordinary musicians and human beings who are among the best German jazz musicians of our time.

Furthermore I started working on a new solo programme, which will be the most personal music I’ve ever written and played. I will deal with the past two years which have been the darkest and probably most difficult times in my life. I’m planning for it to be around one hour of music with a 10-15 minute intro-speech on what was going on. I can’t be more specific right now, I don’t want to ruin the surprise.

Fall-Out play six dates across the UK alongside German trumpeter John-Dennis Renken.


27 April – Take Over Festival, Colston Hall, Bristol, BS1 5AR – 3pm
30 April – Number 39, Darwen, BB3 2AA – 8pm
2 May – Tin Arts Centre, Coventry, CV1 4LY – 8pm
3 May – The Regal Theatre Bar, Minehead, TA24 5AY – 8pm
4 May – The Curator, Totnes, TQ9 5DR – 8pm
5 May – The Vortex Jazz Club, London, N16 8AZ – doors 7.30pm

LINK: Dave Morecroft talks to the other members of Fall-Out

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