Swiss pianist and composer Gisela Horat will be in concert with her trio at Jazz Cafe POSK on Saturday, 19 March 2022. Preview/Interview by Tomasz Furmanek.
Gisela Horat was surrounded by music during her upbringing in a small mountain village in the canton of Uri in Switzerland. She was one of six siblings – two brothers and three sisters – and recalls that her first musical memories are from when she and her younger sister danced to the folk music that her father and older brother played: “My dad played this kind of music and dreamt of creating his own band with his kids, so I took piano lessons. The band never became a reality, but, when I was 18, I expressed my desire to study classical piano at the conservatory.”
But Horat’s parents had a different vision for their daughter: “They told me to learn something real, so I studied biology and nutritional science at the ETH Zurich.” (one of the leading scientific and technical universities in the world.) One day, however, a Keith Jarrett concert that she attended with a friend from college re-awakened her musical passion: “I wanted to be able to improvise and create this kind of music. After graduation, I had the opportunity to continue my PhD studies in natural science research, but I decided to make music instead.”
She subsequently began to explore improvised music, taking lessons on the drums and saxophone to broaden her knowledge and better understand some of the other voices in a jazz band. Things happening in the ‘here and now’, mutual inspiration within her band, and – of course – improvisation seem very important for Horat. She said; “I see myself as an improvising musician, rather than specifically as a jazz musician, because I just make my own music.”
Horat founded her trio in 2009, comprised of Andy Zitz on bass, and Marc Stämpfli on drums. The lineup has changed over the years and now consists of drummer Samuel Büttiker and bassist Simon Iten. Though the songs that the trio play were primarily composed and developed by Gisela, they also embrace the experiences of Iten and Büttiker, exploring the realm between composed and improvised music. She broke down the steps of this creative process…
“I just think about how and by what means I want to express a corresponding feeling. I am open to all musical possibilities. Usually, I start with a relatively simple, basic musical idea that may and should change, or may exist only as an idea, implemented – or not – in various ways. This process is influenced by the respective concert venue and its acoustic conditions, as well as the timing of the concert. I care about involving the audience in what I do. My goal is to make sure that viewers can incorporate their own stories into the one I tell on stage. Since every concert is different, I try to play in such a way that also stimulates the imagination of the audience – It is important for me.”
The trio’s music, executed in various manifestations and forms, tells stories that one might equate to life itself through the moods and tensions they create. Their influences are broad, including Eric Satie, Bill Evans, Enrico Pieranunzi, Esbjörn Svensson, The Necks and Sylvie Courvoisier. Horat’s classical background also provides a harmonious setting for the lyrical, colourful sound that appeals draws in audience members less familiar with jazz.
When I asked Horat if exploration of the boundaries in jazz – or the boundaries in music in general – are the most important element of her music, she explained; “I’m always interested in exploring boundaries and trying new things. It’s just part of making music for me. Each time I play, I try to feel the same musical idea in different ways. I do not always succeed, but for me it is like constant research; a curiosity to try and sometimes fail – for me it is also part of the improvisation. It should remain in the sphere of spontaneity.”
Tomasz Furmanek is artistic manager at Jazz Cafe POSK
The Gisela Horat Trio are set to perform at Jazz Cafe POSK on Saturday, March 19 at 20:30 (doors at 19:30) [booking link below]. With tickets for a steal at just £12.
LINKS: Booking link