In early December 2017, the Eva Klesse Quartet from Germany visited Malaysia for two concerts, playing at the Penang Island Jazz Festival (PIJF) and in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Both concerts were arranged by the Goethe-Institut Malaysia. We asked the bandleader about her impressions. The interview was conducted by Uwe Fischer.
Eva, during your show in Penang you mentioned that you were traveling from Germany to Malaysia for over 24 hours. Normally you need 13 to 15 hours with a stopover. What was the issue?
Well, we calculated from door to door, starting in the morning at 6 clock in Frankfurt, walk to the train, by train to the airport, 2 1/2 hours before, flight to Dubai, transit, flight to Kuala Lumpur, wait, flight to Penang, with the car to the place of performance and so it was the next day at 15 pm local time when we arrived… Then we went straight to the sound check. All in all it was more than 24 hours easily!
What was your first impression of Malaysia?
We spent a great week here! And were very impressed by the friendliness of the people, the impressions we could collect in Penang and KL: shophouses next to temples next to mosques next to churches, wonderful food … and we were also delighted by some curiosities, like the wild Christmas decoration mix and “Winter Wonderland “and Co. from all speakers at 32 ° Celsius 🙂
The Penang Island Jazz Festival is an institution in Malaysia and well known beyond its borders. What were your expectations for the festival, in terms of organization, professionalism and artist support, and were they fulfilled?
Other colleagues, who in the past were guests at the festival, had already reported us positively and so we drove to Penang full of anticipation and were not disappointed. A great team, a great place and excellent supervision by both the festival team and, above all, by the team of the Goethe-Institut Malaysia, who made our journey possible.
The PIJF has many international institutional partners and supporters, including the Goethe-Institut, which has been presenting German jazz axts at the festival for many years. How did the contact with the Goethe-Institut come about?
The contact came about when, after our concert at jazzahead in Bremen in April, we were contacted by the Goethe-Institut and invited to the festival. The selection of the German contribution is probably always in coordination between the Goethe-Institut and the festival management; Paul Augustin, director of the PIJF, had heard us live at Jazzahead. On site, we were wonderfully cared for, we felt very well at all times, were shown around and have seen great places and received insider tips that you will not find out so quickly as a “regular tourist”.
Malaysia has been an extraordinarily booming country for many decades, but the economy has been slowing in recent years as Malaysians tighten their belts. Unfortunately, this year also had a noticeable impact on visitor numbers. This is certainly a disappointing experience for the artists. How do you deal with such a situation?
I do not know if the number of spectators necessarily only has to do with the economic situation of the country. Other people told me about other reasons, i.e. that the festival time is always during rainy season and every now and then – as this year – concerts fall through. But in jazz, you are used to playing in front of different audience sizes and we also appreciate a smaller audience. We got a lot of positive feedback, felt the atmosphere in Penang on the beachfront as very special and, don’t forget, our concert in Kuala Lumpur in the university was very well attended.
Musically, the offer was wide again this year. Which acts have impressed you the most?
It was great to experience many colleagues with very different musical orientations after our concert directly live. A special charm for us was the concert of the Austrian band “Holler my dear”, which had to be “replugged” at very short notice due to the rain and suddenly became a small club concert instead of a big festival stage. Everyone moved in and both the technical crew and the band had to improvise a lot – that’s jazz! 🙂
What I particularly liked about your music is that the compositions are very melodious and lyrical. The aesthetics remind me of the ECM sound of the 70s and 80s. Am I correct, or how would you classify your music?
I always find it difficult to describe or classify our own music, which I prefer to leave to the audience! 🙂
After the concert in Penang you had another concert in KL. How did that go?
The second concert took place at the University of KL as a double concert with a Malaysian band. As I said before, it was very well attended and fortunately also by many young people with whom we got to talk after the concert. It was a great evening and it was a great pleasure for us to play not only the workshop at the festival but also a second concert in Malaysia.