When the Jazzrausch Bigband performed at the Lincoln Center in New York, the New York Music Daily said, “They validated their reputation as one of the world’s most distinctive and adrenalizing dance outfits… Watching this massive outfit… was genuinely breathtaking.”
The Jazzrusch Bigband is a techno big band based in Germany that’s played at the Lincoln Center NYC, the JZ Festival Shanghai, the Festival da Jazz St. Moritz and the Munich Philharmonic Hall. On this their maiden trip to Africa, they’ll be playing at The Safaricom International Jazz Festival.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to Kevin Welch who sings and plays the keyboard for the band and who just recently moved to Los Angeles where he’s working on a solo album about the band. Kevin’s been with the five-year-old band for four years, loving every minute of it which is why even though he’d already moved to LA he made the trip to Nairobi for the Safaricom International Jazz Festival with the band.
Tell us about your band and the style of music you make as a band
Kevin: We are a techno big band based in Germany. We incorporate Jazz elements into techno music to make it more danceable. The Jazzrausch Bigband is the world’s first resident big band of an internationally renowned techno club.
How many are you? Does the number keep changing as you admit new members or is it the same people?
The band consists of about 30 members who met at the University of Music in Germany while studying Jazz. We have a small pack of people who basically go to concerts but if they can’t because we do a lot of different things, we do have other musicians coming in, so we’re just rotating at times depending on availability.
How long have you been together?
Kevin: It’s been five years. But I’ve been with the band for four years.
Is this a full-time job for all of you or are there some amongst you just doing it part-time?
It does take a lot of time, we play more than a hundred concerts a year, all over the world just with this band. Most of us have a lot of other projects. We teach and we do have other jobs as well.
What’s the best thing about being in the Jazzrausch band for you?
Kevin: Traveling, obviously and we’re such a good group of friends so we’re just hanging out. It’s just like a party every day and that’s actually the greatest thing and I think it shows on stage as well.
It totally does show on stage. You guys look like you’re having the best time.
Is this a full-time job for the entire band?
For most of the band, this is the full-time job, however, some of us have side hustles including teaching, tight schedules not allowing full-time employment elsewhere. Our schedule includes more than 120 annual concerts.
Have you been to Africa before?
No. This is our first time in Africa. Kenya’s the first country we’ve been to in Africa.
What’s the process of making music like for the band?
We have a composer, he’s actually part of the band but he’s not here with us. The bandleader and producer of the Jazzrausch Bigband is Roman Sladek. The composer and arranger of the music is Leonhard Kuhn although a few other band members try their hand at composing as well. But he’s the main writer. We also have a live DJ playing accompanying us during our live shows.
What are you doing in L.A.?
I’m half American so it’s part of my nationality and I always wanted to live there. So now after being in Germany, playing a lot of concerts, I just want to take the next step and just try to live out in L.A. and see what happens.
What does that look like? Are you shopping for other bands?
I’m totally open to it. It’s just been a couple of months, I’m just starting out. I’m teaching actually. I have a job to get the money going in. So that’s paying my bills but aside from that, I do have other projects that I’m working on. I’m working on my album, doing my own music.
Why did you say yes to the invitation to make your first trip to Africa to pay at the Safaricom International Jazz Festival?
The thing is we are actually humbled that a lot of people listen to our music, and it’s spread all over the world. We played in China last year, and in the states as well so getting an invitation to come to Africa was very special. We said we have to do that. And also it feels great to say we’ve played in different continents. Everyone was just excited to come to play here and experience the culture as well.
What would you like people to remember about your band?
We’d like to spread the message that music is very powerful, like Marcus Miller said, it’s powerful and it touches people. When we can get people to dance and have a good time, that’s a great thing for us. We love that people love our music and we try to continue to push ourselves and just have a good time with the audience.
Come see the Jazzrausch Bigband perform this Sunday at the Safaricom International Jazz Festival at Kasarani Stadium. At their live big band shows, it comes to a musical meltdown, where the creativity and sound diversity of a jazz big band meets the impressive clarity of a techno club.