Irène Schweizer’s South African Connection … and Much More

Someone who forged an original style of improvisation starting in the late 1960s, one facet of Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer’s informal Jazz education was hearing the exiled South African players who settled in Zürich in the 1960s. In this The Wire excerpt from Harald Kisiedu’s newly published European Echoes, he recounts how during that time the pianist would frequently jam after hours in a Swiss club on the vigorous African melodies the South Africans introduced to the city. Her associates were members of the South African band, the Blue Notes, including drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and trumpeter Mongezi Feza. At a contemporary Swiss jazz festival her group at one point included Moholo Moholo and at another time Makaya Ntshoko, another South African drummer. Later on though, she expanded her musical interests when she made important connections to the leading German improvisers of the day, especially when she and Swiss drummer Pierre Favre formed a trio with German bassist Peter Kowald. Still later she crystallized her advanced musical concepts when she joined all-women playing collectives such as the Feminist Improvising Group (FIG).