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Gig Pick: Frank Muschalle at Saint Brigid’s—04.25.19

By Taymaz Valley on April 21, 2019





An exciting night of swing and boogie woogie is in the works for April 25th starting at around 7pm at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts. It is promising to be an unforgettable event, so make sure you book your free tickets online to attend.

Organized by the German Embassy, the night sees the prominent pianists and boogie woogie aficionado Frank Muschalle perform some interpretations of classics as well original pieces of what many labelled as “fast blues”, but came to be known internationally, and affectionately, as boogie.

Digging deeper into boogie woogie, you start to recognize what a colossal influence it was to Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, and even Country. Taking off in Texas, initially being known as “Barrelhouse” due to the fact that travelling pianists would play a fast-paced kind of blues for predominantly Africa American workers at the end of their shift, the genre moved to Chicago, New York and Detroit where it was being played at house rent parties around town.

The style became known for the signature riding left hand of the pianist and the plucking right hand. The American composer and pianist Eubie Blake remembered hearing the ragtime pianist William Turk in 1896 and observing that Turk had a “left hand like God. He didn’t know what key he was playing, but he played them all… we called it sixteen, they call it boogie woogie now.”

Soon, boogie took over the United States like a wildfire, especially after the national introduction of the style at two concerts which took place in Carnegie Hall under the title “From Spirituals to Swing”. Organized by John Hammond, the two concerts programs included boogie woogie music like the classic “Roll ‘Em Pete” and “Honky Tonk Train Blues” being performed by the seminal artists like Big Joe Turner, Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis.

The public loved boogie, but alas the genre started to see a decline until it was revived in Europe and the U.S. in the 70s. This revival gained more popularity in Germany where in 1974, Cologne hosted The First International Boogie Woogie Festival. Indeed, even today Germany is an important centre for boogie with many competitions and concerts taking place.

Frank Muschalle speaks highly of the musicians who were responsible for the revival of the scene: “In the 70s there were… Vince Weber, Hans-Georg Möller, Axel Zwingenberger and Martin Pyrker… these four had a tremendous success in those days, and a lot of people got in contact to that music because of them.”

Alex Zwingenberger became a household name and had a remarkable influence outside of Germany too. Frank Muschalle regards Alex Zwingenberger as “kind of a mentor. I met him at the age of 23 and for a period of about a year and a half I went once a month to meet him—for me, it was a five hours drive, one way—and we were talking about music and were playing piano. This was an important encounter for me.”

“If I can open some doors musically for somebody, that’s even better.”

Today the genre of boogie woogie can be seen as a niche market, but with the efforts of artists like Frank Muschalle, young people and music enthusiasts have the opportunity to find their connection with this important style. In conjunction with the German Embassy, Mr. Muschalle will be also be holding “a workshop for students from the Ottawa Jazz Festival, facilitated by The School of Dance, in order to get young, aspiring musicians to directly engage with him.”

“Well, it already makes me happy, if I can stir interest in these young musicians for that special style. And if I can open some doors musically for somebody, that’s even better. If so, a lot has been achieved already,” Muschalle said to Apt613.

The German Embassy in Ottawa has been bringing a number of significant events to Canadian audiences. In May, the embassy is hosting the renowned German writer Cornelia Funke (Inkheart, The Thief Lord) in Ottawa. There will be an event for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus with a VR project, and they are also preparing for this year’s “Kulturgarten” at the Ambassador’s Residence, which is set to be dazzling and incredible.

Frank Muschalle is performing at the Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts (310 St. Patrick) at 7pm on April 25, 2019. RSVP via Eventbrite. Admission is free. Doors open at 6:30pm.