Seven-thirty, Sunday evening, March. The streets are pretty empty, parking is still easy to find. The inner-city ring carries a steady flow of traffic, all swiveling headlights, the drivers locked in anonymity.
There is the usual guy grinning and yapping merrily on his cell phone outside the club. You open the door and there is a riot of sound, a severe blast in contrast to the quiet city outside. The club is overflowing with a choice selection of mostly Viennese Jazz musicians and selected fans. It is a private party. The food and the booze is free. Who could resist?
Jazzland has achieved 30 years of service to the city, every year beyond the call of duty. Axel Melhardt and Tilly have somehow managed to keep the stage occupied with an endless stream of musicians. The musical fare has covered virtually the entire Jazz spectrum. There has been Blues and Dixieland, but the mainstays have been Mainstream and Modern Jazz. Jazzland has won quite a reputation for presenting rising stars, as a sort of off-Broadway of the Jazz world. Those stars include Benny Green, Brad Mehldau (photo by Warren Berman at right), Diana Krall, Jane Monheit, Kevin Mahogany (photo below by Tom Tavee), Kurt Elling (the list is impossibly long) and they were all here before they got too expensive - read: their managers upped the stakes.
Axel Melhardt has been loaded with medals for service to the cultural life of the City Of Vienna. He slogs on with bitter determination against all odds, wishing the medals could have been transformed into a little financial support. Nevertheless, Jazz lives on in the city, to a large extent due to Jazzland. Art Farmer, once a resident of Vienna and regular performer at the club, has passed. But the groove continues. There is a fantastic turnover of performers to be logged in any one month, many of them visiting Americans.
The party swung mightily with a number of musicians contributing to give the boss and his wife a really fine feeling of appreciation for offering Jazzland as a venue. The 30 Years Jazzland book was amply available, wherein Axel Melhardt recollects stories of visiting musicians and their sometimes odd relationship to reality. There is nothing really scathing, but Melhardt tells it like it is. The book is gossipy and entertaining about the world of jazz. The party was a success, nobody got drunk - although the boss himself looked a ragged at the end of the evening. Jazzland continues the season with the best of jazz and quite the nicest atmosphere for miles around.
Jazzland is the place to head for when you get to Vienna. The club is located at number 29 on the Franz Josefskai, in Vienna's 1st district (just ask anyone for directions). They open the doors at 8 p.m. in summer, and 7 p.m. throughout the rest of the year. There are regular program changes. Tel: 5332575 (when you are in Vienna - don't be afraid to call, they all speak English).
by Lawrence Brazier
Back to Contents Page
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, April 2002 issue, all rights reserved