Florian Mode


Gargantuan and mad to the point of magic. Only hyperbole is fitting to describe Conversations #1-#12 by Swiss drummer and composer Florian Arbenz.

Twelve installments of musical conversations with totally different line-ups, spread over nine record releases. The Basel-based Arbenz, a staple of progressive European jazz that worked with Bennie Maupin and Dave Liebman and a member of the well-known VEIN trio with his piano-playing brother Michael, started it in the summer of the ‘pandemic’ 2021 and recently concluded the massive project with Conversation #11&12: On! featuring the voice of Yumi Oto and the percussion of Jim Hart, among others.

The series features a radical variety of musicians, instruments and styles. Among others involved are trumpeter Hermon Mehari, bassist François Moutin, accordionist João Barradas, saxophonist Tineke Postma, pianist Kirk Lightsey, tuba player Oren Marshall, saxophonist Greg Osby, Hammond organist Arno Krijger and trombonist Nils Wogram. Certainly, this has meant a lot of organizing, writing, arranging, mixing and plugging. Quite a rare and courageous effort! All albums are recorded in Arbenz’s Hammerstudio in his hometown in Switzerland.

The artwork is beautiful. Its design is strikingly coherent and together with the music has made the Conversation albums very collectible among jazz lovers.

To add to the uniqueness of his concept, Arbenz included Eddie Harris’s avant-groove anthem Freedom Jazz Dance on every single session of Conversations. A challenging idea which led to intriguing, creative interpretations showcasing the various strong points of all concerned. Go to Bandcamp and find the streams. Listen, for instance, to this version with Kirk Lightsey. (better even, watch the video) Or this one, made into a fugue, with Barradas and Rafael Jerjen on bass. Or this version with Marshall and trumpeter Jorge Vistel and saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig. Finally, there’s the version with Osby and Krijger. Interestingly, I saw them perform it live in Paradox, Tilburg last November. On the spur of the moment, I was told afterwards, they unanimously decided to skip the theme, going for the gritty skeleton groove instead. That was something else.

Florian Arbenz

Find Conversations 1-12 on Florian’s Bandcamp page and buy the downloads or CD’s and vinyl here. Collectors that have completed #1 to #12 can get a box, contact Florian at Bandcamp.

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