Less than an hour after leaving Dublin, I walked downstairs at the Blue Note in Hilden, Germany, to hear the incredibly talented Richard bending time in a drum solo. I was with Matthias Spruch and Pete de Haan, of the Dortmund-based funk collective Blue Elephant, who had come to Hilden for the annual weeklong jazz camp, which brings some of the best cats from the continent together for sessions, combos, and masterclasses. The Blue Note was hosting their final performance.
Each combo prepared one or two songs, about fifteen minutes total, with the help of their mentor for that week. The combos rotated quickly, in a jazz marathon that lasted well past one in the morning. There were some novices, to be sure, but the spirit was noncompetitive – compliments flowed as freely as the Krombacher and were always followed with “Nein, danke, danke.”
Too jazzed to sleep, the players convened in the lobby of their accommodations in Hilden. Beer bottles multiplied into a glass menagerie on a small central table – chairs spawned and clustered off that, and I floated like a skiff on the German they spoke all around me.
We were standing outside the glass doors when the sky started to lighten like tea steeped in reverse. A blue glow came from somewhere unseen. Inside, an almost-middle-aged fusion pianist was giving a back massage – complete with strange oils – to a sixteen year old girl, a fiddler, as he had been doing nonstop since 3 am. One by one the cats slinked back to their rooms – there would be a final big band concert in about four or five hours (we missed that one). Three of us stayed and filled a tall trash can to the brim with our bottles. The sun was high when we slept.