Jazz Montez- Jazz Jewel of Frankfurt

Thinking of Jazz? Then think of Frankfurt, specifically of Jazz Montez, the club housed in a building named Montez, situated close to the river Main. With concerts and its own record label, Jazz Montez offers Jazz music of today: new, contemporary and brilliant. In an interview with Giulia Weijerman, founder and director Lorenzo Dolce explains what makes this club so special.

by Giulia Weijerman

Lorenzo, how was your passion for Jazz music born?
I have been a saxophone player since I was 6 years old, and because there are many more saxophone players in Jazz than other genres, I listened a lot to Jazz music. When I was about 8 years old I switched to tenor sax and got interested in free Jazz like Albert Ayler or John Coltrane, and later in other styles of Jazz.

Did listening to Jazz made you decide to start Jazz Montez?
I have been organizing concerts since I was 14 years old. I looked for new stages, not in normal Jazz clubs of course, but in youth centres or other community centres. I always organized my own concerts, whether I played in them myself or not. Then one day I found this location here in Frankfurt, this building called Montez. It’s a big place, I think we have room for 400 people. It’s not a standard concert hall where musicians play on a stage high and above, far away from the audience. In Jazz Montez you can sit up close, almost on the stage. The place has art work everywhere and a lot of daylight. It adjoins a beautiful park, where people play basketball and football. Young people come in with their skateboard to buy a Coca Cola or something. It has a happy vibe.

Does Jazz Montez have a sense of community as well?
I get this question a lot. I think Jazz Montez is in some way a community. Since the start in 2016, we have been inviting musicians who are also our friends. They sometimes visit us 3 or 4 times a year to play here. We have residency programs where we invite people to come to Frankfurt and work with us on music programs. So, frequent visitors will always recognize musicians because they have seen them before in Jazz Montez. I notice that people think it is important to have a community, but it doesn’t really affect us. Our goal is not building communities because that comes automatically with the music. You cannot create and play Jazz on your own. You need other people, musicians, organizers and audience, to achieve this.

Do you think the Frankfurt culture is reflected in Jazz Montez?
If you walk through Frankfurt you will notice that it is super multi-cultural. This mix of cultures is part of the Jazz Montez culture. It would not be possible to do what we are doing, if the people of Frankfurt were not open to our music. Jazz is also a music form that is open to any kind of instrument. It happens that a Turkish saz musician plays improvisations here in Jazz Montez, even though the musician doesn’t have a Jazz background. Frankfurt has an interesting history in Jazz music. During the Second World War there was a lot of Jazz in Frankfurt, even though Jazz was forbidden then. Frankfurt knows a lot of famous musicians like Albert Mangelsdorff and Emiel Mangelsdorff. They protested against the Nazis, they met and played here in Frankfurt, in hidden places. Then in the 50s and 60s the American military was based in Frankfurt. They listened to Jazz and brought their music to Frankfurt. The power of all this history is still in many of us here. It keeps us motivated to do what we do today, because Frankfurt has always been spectacular when it comes to Jazz.

Have you seen the Jazz movement change since Jazz Montez opened in 2016?
The worldwide number of people listing to Jazz is rising, with musicians going viral on social media and having a huge number of followers. I also notice that young people are mainly listening to UK Jazz at the moment. And for a couple of years now, a young American Jazz scene has been influencing European Jazz. So yes, I think the times are changing. Institutions like music schools, universities and festivals are managed by the older generation Jazz people. However, in the coming years young people will replace them. When I look at the young generation, their values and taste, I think a clash is about to come in the Jazz scene.

Maybe Jazz Montez can help somehow to avoid that?
I hope to connect the musicians in the best possible way, because the Jazz scene it is too small to fight each other. If someone is truly interested in documenting, teaming and programming Jazz then it doesn’t matter to which generation you belong. What’s important is the quality of work and what it means for the Jazz scene. I think that everybody should work together. Then the older generation will get what the new generation thinks is important. And the new generation will learn from what already happened, because the history of Jazz isn’t something young people should miss out.

Is there a performance or event that Jazz Montez hosted, that stands out as a defining moment?
Jazz Montez hosts every summer a program of open air concerts called Holidays. The concerts are free of charge and the musicians play in the park that is adjacent to Jazz Montez. People can sit on the outside stairs of the Montez building and the bands play in front of these stairs. There are parties, bars, nice food and inside there are art exhibitions. It’s a summer program that lasts for 7 weeks. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday there are 2 concerts of international, national or local bands. A lot of people visit these concerts, especially young people. Thousands of visitors come to dance and listen to the music without knowing upfront who is playing. I think that’s so interesting, these people don’t visit us just for the drinks. They are focused on the music. Holidays is a unique Jazz festival that I am very proud of.

Are there goals for Jazz Montez to realize in the coming years? Any plans you want to make happen?
Keep doing what we are doing right now is important. But not as much as doing the next interesting thing, that’s always our main goal. We will put more focus on our record label and produce more music. We have already invited a lot of good musicians to work this summer in our studio. As for our concerts, we recognize our position in the Jazz scene as the one that is there for the newcomers, and that will always be our goal.

Lorenzo, who is your favorite Jazz artist?
My personal favorite? Well, I really like the music of Norwegian saxophone player Mette Henriette. She plays atmospheric, minimalistic tenor saxophone music. She was in Jazz Montez last year and I loved her concert. She knows that, I told her at least 100 times. Another saxophone player whose music I really like is Chelsea Carmichael, she also played in Jazz Montez and I loved her concert. Jasmine Myra made an album I enjoy very much. She is from the UK and plays alto saxophone. But if I am only to have one favorite, well, difficult to choose, maybe Mette Henriette because I mentioned her first.