The Neu New York/Vienna Institute of Improvised Music, Vienna Celeste, 6 April 2009

This evening was just another example of how live music in Vienna has the capacity to constantly surprise and entertain. “The Neu New York/Vienna Institute of Improvised Music” is the peculiar name of a free jazz/improv blow-out session that takes place every Monday at the Celeste bar in the fifth district. The setting is surprising enough in itself: you walk along a quiet, nondescript street, find the bar, go downstairs and suddenly, as if this were the most normal thing in the world, find yourself in the midst of a hundred-odd people, all enjoying the wilfully unco-operative music, the deliciously tasty food available and the general atmosphere of relaxed bonhomie.

Curated and championed by American-born, Austrian resident saxophonist Marco Eneidi, the session consists of a changing cast of jazz and improv musicians who take the stage in various duo, trio and group formats to blast their way through short sets of music. It’s rather like munching your way through a box of chocolates – it doesn’t matter if you come across one that’s not to your taste, because you’re sure to find one that you do like soon enough.

On this particular evening – my first visit to the session, and hopefully not my last – I arrived in the middle of a fairly frantic piece of blowing by Eneidi, accompanied by an agile and vigorous drummer. (Apologies for not knowing the names of most of those who played.) The evening became even more engrossing when Susanna Gartmeyer came along on the bass clarinet, joined by two guitarists and a drummer for a superb slice of bone-crunching improv. Things did go slightly awry next, courtesy of a sub-Haino guitar abuser with a rote, uninspired drummer who bafflingly stuck to one snare drum and one cymbal for pretty much the entire turn, but quickly looked up again with a delightful and infectious workout for burbling analogue synths.

After that, Marco Eneidi returned for another serpentine flare-up on the sax, joined this time by Didi Kern behind the kit. Next up, a fidgety yet compelling improv for guitar, bass and drums, Eric Arn (of Primordial Undermind) peeling off wave after wave of arcing bottleneck slide runs from his acoustic. That was closing time for me, but not for most of those present, who carried on long into the night.

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