In the GDR music lexicon of 1966, bebop did not have a good status. It is anti-folk music with “pronounced snobbish tendencies”, which is performed by “neurotic individuals” who wanted to let off steam, disregarding the audience: just quoted the critic Helmut Böttiger these lines, because wild drums and piano play, as if to ironically confirm the findings.

Jan Wiele

Editor in the features section.

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We are in a performance of Fritz Rudolf Fries' novel “The Way to Oobliadooh”, the title of which alludes to the piece “In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee” made famous by Dizzy Gillespie. The book was published by Suhrkamp in 1966, but was actually one from and about the GDR, where it was not allowed to appear. Worse still, his appearance in the West blocked the author's career, he was ostracized and from then on had no chance of succeeding as a writer. Ten years before Wolf Biermann “stayed over there”, it was still far too early to leave the country.

What had Fries done? With the novel he had written a homage to the very music that the Central Committee considered decadent (for Erich Honecker, the highest of emotions was “well-groomed beat music”). And with the main characters Peter Arlecq and Klaus Paasch, Fries had created two jazz lovers who dream away from their society and, more specifically, from cold Leipzig into a summer south of their own city: under the circumstances of their country, this is only possible with the “ bibliophile view that extends through millennia ”and that is also promoted by forbidden“ Western reading ”.

Reopening this view and also connecting it synaesthetically with sound succeeds in the most beautiful and concise manner at the “Enjoy Jazz” festival, with Böttiger as the master of the presentation, who partly presents the background to the novel, but also passages from it. It quickly becomes clear during the Heidelberg performance in an old depot: The novel not only describes jazz, it

is

jazz. Suddenly recurring text modules float in the room - "Paasch had been drinking, played the piano", "he never played sober", "music was still circling in him", "only Arlecq was sober". There is talk of a “piano of the blessed” and someone “plays the roof off the building”.

The 78-year-old free jazz pioneer Günter “Baby” Sommer does everything to make this believable, with a goatee in an open shirt, sometimes with sticks and sometimes with his bare hands, beating his skins and pelvis. And the young Leipzig pianist Simon Lucaciu on the piano picks up alert text signals and transforms them into music, such as the briefly flashing quote from the jazz standard “Salt Peanuts” with its characteristic jump; Böttiger with his sonorous voice, on the other hand, acts as an oasis of calm, then also revealing echoes in the novel of Freud, Proust and Jean Paul.

The talk that followed, however, is the end of all dreams.

The two “Commedia dell'arte characters are moving away from jazz, into the GDR” and even into the madhouse, one learns.

No, it didn't turn out so well for her and for her author Fries.

“He stayed in the background,” it says laconically, while the musicians intone “Something Else”.

Fries died in Petershagen near Berlin in 2014.

Fortunately, those who get their hands on an antiquarian edition of their novel or the bibliophile re-edition in the “Other Library” (2012) can continue hiking on the way to Oobliadoh.

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