Public Republic random header image

Artist of the Week – Axel Zwingenberger

June 28, 2010 by · 2 comments

Dessislava Berndt’s interview with the boogie-woogie musician Axel Zwingenberger
Translation: Yana Radilova

Jazz Festival Bansko


The 12th International Jazz Festival in Bansko ended 13 August 2009. This last jazz festival added to my life two new acquaintances – the style boogie-woogie and its most talented practicer – Axel Zwingenberger.


I happened to be an interpreter of the Hamburg musician at one of the press conferences in Bansko. Strongly impressed by the personality of Zwingenberger, I looked forward to his performance in the evening. I was eager to know if his music would be as impressive as his personality. After all, this was my first contact with boogie-woogie…

If you want to learn more about boogie-woogie and Axel Zwingenberger, read my interview with the pianist, one I consider one of the best in the world.

Axel Zwingenberger was born in Hamburg and plays blues and boogie-woogie piano. He has learned to play the classical piano for eleven years. His first boogie-woogie concert was in 1973. Since then he has had more than 4000 concerts in over 50 countries on four continents and 29 CDs with over 200 compositions and more than 500 000 copies.


Axel, you give performances all over the world. How did you get the invitation for Bansko Jazz Festival 2009?

I participated once in this festival in 2001. Then I got another request from the organizers asking if I could perform again in 2009.


How did Bulgaria impress you during this second visit? Do you like our country and would you like to come here again?

I am no less deeply impressed: there is beautiful natural scenery, and nice and hospitable people! Due to my interest in Bulgaria, I happily came in 2009 and in 2010 I will perform in Bansko again.

The style “boogie-woogie” is a part of the blues, which comes from the USA. However, the piano is a classical European musical instrument. Why did you choose to play boogie-woogie on the piano?

Because boogie-woogie is the hottest music ever invented for the piano! I am inspired by the rhythm and the sound of boogie-woogie which comes from the blues and the chance to improvise naturally. All this can be made with the instrument, which I have used since a child. Thus boogie-woogie turned out to be my musical language, although the style doesn’t come from Europe but from the US instead.

Lila Ammons & Axel Zwingenberger – Live in Düsseldorf, 2009

Your new album „Lady sings the Boogie-Woogie“ features the granddaughter of the boogie-woogie pianist Albert Amons – Lila. Did you get on well with her and what should we expect from the album?


Lila is a wonderful singer who performs blues with incredible timing, perfect for a boogie-woogie performance. We both think about the musical inheritance her grandfather has left – the classical blues and boogie-woogie. You can experience our team-work if you watch our live performance in the Bansko Jazz Festival 2009!


You seem to be overjoyed to perform with your “adherents”. Who have you played with and where?

They are too many: I can’t make a full list of them. I have played with Lionel Hampton, Big Joe Turner, Champion Jack Dupree, Jay Mackshan, Seepie Wallas, Mamma Yensie, Big Jay McKinley, Bill Wighman…

Now I often play with “The ABC&D of Boogie-Woogie”, as well as with the British pianist Ben Waters, the double-bass player Dave Green and the drummer of “The Rolling Stones” – Charlie Watts. I have been in over 50 countries for 35 years and my last tour was in Japan.


How often does the arrangement “Axel Zwingenberger presents Boogie-Woogie Greats” take place? When, where and who will your next arrangement be with?

I have been taking part in such consecutions of concerts for years. Presently, I am planning to travel with Lila Amons, but there will be some other projects with my musician friends and with my brother Torsten Zwingerberger (who is a drummer), Wins Weber (who plays the second grand piano) and many others. My imagination has no limits but I try to focus on the blues and boogie-woogie.


In 2004 the Austrian post printed a series of stamps with the label “Axel Zwingenberger plays boogie-woogie.” In 2007 you were elected to the Hall of Fame. Which acknowledgment is most important to you?

I am happy every time I win recognition but it doesn’t consume me. The most important thing is to being overjoyed when making music – like I do!


In 2008 you and your brother Torsten Zwingenberger had a great anniversary – 35 years on stage. How did you celebrate it?

We had some concerts together during this year. But we always perform happily together, not only in such cases.

Do you think boogie-woogie could be combined with another style? Can you imagine boogie-woogie matched with Bulgarian folklore music or Spanish rhythms?

For a spontaneous session this idea could really sound attractive. However, I am not keen on the conception of “world music,” which combines many different styles of music. I like the more authentic forms and styles. Also, the clarified performances in blues and boogie-woogie are not frequently done.

What are your plans till the end of 2010?

Concerts, tours – my diary is full.

Axel, thank you very much for this interview! We will meet again in Bansko!


Related posts ↓

2 comments so far ↓

  • Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!