Fritz Renold

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Fritz Renold
Background information
Born (1960-02-27) February 27, 1960 (age 57)
Origin Swiss
Genres Jazz
Instruments Saxophone
Labels Sony

Fritz Renold (born February 27, 1960) is a saxophonist, composer, bandleader, teacher and festival director based in Aarau, Switzerland.

Early years[edit]

Fritz Renold was born in Wettingen, Switzerland. His father played accordion and introduced him to tango and Dixieland. As a young clarinetist, he played Mozart's Concerto, "Saints", gospel, and Beatles songs. He joined the school band at 14 in order to get an alto saxophone, though he hated marches. He heard Charlie Parker but remained unimpressed until he joined a big band when he was 18 and played Sammy Nestico's Basie book. He became a jazz fan after hearing two albums by Miles Davis, Kind of Blue and My Funny Valentine.

He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Three 'audition' big band scores—"Take the "A" Train", Thus Spoke Zarathustra and "Blues for Susy"—earned him the Quincy Jones Award and a full scholarship with advanced placement. Since Berklee recommended that he compose, he took every composition course he could, including tuition by Herb Pomeroy, Bob Freedman, and Greg Hopkins. His saxophone teachers included Joe Viola and Bill Pierce, and he was taught improvisation by Gary Burton and John LaPorta. Renold graduated in 1987;[1] through 1990 he served as Berklee's first Swiss faculty member.

In Boston, Renold co-founded a band called Bostonian Friends with Christian Jacob. They debuted at Berklee's Performance Center with guest percussionist Greg McPherson, saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, bassist Bruce Gertz, and drummer Ian Froman. When manager Ed Keane sent a tape to WCNY-TV's All American Jazz, it made their Top Ten.[citation needed]

Touring years[edit]

The Bostonian Friends's first European tour in 1989 led them through Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, and Switzerland. After a 1992 tour brought the Friends back to New York, Washington, and Boston, they recorded their first album for EPM . In 1991, EPM signed Bostonian Friends to its first album, Peace for Africa.

In 1993 Renold toured Switzerland and recorded another album for EPM with bassist Gildas Boclé, drummer Tommy Campbell, and Bergonzi. On this three-week tour, his Aarau school ensemble played with these American musicians. Renold helped form the Jazz Orchestra of Canton Aargau and sent the project band overseas for learning on the bandstand. This idea turned into Jazzaar Concerts Aarau.[2]

The 1994 Bern Jazz Festival invited Renold to host an international band with Randy Brecker, Miroslav Vitous, Jacob, and Nussbaum, a Bostonian Friends edition. Also in 1994, Swiss National TV produced JazzIn hosted by Peter Jaques, with New York based pianist Mark Soskin. Renold led the show's band, The Empire State Group, which featured Randy Brecker, Victor Lewis, saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, and bassist Harvie S. Renold toured Bob Berg, Benny Golson, Randy Brecker, Cecil Bridgewater, and Buster Williams, and recorded two albums for Sony Columbia. When Renold signed with Sony Music in 1997 as the first Swiss jazz musician on Columbia Records, the Friends made European tours to Glasgow, London, Paris, Bordeaux, Krefeld, Kaiserslautern, Basel, Milano, Vienne, Lustenau, and Stuttgart.

In 1998 Bostonian Friends and the Aargauer Symphonie Orchestra premiered the Jacob/Renold collaboration Helvetic Suite for Jazz Quintet and Symphony at the newly formed Jazzaar festival. Commissioned by Möbel Pfister Stiftung, the 50-minute suite re-enacts scenes from Swiss history. The work caught the ear of Sony Classical's European CEO Norman Block, who was in the audience.

In 1999 Renold united the living Ellington band alumni with alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, cast as Johnny Hodges, at Jazzaar. The band performed "The Queen's Suite", "Far East Suite", and "Such Sweet Thunder". Eight Ellington alumni filled the brass and rhythm chairs: trumpeters Benny Bailey, Bill Berry (also conductor), Barrie Lee Hall Jr.; trombonists Buster Cooper, Art Baron, Britt Woodman; Aaron Bell (as 'boy pianist'), John Lamb on bass and Charlie Persip on drums.

Renold has produced over a dozen albums for his bands and those of Christian Jacob, Herb Pomeroy, Markus Hauser, and Ruth Juon.

Years in Switzerland and "Jazzaar concerts"[edit]

Jazzaar Concerts 2006

1999 was a turning point when Renold quit touring to stay with his family, with one noteworthy exception. The Swiss Embassy in Thailand commissioned Renold and Jacob to collaborate on "The 6th Cycle", a composition for jazz quintet and symphony dedicated to King Bhumibol of Thailand, a well-known amateur clarinetist. Thai Kings are celebrated as having 12-year life-cycles; when Bhumibol turned 72 he made it to his sixth cycle. Each 12-year period was depicted as a movement. The recorded performance sold out a pressing of 5,000 CDs.

In 2000, Renold organized and produced and featured in the Saalbau Jazzorchestra’s performance of Jacob’s jazz adaptation of Kurt Weill’s Three Penny Opera. Saxophonists Bobby Watson, Renold, Shelley Carroll, Walt Weiskopf, Bernd Konrad, trombonists Bergeron, Gardner, Cooper; trumpeters Hall and Brecker, Chris Albert, Tom Garling, Vitous, Lewis and Jacob played the keystone piece commemorating Weill’s centennial in which Aarau Youth Orchestra played Weill classics ("Speak Low", "Mack the Knife").

In 2001, Renold brought Benny Golson’s All-Star Big Band and performed with them; this was an all time dream come true to play with one of Renold’s most influential composers/players. His first Gospel work, "Ecclesiastes", an oratorio with wife Helen Renold as librettist, premiered at the same festival that year. The band featured a Baptist church choir from Houston, Texas and a line-up, including Soskin, Lewis, Valery Ponomarev, Brecker, Dave Taylor, Buster Cooper, Buster Williams, Vincent Gardner, Wayne Bergeron, Vincent Herring and Dennis Montgomery III. The piece was aired on Swiss television, and released on DVD in 2007.

In 2002 another Biblical oratorio, "Proverbs", was premiered. Dennis Montgomery's performance on Hammond organ once again drew praise. The context of this work was derived from the texts of King Solomon and wise men of Israel for coping with world affairs post - 9/11. The score’s free vocal and instrumental improvisation urge mankind to seek wisdom for practical living and to tap the source of creativity — the Creator.

Fritz and Helen Renold wrote another musical work with narration in the 2003 commissioned work, "The Euphrates & Tigris Suite". The 4-hour work — featuring Jim Snidero, Frank Green, Steven Bernstein, Amir Elsaffar, Julian Joseph, Wayne Bergeron, Charlie Young, Tommy Smith, Walt Weiskopf and others – drew on themes of the tree in Mesopotamia and The Fall of Babylon (from the universal Judaic, Muslim, and Christian roots of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans), drawing a thread from history to the present day in describing the power struggles of the powers that be. The piece was recorded on 48-track digital and DVD.

Airto Moreira and Flora Purim performed with the Aarau Youth Orchestra – "A Night Of Jobim" in 2004. Guests included Donny McCaslin, Oscar Castro Neves, Cooper, and Christian Jacob, who also wrote string arrangements for this Brazilian project.

2005’s African Heritage program brought back to Aarau old friends from Boston Jamshied Sharifi and Werner “Vana” Gierig. Following the festival Renold went back into the studio and recorded his first big band CD project, The Cube. The work, with texts by Helen Renold, was released on CD in 2008.

Jazzaar 2006 saw a full-scale Beatles Revival. The performance on Friday night was "The Beatles in Symphony" and featured a ‘Fab Four’ tribute band from Colorado with the Aargauer Jugend Pops Symphony Orchestra conducted by Renold himself. Ian Darrington, Wigan Festival Director and IAJE representative, wrote: “This concert truly represented what musical performance is all about. It had… every emotion from laughter to tears and everything in between. It had people tapping their feet to the faster tunes and swaying to the slower tunes. It featured outstanding musical arrangements performed to an extremely high level...[and] great rapport with the capacity audience, every one of whom must have gone home that evening knowing they had been a part of such a special evening.”

Fritz Renold has continued to write and produce for Jazzaar concerts from 2007 to 2010 with increasing focus on youth development and cultural exchange.

Over this decade, Renold wrote over 300 compositions, most of which he orchestrated himself. The compositions were commissioned by educational institutions, local and international big bands and orchestras, and various foundations. The works include saxophone quartets, orchestral pieces, saxophone and bass trombone concerti. Renold’s first saxophone book, published by Zimmermann, includes 16 transcriptions from duets played by Renold and Jacob.

Private life[edit]

He married Helen Savari in 1990. They have three children, Lydia, Benjamin and Sharon, who respectively play guitar, drums and bass.


External links[edit]