AZOLIA - Interview with Sophie Tassignon

Azolia is one of those groups that florishes on the international Berlin scene. The quartet has a unique line-up with Sophie Tassignon on vocals, Susanne Folk on alto saxophone, clarinet and vocals, Andreas Waelti on double bass and Lothar Ohlmeier on soprano saxophone and bass clarinet. As Azolia they have produced two albums so far with 'Everybody Knows' (2017) and 'Not About Heroes' (2021). In fact they have three albums, but the first one 'Dancing On The Rim' (2013) was released als a Folk Tassignon album. In september 2021 the quartet can finally go on tour again and they play two shows in Belgium:

21.09. Women in (e)motion // Bremen // DE
22.09. Schleswig-Holstein-Haus // Schwerin // DE
24.09. Ruhr Jazz Festival // Bochum // DE
25.09. Lokerse Jazzklub // Lokeren // BE
26.09. Le Bois du Cazier // Marcinelle // BE
 
I had a nice little chat with Sophie about the upcoming concerts in Lokeren at the Lokerse Jazz Club (September 25, 2021) and Marcinelle at Le Bois du Cazier (September 26, 2021).

 

How did the concept of Azolia come together?

Sophie: 'Susanne Folk and I met in Banff, Canada during a three week workshop back in 2006. We were able to work on a set of songs together and perform them during our stay. After the workshop ended we went back to our respective countries. I was living in Brussels at the time and Susanne in Berlin. A few months later Susanne invited me to perform a concert in Berlin. This was the start of our now 15 year long collaboration. We first created a quartet with Belgian musicians but as soon as I moved to Berlin we decided to create a new formation with Berlin musicians who we could easily rehearse with. We tried different instrumentations with me singing and Susanne playing the clarinet, alto saxophone and singing: violin and double bass, cello and double bass or cello and bass clarinet. We ended up with the perfect combination: Lothar Ohlmeier on bass clarinet and Andreas Waelti on double bass. We have now released our third album and toured extensively in Germany, Belgium, Austria and China.

'Not About Heroes' is kind of a conceptual album, based on the poems of Wilfred Owen. How did you come to the concept of doing an album with his words?

Sophie: 'In 2018, Kloster Lehnin, a venue near Berlin asked us to write a set of music for a specific occasion: 'music for peace after WW1' to celebrate the 100 years of the end of WW1. Susanne came across Wilfred Owen and suggested that we use his poetry. We looked at some of his poems and both fell in love with them.'

Was it hard tot put the words to music and translate it for the line-up of Azolia?

Sophie: 'The way Wilfred Owen wrote his poetry is very organic and fits our way of writing music. The words are strong and beautiful despite the heavy subject. We enjoyed arranging the songs in a way that gives a feeling of hope and trust in the future. The textures of our instruments create a warm woody environment where the poetry flows on top and creates an environment of peace and inspiration.'

What can we expect at the Lokeren and Marcinelle concerts?

Sophie: 'We will be performing ten songs with Wilfred Owens poems as well as a few pieces of our second album. We're very excited to play in Belgium again and are looking forward to presenting our new program with our special instrumentation! You can check out what we sound like on our latest video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1hYmd5FHIQ or type in “Azolia Shadwell Stair” on YouTube. Owen wrote his poems in order to let people know that the whole world should live in peace. Hence our desire to spread his words through our music.'

Thanks Sophie and see you at the Lokerse Jazz Club! Check this great quartet somewhere if you can! Find out more on https://azolia.net 

Geert Ryssen