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Article in the magazine"Country Style"

Scan of a magazine article featuring an article about the Boogie-Woogie pianist Chris Conz. The article is written in German and contains text about his career, his achievements, and his contributions to the world of music.
Chris Conz at "Country Style"

On our journey, we've also encountered subgenres that either find refuge in the big collection pool of the country music family or at least embody a certain proximity to country. The latter undoubtedly applies to Boogie-Woogie. Boogie artists would most likely not define themselves as country artists; they feel more rooted in blues and jazz. On the other hand, Boogie is also closely negotiated with the Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly scene, and this link naturally leads back to the large country collection pool.

Furthermore, every country fan knows that the Boogie feeling spices up many a country song. All this leads to the fact that Boogie-Woogie pianists occasionally perform successfully at country events; just think of the legendary evenings of Ray Fein at the Albisgütli or Nico Brina, for example - such cracks throw every party, even at a country festival. This time I want to report about another such virtuoso - he is comparatively still quite young but has long been counted among the greats: Chris Conz.

Born in 1985 in Uster in the canton of Zurich, Chris discovered the piano at the age of ten. Just a year later (1996), the course for the future was set because a certain Hamp Ruosch gave the boy his very first Boogie-Woogie lessons. Once again, proof of how incredibly important the first teachers are; Hamp is truly no blank slate in this genre (Hamp Goes Wild). Chris Conz seemed to have been an extremely grateful and talented student; a few years later, at 14, he had his first public performance, won talent competitions, and participated in blues jam sessions. At the age of 16, another important junction: Chris met Silvan Zingg, the organizer of the International Boogie-Woogie Festival Lugano; Zingg gave him the chance to participate as a surprise guest at his festival. That was the start of a remarkable and now international career. And here again - the first experiences are crucial: If this appearance had gone south, the locomotive might never have picked up such speed. Conz remembers (on his website): "I was nervous and excited at the same time, wanted to be on stage but also wanted to run away. I had cold hands, and during the artist introduction, I was sure I wouldn't be able to manage a single sequence of notes. But when I coaxed the first notes from the piano and felt how the audience immediately went along with it and evidently loved my way of playing the Boogie, the nervousness vanished. I wished this musical moment would never end. And it's still the same today; every performance is unique to me." Here again (if I may play the music philosopher for a moment) is the enormous responsibility of the audience to receive young artists very benevolently and respectfully - so that their fire can ignite.

With Chris Conz, the flame burned bright and fast, and everything else happened quite swiftly. In 2002, at 17, he founded the Chris Conz Duo with Mario Von Holten on drums, soon expanding to a trio with bassist Arno Schulz and in certain cases transformed into the formation The Royal Rhythms with singer Moritz Schlanke. It's not that Chris couldn't also present himself as a solo pianist in a very creative and expressive way (Boogie pianists must be able to do that), but the interaction on stage additionally inspires him, adding even greater dimension: "To make this music together, to experience the feeling of this genre on different instruments anew, that's the special thing when you implement Boogie-Woogie in a formation. You constantly gather new experiences that also help enormously in the role of a solo pianist. And of course, there are always impromptu live sessions on stage that are unique for both the audience and the artists and can't be reproduced in the studio." Chris and his guys are truly incredibly inspired live; I can attest to that since I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with them (at Ray Fein shows) on a few occasions. The rule always applies; the better the musicians you play with, the better you become - through the gift of interaction.

To further broaden his spectrum, Conz seized the opportunity in 2004 when Boogie piano legend Dave Ruosch left Terry & The Hot Sox; we are well-acquainted with this legendary group (I reported on them here, in issue No. 133 December 2021/January 2022). With Terry & The Hot Sox, Chris Conz also accompanied US singer Wanda Jackson (we remember her worldwide hit "Let's Have A Party"), for example, at the International Country & Trucker Festival in Interlaken/BE in 2009. He also shared the stage with icons like Bill Haley's Original Comets in this line-up. The more Chris Conz breathed in the atmosphere of world stars, the more he himself became an internationally respected exceptional artist. His array of awards is impressive: from the Prix Walo for the best Swiss newcomer band (2011) to the Swiss Jazz Award (2013) and the German Boogie-Woogie PINETOP Award as Pianist of the Year 2017. Add to that a host of TV shows and, most importantly, performances at almost all the major Boogie events around the world. Conz has shared the stage with many greats of this genre: with Carl Sonny Leyland, Jean-Paul Amouroux, Julian Phillips, Martjin Schok, Axel Zwingenberger, Lila Ammons, Lluis Coloma, Ricky Nye, Fabrice Eulry, and many others. His journey also took him to the USA, where he performed, for example, in various casinos in Las Vegas - if you can't present loads of skill as well as style and class there, you're quickly out of the picture.

Style and class, however, are not the only values for Chris Conz; he wants to be constantly on the move, reinventing himself. This is evidenced by numerous progressive projects, especially in the area of social media, where he launched countless streaming concerts (particularly during the Corona pandemic) and in 2020 even set a world record with Nico Brina (Boogie Marathon: nine hours of continuous Boogie!). And perhaps his greatest contribution as a promoter of Boogie culture is the fact that since 2011 he has also worked as an organizer of Boogie festivals; with his now legendary "International Boogie Nights by Chris Conz" in Uster, Thun, Chur, and Vienna. Events with a global reach and thousands of visitors. Chris also thinks about the future of the genre: "My vision is to bring the magic of Boogie-Woogie closer to everyone, including the younger generation, and to offer the wizards of this genre an international stage." There we have it - once again the valuable chain reactions: Those who, like Chris, experience recognition and support as young musicians are later naturally motivated to do the same. Giving back! Thank you, Chris, for your inspired and high-caliber work; we look forward to further deeds.

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