In 2017 the Moods Jazz Association celebrates its 25th Birthday. To mark this occasion, a competition has launched which invites all musicians to compose a Birthday Song. I applied with a song which I composed after I saw this wonderful idea! And I applied with a song which I composed as Birthday Song. All was anonym! And my Song reached the 1st prize! Thanks a lot to the jury and congrats to the other winners!

And here is the Birthday Song «Moods25»


On tour with Henry!

1 June Bern Jazzclub, Vidmarhallen CH
2 June Bielefeld Jazzclub
3 June Düsseldorfer Jazzrally
4 June Frankfurt Jazzkeller
5 June Pforzheim Domicile
6 June Saarbrücken Kunstwerk
7 June Zürich Bunker CH, Masterclass
8 June Zürich Villa Schneckenmann CH
9 June Lörrach Jazztone
10 June Bad Wildungen Jazzfestival
11 June Syke Jazz Folk & Bike Jazzfestival
14 June Zürich Bunker CH, Masterclass

With René Mosele trb, Steven Glenn sousaphone, Paul Thibodeaux drums

Dear friends

My friend, guitarist & singer Peter Finc and me, will play soon a couple of concerts in Malaysia for the Penang Jazz Festival! I am so exited!!

And if you need a christmas present, check out my cd shop!


Dear music friends.

A few weeks ago I was recording my new CD “Henry” in New Orleans and CD “Robin” in New York. Right now they are in the mastering procedure. They will arrive mid of september. I am looking forward to hold them in my hands!

Greetings from a stormy night in Zurich


JazzAhead 2016 was special for me this year! The international JazzAhead conference is a huge come together of many countries for jazz business in Bremen, north of Germany. I had a showcase with my german band NICOLE JO and all went very well. Days and nights were long and we had a great time there. Because of my flight I had to start my trip early in the morning back to New York after JazzAhead. My swiss musician friends and I took the train at 7 am to leave to Switzerland and me to USA. My flight back to New York was scheduled at 5 pm Frankfurt airport. I was about 5 hours away from the airport. No problem! But! We drove 45 min and then we had a train accident. It took some time until one conductor came and said we had an accident with cows. Poor animals! Ouuuh. Train stopped, conductor didn`t know when we go on with the voyage. If such accidents happen, the train doesn`t move for hours, and in my brain was only one mind: How do I catch my flight at 5? There was only one answer to that question! My friends talked to the conductor, another friend opened the train doors and I was jumping off the train. Around us only a huge field of nothing. Close to the train were 2 houses and a fast street. I was running over a field with my luggage and my saxophones. A man from the train shouted: Come back! Come back! I was thinking: Shall I go back? Noooo. I needed to run otherwise I might loose the flight and I had to pay for a new way. I was running. Ringing the bell. It was sunday morning and nobody opened the doors. Still the man was calling: Come back, come back! Nightmare!! I was running towards the fast street, directly on the street and a car stopped luckily. Two women starred at me and I just said: “Good morning, I was jumping off the train, would you call me a taxi? I need to go to the airport in Frankfurt. A taxi came after 10 min and brought me to the next bigger railway station and from that point on I made it safely to the airport in Frankfurt. I forgot to write that my phone was crashed 2 days before and I had no way to communicate. I was supposed to meet my boyfriend at 1 and we met at 3 safely. In these days it is really helpful if there is still our good old system of using a telephone at the railway station. I put 2 euros in to speak for 30 seconds with my swiss boyfriend (this machine was hungry..coint food..). Is this now a true story? The one who knows me, they know the answer!
The flight to New York was relaxed. Arrived and already started to compose for my first recording session in USA. I wrote 7 songs for tuba, trombone, drums and saxophone. Inspired by my father Heinrich (trombone, guitar player, nick name Henry) and saxophonist Arthur Blythe I wanted to write for an instrumentation which is different than I recorded before. I tried to bring all compositions on a simple minimalistic structure. I went to New Orleans, spend some days there and invited local musicians to record with me the 7 songs. All in one room we played and recorded the songs. We played every song 3 times and that`s it. We never played before together. They didn`t know the songs and they came, played as their lives would depend on it and we had fun! What an amazing time! My boyfriend Daniel spend all day with us, filmed parts of the recording session and he was as me surprised by this flow. We needed 5 hours to record 7 songs. That was speeeedy Gonsalez! New Orleans is another planet. Everyday you can hear live music in different corners in the french quarter. I was playing twice with the Kids. These are the young musicians who played around 8 pm on a corner close to the frenchman street by every night. Young boys with their trombones, trumpets and drums made a huge show. They had a sound!! Waaaooww! Phenomenal. Maybe he was 18? His trombone sound was like fire came out of his horn! Wonderful to hear. The french quarter is beautiful. You can see many houses with lots of different colours. Beautiful colourful city! Did you ever see cockroaches? In german: Kakerlaken. Yammmy! They can be mini but the New Orleans version is 5 cm huge. They are active in the night on the street. Awefull! You have to be careful not to step on them. Very tasty! New Orlreans is beside that a very tropical city. Soooo hot! At that point I realized that I feel more comfortable in the north of europe. We had an air conditioner in our hotel room. This is now another adventure. I`ve never slept in a hotel where the matrace is covered by plastic. I`ve thought it is because the heat and people do sweat in bed. I did believe that for almost one week. When we checked out the guy at the reception stared at us and said: “You have been there for a quite long time!”….However that could happen, I was booking an hourly hotel for us. Ja, ja! Back to the music: I am impressed by this music scene. A power which you can feel! Great! And imagine, in these clubs where we were, the bands just got the tips of the people who were listening. And as we saw, this was not much. It is insane! And still they played with such a joy. Great musicians! It was a great time there. New Orleans speaks in music! More stories in the pipeline!


Photo by Daniel Bernet


The following interview was first published at the Swiss Consulate New York website in May 2016. I thank the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York for doing the interview and for permission to reproduce it here.

Swiss Artist Talk is a written interview series conducted by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York featuring current Swiss artists-in-residence living in New York.

For the third interview of Swiss Artist Talk we are pleased to introduce Swiss jazz musician (alt-/ soprano saxophone) and composer Nicole Johänntgen! Johänntgen received a grant from the City of Zurich (Stadt Zürich Kultur) and is staying in a studio apartment located on the Lower East Side from March to September, 2016.

Nicole Johänntgen selfies

Nicole Johänntgen, born in 1981 in Quierschied/ Fischbach (Germany), moved to Zurich in 2005. Johänntgen studied Jazz Saxophon and Arrangements at Mannheim University of Music and Performing Arts. She produced nine CDs and performed all over the world. In 2015, she received the JTI Trier Jazz Award and a grant from City of Zurich. Since March 2016, Nicole Johänntgen has been living in New York.


What are you working on right now?
Nicole Johänntgen: I work right now on several subjects. I’m writing my first symphony in New York which is called: New York Symphony. In addition, I work on new songs for small bands. I’m recording mid-May in New Orleans a CD which I will name “Henry“. It’s a CD inspired by my father. His short name is Henry, too. And the 2nd CD I will record in New York is with subway musicians. I am very interested in the topic of martial arts in comparison with music. I’m even writing an article about that topic together with Professor William Lenihan of Washington University in Saint Louis Missouri (head of the jazz department). Additionally, I just visited a clown workshop to see what you can do without words. It was amazing! Also, I take lessons mainly in the subject of polyrhythm. This was the reason why I applied for the New York Atelier-Stipendium by the City of Zurich. In my music I missed the feeling of being secure in rhythms which you hear mostly by Indian musicians or totally advanced ones. When musicians don’t play a 4/4 beat or a 3/4 beat I always feel unsure. Through my lessons with the Indian tabla player Samir Chatterjee, I can gain knowledge about polyrhythm playing. And I gain confidence to improvise over it. It is all about trust, confidence, knowing the tools and breathing. All my work in New York is about gaining lots of new knowledge and making my art stronger in the way of just following it.

Can we see a picture of your current workspace?

Nicole Johänntgen’s workspace


What work of yours are you most proud of?
Nicole Johänntgen: Oh. I am proud of really starting my symphony. It was soooo long in my head. I just started in March and I don’t have time pressure so I take the days like they come and appear. But I am happy to have started it.

What inspires you the most?
Nicole Johänntgen: New York by itself. All these people I meet and see are inspiring me. Also birds – I‘ve figured out that I am very inspired by the voice of birds. Very interesting. Also, lots of incredible subway musicians are inspiring me. As soon as you enter the street you are caught in the wave of this city, moving step by step. It’s great!

How is New York influencing your work?
Nicole Johänntgen: All my new compositions are inspired by New York. Full subways, poor and rich people everywhere. There is no line in between. All these moments are in my compositions.

What is your favorite place in New York?
Nicole Johänntgen: Very inspiring was for me to stand on top of the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of the night.

What are you hoping to gain from your stay here in New York that you can take with you back to Switzerland?
Nicole Johänntgen: My New York stay brought me space for music, for martial arts, for inspiring friendships, and time for myself – and I will take it back as my New York experience to Switzerland.

Where can people see more of your work?
Nicole Johänntgen: I have a website and there is a blog and you can read and see my work there.
Here is the link:
You can also follow my updates on social media, such as on Facebook.

Anything else you would like to add?
Nicole Johänntgen: In life, just go for it!

We’d like to give a special thanks to Nicole for taking the time to answer our questions. This is the third interview in a series of interviews with the artists in residence. Follow the hashtag #SwissArtNYC on twitter and Instagram for more Swiss art in NYC!

This interview was first published at the Swiss Consulate New York website in May 2016. I thank the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York for doing the interview and for permission to reproduce it here.