"Our main focus lies on having a characteristic sound scape and rhythmic idea for each tune."

HELY (Lucca Fries, piano and Jonas Ruther, drums) from Zürich, Switzerland develops an artful interaction, which is nurtured by the deep mutual understanding of the two musicians. The intuitive proximity becomes visible in the interlocking of the instruments and a characteristic, multifaceted Hely-Sound. It encompasses virulent rhythmic flows and euphoric improvisation, echoes of minimalism and intensifying staccati, powerful dynamics and a trance-like atmosphere. The energy literally casts a spell over the audience. In May 2016 HELY released their new record “Jangal” on the German Label Traumton Records.Recently, they performed at the Jazzfest 2016, The Dalhousie Institute, Kolkata.

How did Hely come together as a duo? What was the vision behind founding of the band?

We first met and became friends at the university in Lucerne where we studied music in the same year. Like most other pianists and drummers we started out playing trio with double bass. The idea to play duo came to us because we discovered that our connection between piano and drums was especially strong. To skip the bass as a rooting instrument gave us the feeling of flying - dangerous and exciting at the same time. This became our vision although many people were skeptical about it. Fortunately we kept going and are still checking out the potential of this great format. Our main focus lies on having a characteristic sound scape and rhythmic idea for each tune. Once this is set, we are ready to improvise on it and take off.

What is the signification of the name of your group-Hely?

Hely is the Hungarian word for "space“.

Who are your main inspirations when it comes to your style and the compositions you choose to play?

When we decided to play in this uncommon formation we didn’t want check out other piano and drums duos but develop our own style, so we took our inspirations from artists of all different genres. We mostly write our own compositions, so we don’t have to choose between others. There have been only three compositions of other artists and genres we recorded so far, this was on our first record. We chose them just because we liked the songs and they worked nicely to play in this formation.

We have two different backgrounds and in this band all comes together, but to give you at least something: Both of us like a lot the spirit and style of Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet which we listened to a lot when we were teenagers. This is probably our most shared inspiration.

As a musician, how do you maintain creative space and manage creative differences when your final output is a combined one, whereas music is supposedly a very individualistic talent?
This is a huge issue which we continuously work on. It took us a while to find out, that one of the most important things is that we don’t make musical compromises. Either we play in a way in which we both feel featured and inspired or we let it be. Especially in a duo this is essential. On the other hand we have been influenced by each other for years which leads to a natural approximation anyway.

What has been the most memorable performance for the band?

This festival tour in India has been by far the most memorable performance series. It was amazing how we managed to connect with the Indian audience.

From a business and economic standpoint, jazz is not in its heyday. Do you agree?

Was it ever in its heyday? In the thirties swing certainly was, but bebop, hard-bop, free jazz? Did Charlie Parker have a successful career and a lot of money? There has always been a small audience to address up to this point and from an economic standpoint you have to find a way to make money, if it’s not through your concerts and record sells than it’s through wedding gigs or teaching.

What can be done to attract more casual music fans to jazz?

At the moment most of the jazz clubs are aimed at elderly jazz lovers, if there would be more places where old and young people could listen to jazz in a nice and atmospheric but relaxed ambiance, that would be great for jazz in general.

What are your upcoming music projects?

We are working on a new record and a video clip. Maybe we will also release a YouTube album, this idea remained in our heads for a while now.

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