The History of Porgy & Bess Jazz & Music Club

In the autumn of 1993 mathias rüegg first asked me whether I could imagine opening a jazz club together with Renald Deppe, Gabriele Mazic and him in at the former “Fledermaus-Bar”. Although of course I felt flattered (being in my mid-twenties and living in Vienna only for a few years then), I still had some reservations regarding the location. I questioned the idea of opening an up-to-date jazz club at an original site of early Austrian cabaret, in a plushy atmosphere that offered rather incompatible technical and infrastructural conditions.

I can still recall the first concerts: the Erich Quartet featuring Reinhard Micko and Michael Fischer (seven paying visitors), the Nicolas Simion Trio (five visitors), Mikulas Skuta’s gig (even less, although we had contacted a lot of friends) and some other poorly frequented shows. The start seemed to confirm my initial scepticism. But then Max Nagl played to a (more than) capacity crowd – the room being officially limited to 100 visitors – and the “Wolfgang Puschnig Portrait”, which was presented on several days, turned out to be a major attraction.

Suddenly we realized: the velvety wall decoration we had distrusted at first provided real fine acoustics. Two steel doors we would never have installed helped to prevent problems with the houses’ occupants. Authorities let us have our way. The visitors felt comfortable, the musicians felt appreciated. Finally I virtually fell in love with that room.

A few years later P&B had become an integral part of the Austrian and international jazz scene, making “impossible” projects possible (you should try once to talk a pianist into helping to heave the newly tuned piano grand to the stalls so there would be enough room on stage for his co-musicians!) – and yet, the tenancy contract of five years was due to expire soon.

All at once the opportunity offered itself to create a new space which would be much more flexible – a space which could be adapted (in fact, newly built) in order to create an environment appropriate for this kind of music and it’s significance for the 20th century. Although not everybody in the committee was convinced, we agreed to take the chance.

Christoph Huber