Jazz legend wins top Swiss music award

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Jazz pianist and free music pioneer Irène Schweizer has been named “Swiss Grand Award for Music 2018” winner by the Federal Office of Culture.

The 76-year-old musician, born in Schaffhausen in north-eastern Switzerland, is “one of the most important contemporary jazz pianists…with a body of work that is unique in its field”, the culture office said on Tuesday.

The award is given every year for “exceptional and innovative” musical creation by Swiss musicians.

Schweizer trained as a pianist and percussionist and began exploring jazz in the 1960s in London and Zurich. In 1968, she began a long-running collaboration with drummer Pierre Favre, producing important free jazz and improvised works.

“Charismatic, Irène Schweizer cultivates musical writing without all the frills,” the culture office said in a statement.

+ Listen to our interview with Schweizer to celebrate her 70th birthday

She has performed around the world both as a soloist and with various ensembles, notably with Favre and Joey Baron. Schweizer is also known as a central figure in European feminist musical circles, such as the Feminist Improvising Group and Les Diaboliques. She is also co-founder of Zurich’s Taktlos music festival and Workshop for Improvised Music, and the jazz label Intakt.

Fourteen other music prizes were awarded by the culture office. The winner of the Swiss Grand Award for Music receives a prize of CHF100,000 ($100,000), while each Swiss Music Prize is worth CHF25,000. The prizes, which are given for all styles of music, from jazz to hip hop, will be presented on September 13 in Lausanne.

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