Nik Bartsch's Ronin
Nik Bärtsch was born in Zürich in 1971 and by 1980 was already playing with Ronin's drummer Kaspar Rast, encouraged by an enlightened junior school teacher who started them off on blues, jazz standards and contemporary pieces including Chick Corea tunes. Within two years, they were writing new material for their own precocious jazz band: they have now been playing together for a quarter-century. Bärtsch himself studied both piano and drums and in Ronin he considers the piano also as a percussion instrument (there are many moments when the whole band plays percussively). The extensive shared experience of Bärtsch and Rast informs the group sound: by now they are in sync at an intuitive level in every moment of the music. "It is a really important connection. To have had an extraordinary drummer at my side for so many years has been incredibly helpful."
Reversing the conventional approach, Bärtsch studied jazz piano for nine years, beginning his classical studies only at 16. After getting his diploma from the Zürich Musikhochschule he went on to study philosophy, linguistics and musicology at the University of Zürich, simultaneously freelancing in diverse bands, "playing everything from fusion to free-funk, and all kinds of extroverted jazz". At the same time interest in modern composition was growing, especially in John Cage and Morton Feldman. "I became fascinated with the reduction of musical means in Cage, with Feldman's thinking about light and I liked also what Steve Reich said in his writings about the ways in which material creates form. I have given a lot of thought to this."
As his interest in composition developed, the desire to play live-jazz evaporated: "I just didn't see the sense of it anymore, for me personally as an instrumentalist." He played solo concerts and, in 1997, formed the acoustic group Mobile which "develops integral musical concepts within a ritualistic framework." Their performances have often been marathons, incorporating multimedia elements, or held in unorthodox settings (such as a recent six-hour concert on the Lake of Zürich). Feeling the need for a band that could also work in the clubs "and play with more power" Bärtsch launched Ronin in 2001.