Diknu Schneeberger: At Sandra’s Salon

Jazz reborn for a new generation with “Gypsy Groove”

On The Town | Dragos Ungurean | February 2009

Eighteen-year-old guitarist Diknu Schneeberger and his trio performing at Jazzland (Photo: Jazzfoto Brunner)

A young man walks up to the small stage, just slightly elevated from the concrete floor of the café, introduces the band,  and begins to play a richly rhythmic, acoustic style of jazz that I had heard far too few times in my life.  The place: the unassuming Bohemian Café Einfahrt on the Karmelitermarkt in the 2nd District. The occasion: a Wednesday evening at "Sandra’s Salon," a series presenting local jazz artists - both upcoming and established.

Tonight guitarist Diknu Schreeberger and his trio were the guests: Martin Spitzer on rhythm guitar and his father, leading bass player Joschi Schneeberger. The Schneebergers are ethnically Sinti gipsy, and this is a critical element in their music that focuses strongly on single notes being continuously and rapidly played.

The café is a cozy place, but perhaps not cozy enough for a true jazz fanatic, as the cement floor and bare masonry walls are a little too hard for a mellow sound, and in spite of an appealing ad hoc assemblage of local artists covering the walls, it didn’t quite feel friendly enough.

But the people definitely were; as I placed my order with the barman I immediately felt a wave of welcome. Everyone, staff and guests alike, were incredibly warm throughout the evening. I placed myself  snugly at the bar, ordered a beer, and within minutes, the band took the stage.

The group brought a feeling of simplicity onto the stage, just three musicians and an acoustic sound reminiscent of Django Reinhard. A former best in the world of gypsy groove in Europe, Django revitalized the gypsy musical tradition with electric guitar and fast-paced picking, a major influence on Diknu and his father. Diknu calls their style "Gipsy Groove," a different breed from standard modern jazz as the drums are replaced by a second guitar. Also typical of gipsy groove is the inclusion of a violin, however, the Diknu Schneeberger Trio made do without one here.

The music began: Schneeberger père set off with a syncopated cross rhythm beat common to this genre, whilst Diknu and Spitzer were picking and strumming away on their guitars. The sound filled my head in the live hall, setting shoulders twitching and feet tapping. The scene came alive, glowing in the amber sheen of Diknu’s guitar right down to  his shiny shoes, as he kept beat to the melody.  All the while, the staff wove among the tables serving drinks and snacks, as people swayed dance-like in their seats, moving to the rhythm and the salon  mellowed around us.

A renowned guitarist in Vienna, Christian Havel, had this to say about Sandra and her program. "She loves music and she helps the jazz scene in Vienna by creating her own club, yet another place for us to play, so I respect her very much for taking this risk and succeeding."

Now in its fourth year, Sandra’s Salon has developed a coterie of regulars, including Hans Mayr, a life long Viennese and a frequent visitor here.

"Their lineup is good and offers local musicians a good starting point," Mayr said enthusiastically - "all in all, more opportunity for jazz in Vienna." From his first evening, stumbling onto the series by chance, he was delighted with what he found. "It was all enjoyment," he said, "as the band made one forget that they were in such a intimate setting." That night, the sound of the trio reverberated throughout the café with sweet and melodic precision aimed at the recesses of your soul.

During the fifteen minute break Diknu joined me at the bar. He was relaxed; only a boyish 17yearsold, in spite of his virtuosity, he is not tall and has an open face, and walks with a light step. But young as he is, Diknu Schneeberger is already a regular at top clubs all over Europe and beyond.

"We play everywhere," he said, "all over Austria, Germany, even Japan." This is one of the disarming features of the jazz scene, that a player of this quality could cross the globe one month and be back playing for a crowd of 60 some fans in a tiny  location in the Karmeliter  quarter of BoBo Vienna, and chatting with a reporter as if he’d known him all his life.


Upcoming shows at Sandra’s Salon:


Sheila Cooper & Christian Havel

Feb. 4, 2009



James Hall Quintet

Feb. 11, 2009



Edi Köhldorfer Solo

Feb. 13, 2009



Lang & Lengl

Feb. 18, 2009



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