Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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RÜEGG, Mathias

(b 8 December 1952, Zürich) Pianist, composer, bandleader. He gigged in Graz and Vienna while studying in the 1970s and formed the Vienna Art Orchestra '77, a big band which played his arrangements of others' music as well as his own: the eclectic, amusing and theatrical music was compared to that of Mike Westbrook, played with thrilling precision and bristling with solos (e.g. by Herbert Joos, trumpeter, composer; b 21 March 1940, Germany). Look in catalogues under Vienna Art Orchestra: Concerto Piccolo '80 (later on Real Music CD in USA); on hat Art: From No Time To Rag Time '82 (his adaptations of Charles Mingus, Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, Bud Powell, Anthony Braxton, Roswell Rudd, others), live Suite For The Green Eighties '81 (all his own music), Minimalism Of Erik Satie '83-4 (rated highly by Cook and Morton in The Penguin Guide To Jazz as an example of how Rüegg attempts to square the formal demands of concert music with the freedoms of jazz), Perpetuum Mobile '85 (mostly Rüegg's own, with tunes by Thelonious Monk, Bhumibol Adolaydej), A Notion In Perpetual Motion '85. Also Nightride Of A Lonely Saxophoneplayer '85, Two Little Animals and Inside Out '87 on Moers; Blues For Brahms '88 and Innocence Of Clichés '89. European Songbook '93 included Verdi, Wagner and Schubert rearranged by Rüegg to no great effect (and some pressings included a novel production fault: two minutes of silence at the end and then some music by a different group); Plays For Jean Cocteau '94 was a setting of La Belle et la Bête, with vocalist Corin Curschellas on tuba in the title roles; these last two CDs on Amadeo/Polygram labels. A three-CD 20th Anniversary set (Amadeo '97) celebrated that landmark.

He continued his indefatigable musical activities, including albums of the music of Eric Dolphy, Duke Ellington, Richard Strauss, etc, but the VIenna Art Orchestra folded in 2010: he couldn't keep it going any longer.