Lady sings the bass...
Bassist, composer, sidewoman, bandleader.
A kind of biography.
For 15 years now, double bassist Caris Hermes has been igniting her luminous sound world full of references, ramifications and sensitive moods. Anything seems possible for her in the tension between swing, groove, straight ahead and subtle modern jazz.
“I feel particularly at home – and most comfortable – in modern jazz and straight ahead. That’s just the music my heart beats for.”
Caris Herms has long since established herself as a highly regarded, virtuoso sidewoman, impressing fellow players and audiences alike with her rhythmic and melodic diversity. In fact, her double bass has its very own voice: whether singing or humming sensitively, grooving soulfully or walking exuberantly, Caris Hermes celebrates the immense range of her instrument with delicate finesse. Her ability to transform complex musical visions of changing bandleaders makes her the preferred choice in her category in Germany.
“I actually discovered a love of the double bass through John Goldsby. I studied upright bass with him as a youth, and he’s the reason I’m doing all this now in the first place.”
Caris Hermes studied at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. There she completed the Jungstudium double bass with John Goldsby (WDR Big Band) from 2008 to 2011.
“For the Jungstudium, which my school gave me time off for, I traveled from Lippstadt to Essen-Werden, an hour and a half by train. In those years John was a second father figure, he gave me endless positive input. Of course, he also criticized, but always packaged his criticism in a positive way, so that I came out of every lesson happy. When teaching music, you are close to a person, it is something very personal, and to remain able to criticize is not an easy task at all. John managed to do that, though, so I was always highly motivated.”
“We went through almost all of jazz history during that time. John wrote three textbooks on it, so accordingly we worked a lot with sheet music. Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Ray Brown, all the important bass players of the world we went through, always being close to Straight Ahead, which is John’s ancestral field.”
Caris Hermes was a member of the Jugendjazzorchester NRW and played in several other large ensembles, the WDR Big Band, the HR Bigband and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. She was a member of the Pascal Bartoszak Quartet, the Charlotte Ilinger Quartet and the Jerry Lu Trio. Again and again she plays with Paul Heller, for example in his series “Paul Hellerinvites…” (formerly: Paul Heller’s Next Level Jazz) as well as in his ensembles “Little Bigband” and “Two Generations”.
She also played gigs with Hans Dekker, met Denis Gäbel, Roman Schwaller, Steffen Schorn, Ansgar Striepens, Robert Landfermann, Stefan Pfeifer, Stefan Schulze, Marko Lackner, Marcio Doctor, Luciano Biondini, Afra Mussawissade, Shannon Barnett, Anat Cohen, Joris Roelofs, John Rucco, Andy Haderer, Martin Sasse, Giovanni Falzone, Hr-Bigband, Fay Claassen, Jeff Cascaro, Gabriel Perez, Hubert Nuss, Joost van Schaik, Uli Beckerhoff and many others.
“Already during my time with John Goldsby I was at a workshop in Bielefeld, and that’s where I met Niklas Walter and Jakob Lüffe, so that was very early on. We then played together at the youth competition and went to the Landesjugendjazzorchester together. Soon we met Pascal Bartoszak and played a lot with him, too.”
Caris Hermes has received several awards, including the WDR Jazz Award (2013), the Hästens Jazzaward (2016), the Sparda Jazzaward twice (Pascal Bartoszak Quartet, 2015/Charlotte Illinger Quartet,2017), and the Jazz@undesigned award with Unit 5 (2018). Since 2011, she has been featured on ten studio albums by both young and established jazz greats. As a sidewoman, more than 150 national and international shows per year fill her live portfolio to date.
“That subtlety, that groove – I’ve always felt comfortable in a straight-ahead environment. To this day, this is the jazz form that does something to me. There’s a lot of heart and soul in it, and it always shows me what my heart is for.”
Paul Heller & Martin Sasse.
Since 2018, Caris Hermes and Niklas Walter have formed the Two Generations Quartet with Paul Heller and Martin Sasse. The focus is on the musical exchange as well as the diverse influences of two generations. The quartet is the consequence of many years of collaboration between Paul Heller and Martin Sasse; with Caris Hermes and Niklas Walter, two musical personalities of the younger generation complete the quartet. The joint artistic exchange leads to mutual inspiration and playfully masters cross-generational challenges.
“Martin Sasse and Paul Heller have always supported us, meaning Niklas and me. They’ve taken us along a lot, to concerts or even to rehearsals when someone else couldn’t make it. They are jazz greats, and it was great when they took you along. Then I guess Paul and Martin thought, okay, let’s start a quartet. I think they like the way I play, and that’s why they kept looking for me to be there.”
The CD : "Caris Hermes".
In 2018 Caris Hermes’ debut EP “Human” was released, at the same time she showed new facets as a quartet bandleader at the PENG festival in Essen. Her ability to transform complex musical visions of changing bandleaders now predestined her to operate under her own name as well.
In September 2022, the album “Caris Hermes” was released on the new label JazzJazz Records as an equally seductive and complex sonic journey: a beguiling masterpiece, sometimes sparking sonically, sometimes balladically intimate.
“Through Corona, you had a lot of time to deal with where you want to go and what you want to do in the future. Jens Bosch (JazzJazz label), Paul Heller and Martin Sasse had always encouraged me to do something of my own. When the Initiative Musik gave me the opportunity to get funding and thus keep my own contribution within limits, I applied. After that, everything happened very quickly. I had to rush to find a studio date, then a mixing date, because the album had to be mastered in a month so that it could be released to the press. So I had no choice at all to take more time. Nevertheless, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve with the CD! This also included that I wanted to give something back after all the years of support. So I chose fellow musicians who have been supporting me for years. Of course, there should have been many more people, John Goldsby I had wanted for a duo, also with Hans Dekker I had inquired, but then unfortunately so many things came in between.”
At the center of the CD is the trio Caris Hermes Billy Test and Niklas Walter. With Andy Haderer, Paul Heller, Stefan Pfeifer Galilea and Martin Sasse, accomplished guests and longtime companions drop in. Whether in a trio, quartet or quintet, anything seems possible for Caris Hermes in the field of swing, groove, straight ahead and subtle modern jazz.
“I basically have a good sense of when I think something is round. I’ve written a few pieces myself, though I still see my current strengths more in composing ballads, less in uptempo straight-ahead writing – even though I love that style so much! Jerry Lu, I asked to contribute a piece, and Carla Köllner wrote a ¾ arrangement for my piece “Extraordinary People”. She also works for big bands and is just great at arranging and composing. And Paul Heller and Martin Sasse even gave me a piece each!”
Straight Ahead … and Beyond.
With her album “Caris Hermes”, bassist, composer, arranger and now finally bandleader Caris Hermes has opened a new chapter in her already well-filled oeuvre. Whereby there is still much, much room for further entries, additions and highly distinctive footnotes!
No matter how much Caris Hermes affirms that her heart beats for modern jazz and straight ahead, and no matter how impressively she proves this with her musical deeds time and again: Without her curiosity and undisguised openness to other, sometimes stylistically completely different styles, the complete work of art “Caris Hermes” would simply not be complete. And anyone who, alongside Denis Gäbel, Johan Hörlen, Norbert Scholly and Silvio Morger, knows how to bow to bass legend Charles Mingus in a birthday concert as confidently, stylistically and energetically as Caris Hermes; or who grounds the jazz-pop song ensemble “Wir hatten was mit Björn” by Maika Küster and Maria Trautmann with masterful grooves – yes, he is simply on a magical journey that will still stop at many sound and style stations.
A special thank you for this text goes to Horst Peter Koll.