The Willisau Jazz Archive

Niklaus and Arno Troyler, 2009 Niklaus and Arno Troxler, 2009
Photo: Christian Schnur and Henning Bock

Jazz concerts in Willisau

In 1966, Niklaus Troxler began organizing jazz concerts in Willisau. Initially a casual enterprise, the concerts generated considerable interest and ever-bigger crowds. The concert schedule grew dense in the early 1970s; by 1974, Willisau had already hosted jazz greats Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea. Troxler decided to organize his first Willisau Jazz Festival in August 1975: it featured several of the most advanced jazz musicians of the time – Cecil Taylor, John Tchicai, Archie Shepp, Albert Mangelsdorff, and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath. These international stars mingled with the crème of the Swiss jazz scene, including free jazz pianist Irène Schweizer and the jazz rock group OM.

The Willisau Jazz Festival became a fixture in the Swiss and European concert calendars. The festival has taken place every year since 1975, usually in late summer. Adding the individual concerts that take place outside the festival proper, this amounts to over a thousand gigs in all. Willisau has been called “The Mekka of Free Jazz,” but this is only part of the story: Willisau has hosted eminent musicians from many jazz styles – from the old masters of Modern Jazz like Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, and Betty Carter to the noisiest musical anarchists like John Zorn. Willisau is a place of encounter, and when the chemistry is right, great things happen: the impromptu 1979 duo concert of legendary bebop drummer Max Roach and one of the foremost reed-alchemists, Anthony Braxton, was a shining hour in the history of jazz.

The Willisau Jazz Archive...

In 2009, Niklaus Troxler organized his last Willisau Jazz Festival, and his nephew Arno Troxler stepped into Niklaus’ shoes. In semi-retirement (he still organizes the occasional concert during the year, and he continues to work in his main profession, graphic design), Niklaus decided to donate his private archive to a public institution. Via jazz journalist Tom Gsteiger, he came into contact with the Music Library at Hochschule Luzern. With great mutual interest, the Willisau Jazz Archive found a home in Lucerne. The donation contains a multitude of source materials: concert posters (most of them designed by Niklaus Troxler himself), program brochures for the festivals, comprehensive collections of press reactions, books and other publications about Willisau jazz events. The most precious gift, however, was several hundred hours of unissued sound recordings from the concerts. These recordings were preserved with the support of Memoriav (Association for the Preservation of the Audiovisual Heritage of Switzerland). They are now on permanent loan to the collection of the Swiss National Sound Archives in Lugano. There, they are professionally archived and digitized, and their meta-data is entered into the Sound Archives’ catalogue. The recordings can be accessed in Lugano and at several dozens listening-posts in Swiss music institutions and libraries (e.g. in the Music Library at Hochschule Luzern). The original posters are on permanent loan to the graphic collection of the Zentral- und Hochschulbibliothek Luzern. The source materials of the Willisau Jazz Archive can be accessed by researchers, journalists, and the interested public on location in Lucerne.


In Summer 2012, Hochschule Luzern decided to take things further, granting free online access to these resources (as far as was legally possible). The result of this endeavor is the webpage It chronicles concert dates and lineups, and presents visual media (photographs and posters), program brochures, press articles, texts, research projects, and excerpts from sound recordings. Everyone is invited to explore these resources for research or personal purposes according to the website’s Conditions of Use.

My thanks go to Niklaus Troxler for his collaboration and for enriching our music scene for so many decades; to Arno Troxler for continuing Niklaus’ work; to Hochschule Luzern for funding the Archive; and to all other contributors who made the Willisau Jazz Archive a reality.

Olivier Senn, April 2013

Site Notice/Impressum

Head of the Willisau Jazz Archive:
Bernadette Rellstab (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Thomas Mejer (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Concept & Project Management:
Olivier Senn (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Visual Media:
Niklaus Troxler (Jazz in Willisau)

Graphic Design:
Reflector, Luzern

Database & Web Programming:
Fabian Mück, Bruno Ziegler (Webtech AG, Altdorf)

Catalogue Entries (Fonoteca & RZS):
Thomas Mejer, Andreas Niederberger (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Scanning/Data Entry:
Rahel Kobelt, Regula Leupi, Martina Schuler,
Olivier Senn (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Print Media Research:
Robert Gröflin
Toni Bechtold (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Data Entry:
Toni Bechtold (Hochschule Luzern – Musik)

Legal Counseling:
Marija Bucher-Djordjevic (Hochschule Luzern – Musik),
Christian Leupi (Grossenbacher Rechtsanwälte AG, Luzern)

Apostroph, Luzern,
Richard Beaudoin (Harvard University, Cambridge MA)

Advisory Board:
Tom Gsteiger, Hämi Hämmerli, Michael Kaufmann, Thomas Mejer,
Jörg Müller, Bernadette Rellstab, Olivier Senn, Arno Troxler, Niklaus Troxler, Beatrice Windlin