Interview with Jelena Jovovic: Music scene nowadays is focused on the craft … Video

Jazz interview with jazz vocalist Jelena Jovovic. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

Jelena Jovovic: – One needs to be acquainted with the language of music through serious listening and ‘’wood-shedding’’. Only then the freedom of improvisation becomes musical thought that has a sense. Luckily, I had a chance to develop as a musician inspired by the traditional jazz sound, savoring this genre from the ‘’source’’, surrounded by the fellow musicians alike. It is the language you either speak or you don’t. Directions are merely the ways to express.

JBN: – Do you ever get the feeling that music majors, and particularly people who are going into jazz, are being cranked out much like business majors? That they are not really able to express themselves as jazz musicians?

JJ: – Dearest Simon I would rather not tackle this issue…

JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?

JJ: – Many of us have been in that situation, more than once. I still have no clue what is around the corner for me as well. The music business is often structured at least two years in advance, so the album you recorded this year does not stand a chance to be featured in clubs or significant festivals for the development of your career. Musicians strive to get signed to a record label for that particular reason. For someone like me that stems from an obscure town somewhere in Serbia and is not living in the USA, it is doubly hard to penetrate any of the major labels. Many of my colleagues have decided to release their albums independently, becoming a record label for exclusively their own work or through the existing music hub platforms (i.e. CDBaby, Bandcamp, etc), the latter being my case. It was a stroke of luck to be featured on Sirius XM by the wonderful Mr. Mark Ruffin, who singlehandedly introduced my work to the wider audiences. I also have an angel believing in what I do who gave me wings to continue to work, create, stay true to the music, try to excel in what I do and hope to get a lucky break.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

JJ: – That would be the matter of working constantly on personal aesthetics, I believe. Influences are not essentially a bad thing, as long as one knows the end result one is trying to achieve, what one is trying to convey. Ars longa, vita brevis: to me the music is ever-evolving but building your values that are based in humanity and sharing them- would only depict your art in true colors.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JJ: – Melodies! Music scene nowadays is focused on the craft, poly-rhythms and certain grooves on the account of melody. I can’t remember the last time I left the Club whistling the line that has stuck in my ear. But that is only my point of view! This is Plato: ‘’ Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.’’

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

JJ: – The audiences want the truth, whatever is the story you are telling. They need to see and feel that you are living every note you perform. Catharsis is something you always try to induce on the bandstand and therefore it will be consumed by the audience. I try to stay opened and expose my microcosm. A standing ovation is a pretty good sign that the message is out there.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

JJ: – There are many stories, lessons and blessings involved in interacting with fellow musicians. I can’t specifically pinpoint one as they are a part of who I am today. I am sure that sooner or later some of those moments will be part of the songs on the future records.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

JJ: – Some values are here to stay, so you do not necessarily have to do anything but expose people to this wonderful genre. There are plenty of examples of modern songs in jazz that are very appealing to younger people because they speak to issues, emotions, struggles that they face today. Moreover, many of the standards from 50 years ago can be interpreted with a modern vibe. Art Tatum is still as modern as it can be; Monk is not only quoted but became a reference, as many a hero from 50 years ago. I am going to quote one of my idols, Cannonball Adderley from the album Live in NY: ‘’ Hipness is not a state of mind. It’s a fact of life’’.

JBN: – And lastly, being a teacher, do you find it difficult to write music yourself?

JJ: – Not really difficult. Teaching is about sharing, opening doors to new perspectives. I learn through new generations on a daily basis. When I was a student I found it very hard to write, as I tried to absorb as much information as I could. There was no place to express myself as I was busy with immersing my mind and soul with decades of greatness in this music we call jazz. I mean how can you write something deeper than Strayhorn, funkier than Silver, more mystic than Shorter? The moment I decided to express myself, not comparing my experiences to anyone else’ is when the music flew freely.

JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?

JJ: – What is original in the XXI century is a mystery to me.

JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?

JJ: – I am merely sharing the values I mentioned before. Trying to say is one thing, saying it out loud is another. I believe it is the combination of ideas and feelings as the main communicator with the audiences. The beauty is definitely in the ear, heart and mind of the beholder. Listen to Heartbeat: if not mine, than your own.

JBN: – What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life?If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

JJ: – I will continue to promote Heartbeat, hopefully through a series of concerts. I am living in the moment, hoping to gain new experiences and different perspectives so that the new tunes I am writing could convey something different from the current album. Breaking the habitual patterns we cling onto is not an easy task for an Artist. That is my Mount Everest right now: discover the most of me.

I would not change a thing; everything is just the way it should be in this dimension of existence.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

JJ: – Lately I have been into classical music/ the orchestration of the romantic period and blues.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

JJ: – The only way to stay erect in your truths and beliefs is to cultivate your inner world. Embrace love and life without fear.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

JJ: – Genesis. Says it all.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

JJ: – Who would you recommend as a booking agent in the US for a potential tour?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. Me 🙂

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

JJ: – I try to avoid common places, as surely a part of the answer to my life’s journey lies off the beaten track. I also know when to slow down and am not afraid to withdraw within myself or among close friends to just chill and recharge my batteries. Listen, observe, live fully, think, feel and choose love as a main survival tool.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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