Interview with Anders Lоnne Grоnseth: We all think, feel and express ourselves differently: Video

- in INTERVIEWS, VIDEOS

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist, reed player and composer Anders Lønne Grønseth. 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?

Anders Lønne Grønseth: – Well, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily know the direction in my improvising. To me, much of the actual improvising in what we call ‘improvisation’ in jazz is about creating a path along the way and making instant choices based on what’s going on around you, whether it is an impulse from the interplay with fellow musicians or a reaction to something else – like the acoustics of the room, a cheer from the audience or the sound of the last note or phrase I played. I’m really into improvising form, creating instant twists and turns in the musical flow and trying to make it sound both logical and fresh at the same time. All the rest – the choice of notes, phrasing etc. – isn’t really improvising, because you very seldom play something you haven’t practiced and stored in your musical toolbox. So the improvisational element is really about how you put these components together to build form, and the improvisational engine is triggered by your impulses in any specific moment.

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?

ALG: – Sorry, I don’t understand this question. Can it be rephrased?

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?

ALG: – Well, it can certainly be frustrating to a point where you wonder if it’s worth it. There’s an unavoidable element of commercialism in the industry – even in such an uncommercial business as jazz music – and I think most jazz musicians will at some point have to consider to what degree they want to take a part in that. I guess it’s fair to say that you need a bit of business talent to achieve something in the industry, but it’s hard to pin-point what that really means. What I know is that you will gain from being visible, active, socially likeable and professional in appearance. But having a genuine artistic product definitively helps the matter.

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

ALG: – I don’t really want to shut any influences out. Influences are the fuel for inspiration, what gives life to new ideas and sets my mind to work. Even things I don’t particularly like can influence me by helping me defining what I like and what I don’t like, or by revealing some qualities that I appreciate even if I don’t appreciate the context in which they appear. So what I’m doing is coloured by everything I do and experience, and of course how I process it intellectually and emotionally.

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

ALG: – That balance is absolute, you can’t have one without the other. In fact, I’m not so sure if it makes sense to talk about them as two different things – they feed on each other to such an extent that they become one. The notion that one musician comes out as more “soulful” or more “intellectual” is due to the wonder of individuality. We all think, feel and express ourselves differently, and at the receiving end the music will be perceived differently by each individual listener.

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

ALG: – My focus is first and foremost on making the music that I want, and that seems to be an ever ongoing process without conclusion. My hope is to catch some interest from an audience along the way, and I guess you could say that I focus more on the audience in the presentation than in the creation. That said, there is always a dynamic between performers and audience in a live setting, and one cheer from the audience can really boost the energy of a performance. With the mindset of an improviser, the surroundings including the audience will always play a role in inspiring creativity, so it’s not so that I am neglective towards the audience. However, the hearable silence of concentrated listening is perhaps the most inspiring of all.

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

ALG: – I played a duo concert with pianist David Skinner in Yamanashi, Japan which was recorded and released as the album “Live at Swing Audio”. It was a very intimate venue, with a small audience seated on the floor, and as we walked on stage there was the sort of quietly restrained and polite atmosphere you will only find in Japan. I started playing the first note of a solo introduction and realized after one phrase that I had put my water bottle in the bell of my saxophone and forgotten to take it out, something that muffles the sound quite a bit. So I stopped and gently pulled the bottle out, with the effect that the audience momentarily cracked up in unified laughter. When producing the album, we had to cut out a minute or so from the start of the concert because people were still laughing. I think the album might never have happened if it wasn’t for that incident, which changed the whole mood of the performance and brought out some really inspired playing.

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

ALG: – I personally love the old standards, despite being some generations younger than them. It’s just wonderful music that doesn’t expire, and I think future generations will acknowledge that as well. But then there is the progressive aspect of jazz, improvisational and open minded of nature, that enables it to adapt and fuse with just about any kind of music. So I think “jazz” is a lot more than the old standard tunes – it’s more about an attitude toward the way we think, create and perform music.

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

ALG: – It’s always difficult to write music, but at the same time the most natural thing. To me, it’s inseparably connected to being an instrumentalist and improvisor. If being a teacher has anything to do with it, it’s the constant awareness and reminders of musical and cultural heritage (e.g. the standard repertoire) that I teach. I believe in creative progress through knowledge and education – it can be a heavy load to carry, but it gives you all the tools you need to carve your way further and create new paths.

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?

ALG: – It’s a fairly central aspect of maintaining a creative mind, I think. I see little use in reproducing things that has already been made, although stylistic and historical references are always strongly present in my music. Composing is to me a most natural feature of musicianship. I like to dig deep in my material and carve my creations out of raw material. I’m also very much into structure and construction, which applies very well to composing. But then there’s the element of improvisation, interplay and expression of the moment which are equally important. I need both of those to feel complete.

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?

ALG: – It’s really just music. Music is strong enough in itself and to me it doesn’t need to carry any message or meaning. Nor does it need to represent something else, like a story or an image. But a lot of people find it easier to understand music when they can connect it to something else, perhaps something more concrete. The way we experience music is very personal, and I like the idea that whoever opens their ears and mind to listen to a piece of music will experience that music differently than any other person.

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?

ALG: – At the moment I’m in a very hectic place in my personal life, with two wonderful kids demanding attention. I admit it’s a challenge to find time and head-space to work on my music, and I realize how lucky I have been to be able to do that for a long time and how all-absorbing a creative process can be. It changes the way I work, and that may be for the better: I have to be more effective and sometimes more decisive in my creative work, but I sometimes miss the time and space to dwell with things and dig deep. I’ll be working with the Multiverse quintet for some time ahead, new music is in the making and I feel there’s a lot more to explore and develop with the band. I will also be doing some large-ensemble writing this year, for big bands, wind- and symphonic orchestras. I still have ambitions to keep developing my ideas of bitonal scales – a way of melting down multiple conventional tonalities into more unconventional tonal spheres. Some day I’ll write a book on all of that, but there’s a lot of development and exploration to do before that.

The first thing I can think of wanting to change in the musical world is that I really think it’s time that pop music breaks out of that four-chord pattern that every tune on the radio is based on and bring some more colour and nuance back. It’s something we’re all exposed to on a daily basis and it really does feel like an insult to the musical intellect sometimes. I’m probably just getting old, but I think it’s time to bring harmony back!

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

ALG: – That’s a pretty big question actually, because I listen to a lot of different stuff. If I was to draw a general line, most of it is acoustic and played on “real” instruments – I have only found a handful of artists/composers who make electronically or digitally processed music that appeals to me. I have my favorites along the whole historical line of classical music from the renaissance up until today, and there’s so much fascinating music from all over the world – I have a particular fascination for the classical traditions of Turkish and Indian music. When it comes to jazz, I will allow myself to be a little more specific: I never get tired with listening to Joe Lovano’s tenor playing. Somehow it comprises almost everything from the jazz legacy, and yet he sounds genuinely original and modern. I’ve always been fascinated by music that I can’t really grasp, where I sense an element of structure or conceptualism that I struggle to understand. I think that’s how I got into jazz initially and a few other kinds of music has struck me in the same manner, like the impressionistic works of Debussy and Ravel, the spiritual conceptionalism of Olivier Messiaen and the intellectual spiritualism of Indian Raga. I find some of the same in Lovano’s playing; from his tone production to his phrasing and dynamics, there’s something about it that makes it sound like it’s coming from a different place altogether. I listen to other sax players too, of course, and a whole bunch of fantastic musicians from near or far, old or new.

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

ALG: – The message is simple, but hard to accomplish: Clear you mind, open your soul and listen.

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

ALG: – I guess the most sensible answer would be right here, right now, at any moment. There’s so much going on and so much innovation, but it can be hard to acknowledge and appreciate it in your own time. If I let my mind drift a little, there are two periods in time that I really would have liked to take a part in: One would be in Paris just before the turn of the last century, let’s say in 1890, with all the different ideas, directions and ideologies in both the arts and the intellectual world. It seems that abstraction finally came to use as a constructional tool that opened a whole new world of possibilities and enabled people to de- and reconstruct their conception of reality. The same thing goes for the time around 1960, which stands out as a period of optimism and experimentation. It seems like a time where people allowed themselves to dream and act with ambition and conviction according to those dreams. There were a lot of currents; political, intellectual, ideological and creative, much of it inspired by a great social awareness and an urge to explore new perspectives.

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

ALG: – Here’s one: Do you experience a conflict between the classic jazz tradition (say, 1930-1960) and new innovations that may be stretch our concept of what jazz can be? Where does it stop being jazz, if ever?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. Yes, of course, there are a lot of differences, but I think that jazz is developing and our time, but jazz stops beating when it is already interfering with Rep.

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

ALG: – Simply by carrying on doing what I’m doing and following the path that I have taken, wherever that may lead in the future.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Image result for Anders Lønne Grønseth

Facebook Comments