Interview with Thomas Fonnesbaek: Music has always been a very important part of my life: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz bassist Thomas Fonnesbaek. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Thomas Fonnesbaek։ – I was born in Elsinore, Denmark, in 1977 and started to play guitar, piano and bass when I was 8 year’s old. Both my parents were very interested in music, my mom as a music teacher and my dad as a committed jazz lover, so music has always had a major influence and early impact in my life. Besides from my family background, I am born with a synesthetic skill, so sounds and music are also represented by colors in my mind. Every note and key has a specific color order depending on its function and sound. This is a skill I use a lot when it comes to improvisation and composing.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

TF: – That’s a good question! As an electric bassist I have been inspired by many great players, for example Jaco Pastorius, Larry Graham, Anthony Jackson, Marcus Miller, Steve Swallow, etc., but I think that I from an early age felt attracted to playing the melody as a soloist and to make the bass “sing” with a clear sustain and a strong groove. Also the fact that I was so lucky to have Niels Henning Ørsted Petersen as my teacher from age 17 had an important influence. He and other great bassist`s from his generation, were great ambassadors for developing a soloist approach to the bass. I have spent many hours practicing the instrument, especially the upright bass. As an European musician I have a passion for classical music, and the Nordic jazz tradition is something I grew up with. Keith Jarrett and Jan Garberek were important inspirations. I have also been very grateful to be a member of Lars Jansson’s Trio for 10 years now.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

TF: – I have been practicing classical music, especially Johan Sebastian Bach, one of my greatest heroes – practicing scale patterns in many ways and different meters, but also played many live concerts and sessions with great players and listening to all types of music. But getting up early in the morning is important to get things done!

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

TF: – This can be difficult- I’m the only one who can be me, but I’m not the first one to play the bass, so sometimes I can hear my self sound a little too much like one of my great inspires. When that happens I try to let go of my self control and find peace and confidence just playing straight. When that feels okay, then I see what happens!

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

TF: – Trying is a keyword in life, so that is something you try to do each time you perform and to do better than the last time. It’s always a good idea to be prepared and to stay healthy and true to yourself. But even more important is my relationship with my beloved wife Dea and our 3 children, that’s were I search and find balance in life.

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

TF: – This balance for me is mediated through the body. I believe it requires a lot to combine the intellect with the soul, but when someone succeeds with it, it shows in a deep-seated sense of common meaning – it is making sense for not only for the committed audience but also the average and ordinary listener, so to speak.

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

TF: – I feel very responsible for the people who are coming to my concerts and those who still are buying cd´s. Sometimes you can play avantgarde for a whole evening and sometimes it’s a good idea to adjust the material and maybe play less instead of playing over the head of the audience.

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

TF: – There are many great memories to mention here, but I remember a jam session at the legendary Jazzklub, La Fontaine, Copenhagen, about twelve years ago I was playing John Coltrane Impression in a very fast tempo accompanying approximately 10 saxophone players for more than 70 minutes … there you have to be creative and persistent. And a lot of humour 🙂

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

TF: – I have actually developed a jazz master class for high school students in corporation with the legendary jazz club Montmartre in Copenhagen, where the general idea is to bring the jazz musicians into the high school for a 1 hour introduction. This includes playing and talking, and then at some other time, the students are brought to the jazz club for a real live concert. It has been a great success so far!

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

TF: – Music has always been a very important part of my life and I think sounds have always been my way of understanding the world around me. Through music I can express what is meaningful in my life and in that sense it has become an extension of my inner world and spirit. I have a very privileged life with my wife and children and I’m so happy that I have the possibility to spend a lot of time creating music and to share my creativity.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

TF: – That would be to create a new type of music media so musicians can actually make a living from making music.

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

TF: – Right now I’m listening to Brad Mehldau, Sonny Rollins, Stevie Wonder, Enrico Pieranunzi, Keith Jarrett, Michel Petrucciani, Elis Regina, and many others.

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

TF: – I don’t really think about a specific message, I actually try not to get too much in the way of the process. I trust that people will hear or catch up the message they need to, and that’s fine with me!

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

TF: – Well, music allows us to time travel through recordings, that’s what so special about it. But if I could, I wouldn’t mind to sit on a chair next to Johan Sebastian Bach and enjoy his improvisations.

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

TF: – Dear Simon, I’m very thankful that you are putting so much time and interest into jazz musicians and their music, what was your way into all this?

JBN: – I am journalist since 1993, and Jazz critic since 2001…

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

TF: – It’s not an easy job, the circumstances in a musicians life is getting more and more difficult, especially to make a living and to combine life on the road with family life. I hope that people all over can understand that we all have to pay for the creation and the use of music. Unfortunately the record companies have negotiated deals with streaming services that are not attractive for musicians.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Hans Ulrik, Jacob Christoffersen, Thomas Fonnesbæk & Janus Templeton - YouTube

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