Interview with Andreas Hertel: … be it energy, romance, virtuosity or craziness: Video, New CD cover, Photos

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Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Andreas Hertel. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Andreas Hertel: – I grew up in a family very much interested in music, especially European classical music. When I was 11, a neighbour’s boy played “The Entertainer” on his piano, that was the moment I wanted to learn how to play. In private piano lessons I had classical training as well as composition exercises. At the age you normally don’t practice I also didn’t and got me a guitar to play Beatles songs and tried to play by ear and compose own songs. A few years later when I was in acting school, I bought Bill Evans’ record “Live at the Village Vanguard” which struck me like a lightning, and I knew immediately: this is, what you’ll have to learn! From that moment on I strived to become a jazz musician and even quit my theatre/TV acting career to visit the music conservatory and studied jazz piano.

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

AH: – To me, best thing is always listening to the masters’ recordings as carefully as possible, trying to get into the spirit of different players first – but then you must handle things in your own way. Playing together with others and listening to each other is the next important thing to do. Also writing your own stuff. Thus I learn every day and developed and integrated a great variety of sounds and textures of expression in my playing. I always wanted to find and express my own music rather than just copying others – that’s why I wrote a certain amount of original tunes.

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

AH: – Honestly, most important for me is getting into contact with my inner flow of inspiration. I always do some meditation before playing (as I learned in a Kenny Werner workshop) and then try to play effortlessly without thinking about any concepts. It’s amazing how new ideas emerge again and again. – Certain arrangements I practise with metronome for accuracy. Sometimes I use the metronome as off beats or practice cross rhythms, but not too often. A drum computer is also helpful for practising certainty in form issues as it is for fast tempos.

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

AH: – I meditate every day, thus becoming free of negative influences, if there occur any. It is like having a shower for my soul, and finding back to my true self, to what really matters for me.

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

AH: – Basically, making music is just having fun for me, and does almost never feel like strenuous work, but I gather energy from playing. So, mostly, this is no problem at all.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2021: Andreas Hertel Quintett – Sun on the Way, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

AH: – I am very happy with this album, because you can listen to completely heartfelt tones all over on it. We managed to combine a pleasant and friendly sound with musical artistry and sublimity. Listeners confirmed they were emotionally touched by the music and received a positive energy, a relaxed and optimistic feeling through it. And some hope is what people really need nowadays…. At the same time, I admit to be proud and thankful for the melodies and arrangements I could find. Though not obvious, there is some musical refinement inside the tunes, but I like unusual turns to sound as natural as possible.

My main goal was to create timeless music, where every detail counts – like in a Zen painting or like in the great ballad albums of the jazz masters. –
Jazz-trumpet-great Gustavo Bergalli (Dizzy Gillespie, Astor Piazzolla, Joe Lovano) wrote:

“I like it very much!! Very original and personal sound, great musicians!! Very nice composition [“Golden Light”]. Congratulations!!!”

JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

AH: – The instrumentation with chromatic harmonica and trumpet/flugelhorn in the frontline is quite unusual and, as far as I know, pretty uniqe. On the other hand, piano, bass and drums make a “normal” jazz rhythm section.
I wanted that special sound of Jens Bunge on the harmonica, he plays such beautiful melodies in Toots’ tradition, both lyrical and swinging. We already did a lot of playing over the years now and I knew he would enrich the music a great deal. He blends perfectly with Heiko’s beautiful sound on trumpet and flugelhorn in the dialogical and polyphonic horn arrangements I wrote.
Same with the other colleagues – we are basically friends and I have been playing with them for years in different settings, so I knew they would give their best to make the music sound good – actually they can play almost everything, but they all do have a certain love and great dedication and honesty to music, for which I am very grateful.

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

AH: – It’s like YIN and YANG – both should always be there in an individual balance according to the special tune or style. Like a Shakespeare play, music should be first of all be appealing and exciting to the audience through any qualities – be it energy, romance, virtuosity or craziness. Looking deeper, one should be able to discover some musical and spiritual or philosophical depth. This is how I understand the ideal of the geniuses like Ellington and the classical masters.

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

AH: – It’s a matter of the situation. In concerts we play our stuff and take all the freedom we want – if we have fun in that, the audience definitely has, too! There, we don’t care too much about what anybody might want. But at the same time, I strive to have good contact with the listeners in my announcements and I perceive in which mood they are, so I try and figure out, what sort of tune might be appropriate for the moment. – I also do some bar piano playing now and then and am pleased when I fulfil my part as people like me to do.

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

AH: – Recording an album and playing some concerts with trumpeter Dusko Goykovich was an incredible experience for me. When this nearly 90 year old jazz great – who played with Dizzy, Miles, Rollins and countless other legends – improvised over my tunes, that really gave me goose pimples! Thank you, Dusko!!

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

AH: – My experience is, if it’s cool and appealing (rhythmically or melodically), young people are open for a lot of things. We just have to make them feel, hear and see the spontaneity and liveliness of jazz. Teaching piano is a good way. Also, more and more high schools here do have big bands so that young people play that music and have group experiences with it.

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

AH: – To me, life is definetly a process of spiritual transformation. The meaning of life is for me: becoming one with our true immortal self beyond life and death. Oneness in the infinite beyond all words. “Everything is the one mind”, says ancient Chinese Zen-Master Huang-Po. Therefore I have been practicing meditation for more than 20 years and am student of Zen-Master Zensho W. Kopp.

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

AH: – Turn off the negative prejudice that many listeners and radio and TV stations have against Jazz. There should be much more public awareness for this great music with all it’s different facets. Also a working band could be a great role model for good teamwork and for functioning communities in general.

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

AH: – Richard Galliano, Tamir Hendelman, Paolo Fresu, Eliane Elias, Kenny Wheeler, Nils Landgren/Esbjörn Svensson, Tom Harrell, Dado Moroni, and again and again Charlie Parker, Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Tommy Flanagan, Michel Petrucciani, Jacky Terrasson, Mulgrew Miller…

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

AH: – I’d like to bring people joy, peace, love, and hope through music. Also some kind of introspection and relaxation. But music speaks best for itself, so let’s just have fun and let the listeners take from it what they like.

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

AH: – When the Oscar Peterson Trio did some of their best Recordings in Germany’s Black Forest in the Seventies. They played some sessions at the private home of the founder of HGBS Records. The Band was so tight there and seemed to literally burst of energy, as can be heard on the records. The atmosphere there must have been magic!

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

AH: – How to answer your good questions briefly without writing a book or two needing three years or four….?

JBN: – Thanks a lot for answers !!!

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

AH: – Anyway, keep the faith – and keep going!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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