July 13, 2024

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Interview with Oddgeir Berg: The language of music is international. You live through music: Video

Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if pianist Oddgeir Berg. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Oddgeir Berg: – I was born in 1984 in Ålesund, Norway. I lived there for only two weeks before we moved… My parents worked for the Salvation Army and we got to move around some times during my childhood. I see myself as mainly from Oslo. The fact that they worked in Salvation Army did that I practically grew up with the surroundings of music. All of my family members plays some kind of instrument, so music became early important. I played in orchestras, choir and so on. When I was nine I started taking piano classes at a public piano school. But  at that time it was the drums who attracted me the most. So, I finished after a year, and paused piano until I was 15 years old. Then at High School it was all about piano, jazz, classical, bands.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano?

OB: – Well, at the age of 15 I started listening to a lot of jazz records. And in my opinion piano is so well balanced both in sound and register. It was this opportunity to play both solistic, rhythmic, and also to have the option to accompany myself. The calm that a great grand piano gives, that is exquisite. The teachers that helped me along the way was Jacek Novak, Jens Kalleklev, Helge Lien and Ivar Antonsen.

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

OB: – I grew up with a mix of gospel and rock/pop. I listened a lot to Herbie Hancock, McGoy Tyner, Thelonius Monk, Keith Jarrett and more. All of these pianists have a certain sound, characteristic and touch. So, I started adopting some of these techniques and methods and after a while it became my very own sound. I had from the age of 16 bought my own Fender Rhodes, Mark II(78), and because of that I early started experimenting with electric sounds, effects, amps and so on.

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

OB: – Actually, the last 3 months I have had tendonitis in my right hand, so I haven’t been practicing that much lately. But I am fine now,- And it shows how important it is to have good warm-up routines and exercises.

I have been through a lot of Hanon´s books. I practice with metronome. It is nice to have a local drummer sitting on the pianoboard. I tend to do exercises with having the metronome set to on-beat or off-beat.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

OB: – All,- really. I can´t decide over any harmony or harmonic pattern. They all make sense somehow.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you 2017 year?

OB: – Difficult to choose, but here are some good ones:

Vijay Iyer “Far from over”, Kamasi Washington “Harmony of difference”, Tigran Hamasyan “An ancient observer”, Helge Lien Trio,” Guzuguzu”.

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

OB: – Some years ago I recorded piano in my studio for an artist, it was me playing. The piano was freshly tuned to 442Hz by a piano-technician. It sounded really good and bright. But, the issue later was that I was also supposed to record trumpet (I also play that). And as I found out later on there were nothing left to rise the tone of the trumpet. So, I had to bend all the notes that I was playing. That was really annoying. Anyhow, It got later released, so we managed to sort it out. But, I stick to 440 Hz now!:-)

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

OB: – Find artists you like. Find out what they do, how they play, what makes them unique from others. Transcribe, rewrite and practice. The most important thing is to have your own sound and meaning with music. Develop that and pursue it!

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

OB: – Yes, I believe so. Off course there is challenge to make a living out of jazz, but as always hard work pays off!

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

OB: – The very first time I played in a pianotrio  at High school. The combination of piano, doublebass and drums. It is such calm!

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

OB: – I don’t think that is any problem. Standards are classics, the newer get to old. It is the way you play them and the arrangement you make out of them that makes it personal.

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

OB: – The language of music is international. It speaks for it self by the different interpretation by every unique person. As a musician and you try to develop and show your spirit through music. You live through music.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

OB: – The political instability that is these days is not good. And there is way to many people on this earth who are in need of asylum.

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

OB: – It would be taking back income to artists for published music. One thing are the pirates. The other is that the streaming business are only giving bread crumbs back to the artist.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

OB: – It will be recording the next album for Oddgeir Berg Trio.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

OB: – Yes! I am not that into world music. But, I am very influented by folk music in my jazz. The Lydian scale/sound for instance makes perfect sense in my music.

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

OB: – Mathias Eick “Scala”, Tigran Hamasyan, E.S.T, Charlie Haden, Christian McBride.

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

OB: – I would like to go 1964. To “My funny valentine – The complete  concert” Miles Davis. And replaced Herbie Hancock with my self. That album is really good!

JBN.S: – So far, I ask, please your question to me …

OB: – What is your favorite album, all time?

JBN.S: – Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette – Standards Live (1986) and more others…

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Image result for Oddgeir Berg Trio - Before Dawn

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