Jazz interview with jazz contrabassist Martin Wind. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Martin Wind: – I grew up in Flensburg, the most Northern city of Germany, about 5 minutes from the Danish border. I started out playing the guitar when I was 13 years old, but did not really get serious about music until my high school band director offered me the electric bass chair in the big band. I started taking lessons and practicing a lot more; my first teacher was a classical bassist in the local symphony orchestra, so he kept bugging me to play a “real” instrument, which eventually led to me picking up the upright bass at age 17.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the your musical instrument? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the your musical instrument?
MW: – I had a total of three classical bass teachers: the before mentioned first teacher, whose name was Elmer Turnage – he also gave me my first jazz recordings to listen to.
The second teacher was Willi Beyer, solo bassist in the NDR radio orchestra in Hamburg, Germany. I used to drive there once a week during my two-year stint with the navy band and prepare myself with his help for my audition at the Cologne Conservatory.
I arguably learned the most from Wolfgang Güttler during my time as a classical bass student in Cologne; he had played with the Berlin Philharmonics under Karajan for more than 10 years and is just a monster musician and bassist.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
MW: – I’m not really sure how my sound evolved….I would hope that it has grown deeper and richer over the 32 years that I have now been playing the acoustic bass. You have to listen with your inner ear and practice endless hours to slowly form and cultivate your sound. Thankfully I had three wonderful teachers that gave me the tools and the technique to find my sound….and of course you get inspired by recordings and hearing wonderful musicians (not only bass players) play live.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
MW: – The day that my first son was born was the day that I stopped having a “practice routine”; I thought it’d be the end of my career, but the opposite happened: I became much more efficient in my practice sessions, because I HAD to. I don’t get to practice all that much, but I play all the time. I do not have any specific rhythm exercises that I routinely do.
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?
MW: – I know that I love Matt Wilson’s album “Honey and Salt – music to Carl Sandburg poems” – but I’m playing on it, so that might not really count …
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
MW: – Well, it has to be balanced! But if I’d have to pick one of the two I would always go with soul … intellectual music very often leaves me cold, unless it is paired with soul, feeling, guts.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
MW: – Where do you start….you experience a lot in 30 years of being a musician … how about a story that is in reference to the new album?
I wrote a song called “7 to 1” after Germany beat the host Brazil in the semis of the 2014 soccer world cup; I really wanted my friend Duduka Da Fonseca to play on my album, but he begged me to change the name of that particular song and suggested “Seven Steps to Rio”…Germans and Braziliens are some of the most passionate soccer fans, and he did not want to be reminded of that historic and for them very painful defeat, every time that we’d be playing this song…
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?
MW: – Don’t wait for people to do things for you – learn how to deal with record companies, learn how to book your own gigs, learn from bandleaders that you are working with, keep your eyes and ears open.
When you’re career is not going well, you are usually the main person to blame….take the initiative, make things happen, always reinvest in yourself.
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
MW: – Yes, if you have something that people are looking for. Also you have to be flexible and versatile; most jazz musicians also teach in one form or another. If you read you can do studio work and if you know a lot of tunes, you can do club dates….but nobody gets into this music for financial reasons – chances are that you will not make a fortune!
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
MW: – Well, I always say that the drummer and bandleader extraordinaire Matt Wilson has had the biggest impact on my career since my move to New York City in 1996. He believed that I belong there before I did, and that gave me a lot of confidence. I learned so much about being a great leader from him: get the musicians that you love, pick music that you love and GET OUT OF THE WAY! He also taught me a lot about how to PRESENT a band…
There have also other very important musicians in my life:
Guitarist Ulf Meyer, my duo partner of 25 years; pianist Bill Mays, who challenged me and mentored me when I was still living in Cologne, Germany; Bassist John Clayton, who is still leading by example – because of him I started getting serious about writing and composing.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
MW: – By encouraging them to play them in their own way and NOT the way they were played 40 or 50 years ago … find different, fresh ways of playing them!
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
MW: – I understand that playing music is the reason for me being on this planet; it is my religion, my goddess that I will try to serve to my best abilities. I also believe that I’m not really creating music, but that the music is all around us and I happen to be a medium for that music to enter our reality.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
MW: – I assume that this question is meant in relation to music; I just hope that I can do what I’m already doing for as long as possible; I hope that my family and my friends remain healthy. I’m not afraid for jazz music, because I know that there will always be new amazing talents emerging, carrying on the flame.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
MW: – Get rid of sound checks! Just kidding, I know that we need them…
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
MW: – I already mentioned it earlier: my bass concerto.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
MW: – Yes, of course! Did jazz not start out as a kind of American folk music?
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
MW: – I’ve been listening to a lot of classical music over the past couple of years or so;
I absolutely adore Prokofiev’s 5th Symphony, Strauss’s “Four last Songs” and Gustav Mahler’s works.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
MW: – I just started playing a new bass that the wonderful luthier Arnold Schnitzer built for me last year. I play D’Addario Strings, Acoustic Image Amps, the “Lifeline” Pick-up by David Gage and a DMP microphone.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
MW: – I’d probably want to be dropped off sometime in the mid to late 1950s – I’d love to hear Trane and Monk and Miles and all those other great bands when it all happened.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan