Jazz interview with jazz trombonist Nils Wogram. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Nils Wogram: – I grew up in a small village near the town Braunschweig, Germany. My father is a hobby trombonist and has a large record collection. When I was about 7 years old I started listening to those records by Jack Teagarden, J.J. Johnson, Jimmy Knepper, Curtis Fuller, Albert Mangelsdorff and wanted to play the trombone. Later I got more into Coltrane, Miles, Mingus, Parker a.m.o. I dug the sund, the groove and the hippness of these jazz players and knew that this is my thing. My “tribe”.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the trombone? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the trombon?
NW: – I simply knew the instrument through my father and when I heared these records I fell in love with the sound. At the age of 11 I couldn
t start with trombone because my arm wasnt long enough and at that time there where no children trombones. So I was told to start on the Euphonium. When I changed to the trombone at the age of 14/15 I was highly motivated and had a great trombone teacher named Reinhard Feldmann. I learned simultaneously classical and jazz trombone. One of my first jazz trombone teachers where Ed Kroeger and Uwe Granitza. I was the member of youth Big Bands and many teachers there helped me to get better: Booby Burges, Jiggs Whigham, Bart Van Lier.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
NW: – I had various developments. First I separated classical and Jazz playing totally. I learned how to play traditional Jazz in a small old time jazz combo and some Bebop skills in a Chet Baker like trio. At the same time I played classical trombone pieces from all decades. Also so called “New Music”. Later I started composing and combining different genres. Forming bands and writing my own music with all kind of influences helped me developing my own melodic lines and rhythmic approach. There were less and less role models who I wanted to sound like. Plus: these tune forced me to learn how to play them on the trombone and master difficulties. For example Coltrane wrote Giant Steps, learned how to play it and formed a whole world around it. I don`t want to compare myself to Coltrane! I simply follow that kind of idea.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
NW: – At some point I started listening to eastern European Folk music and musicians that use odd rhythms in their music. For example Dave Douglas, Tim Berne, Hermeto Pascoal, Frank Zappa.I simply tryed to master them and practiced these rhythms by myself and with my friends. The secret is to practice slowly and really know where the 1 of the bar is. Many non-rhythm section players rely on the rhythem section to play the rhythm and form. They only follow them instead of mastering it themself.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
NW: – I like all kind of harmony and I still love playing traditional harmonies as they appear in standards. I have also gotten into harmonies like the one that is used in the romantic period of classical music and even Wagner. Occasionally I use real atonal harmonies. I love variety and contrast in music. I also believe that each musician and personality has many sides and is not one dimensional. That is the reason why I play with different bands and in different styles. When I compose I find these cords and try to play the notes that sound right to me. A much better way than simply using the “correct” scale.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2018: <Nils Wogram & NDR Bigband – Work Smoothly>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
NW: – My goal was to write music which really sounds good for Big Band, fits the NDR Bigband and it`s members and still sounds like my own style. The album is pretty traditional and has lots of references but still some original twists. I think that is what make this album worth listening to. I also think that the whole spirit and sound comes across quite well. I avoided simply doing another exciting modern Big Band album with complex arrangements. The tunes are important and the arrangements leave space for the themes and improvs.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
NW: – Intellect is important but it does not mean anything if the emotion and soul is not audible. I believe that both is possible at the same time. I simply follow my instinct and also take risks in terms of how far I can go towards complexity and simplicity. Both sides are part of me and this word in general. I also want to make people happy with my music. But more in a inspiring and sometime demanding way.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
NW: – Once I had a kid in the audience that said: “Your music sometimes sound wrong yet so good at the same time”. A great compliment. The album “Work Smoothly” was recorded in a rather unconventional way: no head phones, no separation, live to two track analog tape. I simply wanted to get the real spirit and a high concentration in the room and not the perfectly executed performance. Perfection in music is boring. As a thank you and to get everybody in a relaxed mood I invited the band to a nice Italian restaurant before the recording session started. Everyone was very chilled and trusted me in this way of production.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
NW: – When I started playing Jazz was not mainstream. I remember having a music “ranking” in the 4th grade and the only people who voted for my choice where my close friends. Some famous records of live recordings have very few people in the audience. I think our expectation should not be to high and we should simply follow our musical instinct. At the same time I believe we should feel our audience and create music that is somehow related to our soul. That does not mean we have to get more commercial. The fascination of acoustic music, improvisation, groove and Jazz is still present. I also think that younger people should get a chance to program their own concert series or festival. Ofter the older generation decides who plays and still they want the “young people” to come to their concerts. The secret is: they go their own way and need independence. It might not be the exact way the club used to program before though. I`d say: Take that risk!
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
NW: – Music helps me to be the human being I am. I alway have some kind of shelter or home. Music is holy and should not be corrupted by things like money and tactics. Playing with other people means to listen to them and function as a group. To understand and benefit from each others strength and weaknesses. That is a model for life in general and society. My goal is to be a happy, inspired person and share this with others.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
NW: – Wow a nice but very difficult question. If musicians, producers, promoters, agents, managers and even the audience would simply follow their heard/ spirit and not get influenced by image, money, power, position and reputation it be fantastic.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
NW: – When I am on the road I get a lot of music from my colleges. I listen to their recordings and find out about other musicians they like. Some discoveries where: Niels Klein: Loom, Michael Formanek & Enselmble Kolossus and many oithers. Some of my dicoveries appear on my label nwog records.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
NW: – 1959.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan