Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Guido Spannocchi. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Guido Spannocchi: – I grew up in Vienna, Austria, in a house owned by a private person who only rented out flats to musicians so many neighbours were part of the Philharmonic Orchestra, my parents managed to get a flat there because they promised every child would learn an instrument so me and my siblings all learned piano at a young age.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophon? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophon?
GS: – After learning piano for a few years I started to rebel against my parents and the establishment, I wanted a portable instrument that is embedded in modern music so I chose the saxophone. My most important teachers were in Vienna, Stefan Jungmair, Ray Aichinger, who still is a very good friend and mentor as well as at Conservatoire Willi Quarda.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
GS: – Firstly I was really drawn to Maceo Parker and even played the same mouthpiece for years, later I got into Phil Woods and changed my equipment but now I play a similar gear to Kenny Garrett and am drawn a lot to the sound and aesthetic of Roscoe Mitchell and Steve Coleman.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
GS: – My practice routine is divided in various parts to focus on different things, I usually start with sound and lately practice multiphonics to begin with, this is followed by classical etudes, recently a lot of Sigfried Karg-Elert who wrote caprices and an atonal sonata for Saxophone, many of those a rhythmically challenging. Later in the routine I focus on repertoire and learning tunes as well as rhythmical exercises. Currently I practice a lot in 15/8 and 10/8 as well as 7/4 and various sub divisions.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?
GS: – Probably my scope is to find consonance in dissonance and vice versa, especially when it comes to recording I try to engage with the potential anonymous listener and take the audience by the hand into an environment which may be more challenging but you don’t want to scare people off and can create more of a tension span if you start relaxed.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
GS: – Most influences do colour what I do, I am not afraid of that, we all stand on the shoulders of giants, hoewever I try to listen back to recordings of myself and solos I did and pick put bits and pieces which work for me, those parts become licks or compositions. Joe Zawinul taught us that strategy at a workshop in Vienna many years ago.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
GS: – Ideally it’s all the same, one fuels the other, you need to check in with all three, it only works when it’s balanced, otherwise it’ll only be flat and boring. As a human person you consist of the three hence this should correlate in every aspect of your life.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
GS: – I’m okay with taking people by the hand and gently bringing them to the place I want to show them, imagine meeting someone you’re interested in for the first time, you start with a friendly hello before you progress to deeper conversation and exchange. Give and take, call and response…
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
GS: – There are many of those, on this occasion I would like to share how fleeting music and our existence on this planet is, having lost various fantastic colleagues I can only say every concert is a blessing and it’s our duty to reach for the best possible performance. After the gigs the only feeling that’s left is elevation, ideally for audience and performers, no other trace than emotion and a glimpse of something bigger. Without dropping important names I can safely say a lot of magic happens in every live music place around the planet and it a privilege to be part of it.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
GS: – Lately there has been a real resurgence of Jazz, especially in London which is where I live. A lot of young people go to jazz gigs because they want to witness the tightrope act without a safety net. The clue to me is to keep innovating and not only stick to standards but also play free improvisation, use dance or club clichés or contemporary or original repertoire as well as exploring unusual ensembles, that often keeps people interested and surprises the listener.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
GS: – Music is spirit, not someone’s spirit but a manifestation of a mutual global language and understanding, we can all reach out to that and engage in it, this could also be an explanation for the meaning of life.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
GS: – Maybe less wallpaper music in unnecessary environments and more live music instead, why not have more bands in supermarkets, airports, laundries etc?
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
GS: – I went to a magnificent performance of Bruckner Symphony No3 in d minor the other day which kept me quite inspired, other than that a lot of Hank Mobley, Bill Evans, Les Hommes and Black Messiah by Cannonball Adderley.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
GS: – “Right here, right now, this is the best place on earth” Prince said that at a gig and I think he’s right.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
GS: – What would your answers to these questions be?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. More, more …
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
GS: – It’s great to think about these things step by step and gain a little perspective, sometimes we’re so busy taking care of our lives we don’t see the wood for the trees, thanks a lot for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts along these fantastic questions!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan