June 20, 2024


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Interview with David Friesen: I played opposite John Coltrane a couple of times … Video

Jazz interview with jazz bassist and pianist David Friesen. An interview by email in writing. 

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

David Friesen: – I was born in Tacoma, Washington USA and moved to Spokane, Washington and then to Seattle, Washington…but it was in Spokane, Washington when as a 5 year old boy playing with my toy trucks on the floor of my home, that I heard a friend of my sister Dyan play on our piano some “Boogie Woogie” jazz blues. At that precise moment I stopped playing with my toy trucks and stared and listened in wonder to what was being played. After the friend left, I went to the piano and tried to emulate what I had just heard. I never played with the toy trucks again.

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

DF: – I really didn’t do anything to develop my sound. Of course I practiced scales, arpeggios and many other things to develop my technique and I suppose the quality of my sound gained more clarity … but my understanding of sound has mostly to do with  each musician’s personality/characteristics … a spiritual part of the music. As I have grown in music, not given to emulating any other musician, my personal sound has grown and developed over the years … as a boy becomes a man, the changes happen naturally.

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

DF: – Composition has taught me to hear more melodies … to hear compositionally when soloing through the chord changes as opposed to just chord scale relationships, though chord scale relationships are important to know also, but not as important to me personally.

I have composed several pieces of music in 7/4 and 5/4 and also I have composed a few pieces with mixed time signatures in a single composition. Playing these pieces with my Circle 3 Trio – Joe Manis-tenor, soprano, Charlie Doggett-drums, has been a real learning experience … even though I have composed the music, it has not been easy for me to improvise on when soloing … but over time I have found ways of navigating through the slalom course.

Today, all the young players have no problem playing in odd time signatures…7/4 for the young is like 4/4 or 3/4 (easier odd time to play) for me, because when I came up playing jazz in the mid 60’s, the only musicians I knew who were playing in odd time was Dave Brubeck (Take Five) and the Don Ellis orchestra. Almost all the jazz musicians in the 60’s that I came in contact with and admired were not playing in odd times … so you really never hear the great players like Miles, Coltrane, Evans, Dexter, Getz and on and on playing in odd time.

In my opinion, great time and phrasing justifies the notes being played. “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” which is not an excuse for not learning the theory and the practical applications related to learning the craft of jazz music … but I have learned that all the practicing I have done, has given me the confidence, technique and flexibility to take my eyes off myself, so I can listen and respond creatively to what I hear … making what I hear and my reaction the most important part of the music.

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?

DF: – It is impossible to please everyone … so, when I compose music, I always compose to please myself, first and foremost. Sometimes the chords come first, sometimes the melodies, sometimes they come together. I always provide myself with a lot of options to choose from. Sometimes a certain chord and/or progression will change the melody from what it first was … that or visa versa. Nothing is ever carved in stone … I do my very best to allow the composition I am working on to unfold as naturally as possible.

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

DF: – Even though I have never made a conscious effort to emulate anyone … the fact remains “No man is an island” … we all influence each other. Impossible to be totally original!My current project will take place in Kiev, Ukraine where I will be recording 12 of my original compositions arranged for the National Academic Symphonic Band of Ukraine (a 40 piece woodwind and brass orchestra) conducted by Vikulov Oleksiy. Also, I have just finished recording 13 of my original compositions with my Circle 3 Trio. We will be touring in Arizona in February 2019 and Europe in March 2019.

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

DF: – I would say the word “Trust”.

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

DF: – For me, the audience is very important … I try and honor their commitment for attending my concerts. We both have a responsibility … out of respect for one another, the musician gives 100% to the performance and the audience in turn listens 100%. The people who want to hear the music of David Friesen will obviously come to my concerts … those expecting to hear something else will be disappointed.

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

DF: – There are of course so many, that it would take many pages to share them all. I guess one that stands out is the trip to the Soviet Union in 1983, where I was a featured artist with the Paul Horn Quartet. We were the first group to play jazz concerts for the public in 50 years. We played 7 concerts in 7 days in Moscow to over 3000 people each and every night … 4 concerts in Leningrad (at that time this was the name for this city) to over 5000 persons each night…and ending in Vilnius and Kaunas with over 3000 persons attending a concert in each of the cities.

One other memorable performance that has stood out, was a performance of my music in 2016 with the National Academic Symphonic Band of Ukraine (a 40 piece woodwind and brass orchestra) conducted by Vikulov Oleksiy. This concert was performed in the city of Smila where my mother was born.

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

DF: – I have been teaching at the Jamey Aebersold Jazz camp for the past several years which takes place at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky usually the first 2 weeks in July…this year will be year number 55. So many of the students attending are from the ages of 11-16.

There are many jazz musicians like myself going into schools and sharing the art form of jazz to the students. I just came back from teaching at a performing arts school in Lagos, Nigeria where there were several young students who love the art form of jazz. Not everyone is going to like jazz, but at least there are multitudes of young person’s learning about this art form. My experience has been, that when students hear an old standard tune being played, I don’t think they care what tune is being played … rather the skill of improvising and the feeling that is in the music … this is what I think attracts everyone to the music … especially the feeling.

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

DF: – I played opposite John Coltrane a couple of times at the Penthouse jazz club in Seattle, Washington in 1965. During a break at the club on a Saturday afternoon, Coltrane and I had a brief conversation about the spirit of the music and one’s spiritual commitment to one’s self. I don’t remember hearing him tell me that music was his spirit … but I do remember his commitment to God in his life and the sorrow he had for not realizing earlier in his life the depth of the power of God.

Jesus Christ said “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6  The concept of the Christian faith, is that man (humans) are initially separated from God because of sin. However, God made a provision for us…not telling us to try and do good, go to church and give money to the needy, etc., which in it selves are good things … but this doesn’t take away the sin that has been committed by man. God dealt with our sin by forgiving us…unconditional love displayed by the Lord becoming a man and paying the price of sin which is death…dying on the cross and then as our Lord overcoming the death on the cross, He rose on the 3rd day. God’s forgiveness, His unconditional love displayed.

This is obviously something we can believe or not … I choose to believe it. I have never heard of anything that displays God love for us in a better way, nor how sin is dealt with, because sin is real and it doesn’t just fade away because we forget about it … it is a real commodity that we have chosen to purchase in our lives.

I thank God for His endless love! God gave me the gift of music … He has led my way … by His power and for His Glory.

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

DF: – Probably that promoters or club owners would become responsible and return telephone and email messages!

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

DF: – I do respect all the great musicians in the world today and have heard some amazing music by a lot of the newer young players on the jazz scene today, however I listen mainly to my own music … my new projects that I am working on. I am so busy with new projects and composing, it would be distracting for me to spend time listening to other musicians music.

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

DF: – I believe that God created music to heal a broken world, bring joy and praise and offer hope in one’s personal life … in contrast to putting man on the pedestal to be worshipped and not giving th glory and honor to the One that created music.

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

DF: – Probably back to the past at various points in my life to redo things that I failed to accomplish.

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

DF: – Yes, of course. My question to you is: Why do you love jazz?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Because jazz is my life!!!

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

DF: – I know my purpose in life … this has given me the strength to walk by faith, knowing that the Lord God would not call me into a certain place and then abandon me.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу David Friesen

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