June 13, 2024

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Interview with Toine Thys: I enjoy on a regular basis: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Toine Thys. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Toine Thys: – I grew up in Brussels, Belgium. I had the chance to get a musical education, like my brother Nicolas THYS (bass player) and my sister Marie THYS (singer). Our mother is a good amateur pianist, and she made sure we learned solfeggio and one or two instruments. Rather classical music I’d say. I used to play clarinet as a kid, but always listened to Jazz records, like Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis (Bitches brew..).

It took a while to decide to be involved a 100% with music, I first studied Geography in Brussels and Lisabon. I actually graduated as a Master of Music in Holland, and as a Geographer  in Brussels.

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

TT: – I started alto sax, then later soprano, and finally tenor and Bass clarinet. I currently play three horns on all my shows. But I have a secret love for clarinet, a somehow underrated instrument in modern jazz.

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

TT: – This is probably the most frequently asked question from students to more advanced players. Besides some routine technical exercises I do for the fingers, I improvise on chord progressions. Sometimes I work rubato, to make sure I have the time to hear what I play. Sometime I focus on groove, and try to keep it very simple, and keep space in my phrasing to play the groove. Try to make the metronome my best friend…

I tend to see my saxophone as a percussion instrument. It is refreshing at least to see it that way.

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?

TT: – I’ve a very tonal guy for years. Diatonic you could say. I am more interested in different harmonies now, like some based on Messiaen 3th mode. Sort of 3 augmented triads superimposed to each other. I am investigating some new harmonic experiences recently, event though groove is my first concern.

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

TT: – Disparate influences is not somehting I worry about. It all depends how organic you can blend different influences you might have. I love to hear a player that has different sides. And beeing afraid of beeing influenced is something I do not experience. I see it as a chance.

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

TT: – Ask Mr John Coltrane, he’ll come up with a better answer.

JBN.S: – I think you no longer have the intelligence …

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

TT: – This is somehow a dilemma. I love to play for an audience, and I love when they like what they hear (and see). The opposite situation makes me somehow feeling lonely. But I don’t think I am being untrue to myself. I’d be much richer if I was !

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

TT: – This concert in Kenya last month in front of 10.000 enthusiastic young Kenyan was one thrilling. Fun to see how different they react to Jazz music then a more specialized audience.

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

TT: – I don’t know how, but I see a lot of young musician being fantastic jazz improvisers from an early age on. That’s the magic of it.

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

TT: – I am sorry, these are things I do not understand. At the most I enjoy on a regular basis.

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

TT: – I’d love people to listen my more patience, and more with they ears then with their eyes.

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

TT: – I listen to Salif Keita, Rihanna, Jimmy Mc Griff, Anouar Brahem for instance.

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

TT: – I believe I’d like to make people happy for a moment. I’d like to have them a good time, and travel with me to different places of the world, and of the soul. I see it as a travel really.

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

TT: – Will I reach what I am really aiming?

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. No, of course …

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

TT: – I’ll get close by.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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