May 18, 2024

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Interview with Benny Lackner: I go through different phases of inspiration: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Benny Lackner. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – 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? 

Benny Lackner: – Its definitely an album that is based around a very melodic approach where the solos and improvisations are kept to a minimum in order to keep the focus of the song and keep the overall tension that is being built up. I use dissonance and electronic effects sparsely on purpose to create tension once in a while, but tend to play more diatonically on this recording.

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

BL: – Jerome Regard and Matthieu Chazarenc have a big influence on all the decisions that are made in the studio. I do not like to take any recording that all three of us do not approve of. I like having their honest feedback to bounce ideas off of and it helps me keep a check on reality. So in other words, it is a real trio effort.

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

BL: – I think it is important to keep an open mind to challenges and growth while listening to your gut feeling when creating a piece of art. I go through different phases of inspiration where I will research a new polyrhythm or harmony and then have to adapt it to my compositions and make it my own. This process is essential, otherwise it gets too cerebral and detached from emotional content and sounds like an exercise.

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

BL: – I am happy to play music for listeners that are not schooled in jazz.  The way we attempt to keep the audiences attention is by creating melodies that people can follow and then take them on a journey that they can hopefully manage to understand. We incorporate changing rhythms and new variations while keeping a thread going so that everyone that is paying attention can easily follow the developing compositions. If it gets too abstract for me it will get too abstract for everyone else as well.

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

BL: – I have a had many different opportunities with this trio that have been amazing. The highlight so far was definitely playing at the Cotton Club in Tokyo. The amount of respect and dignity with which we were received was overwhelming. Other times that were amazing in my personal musical life include playing with Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden when I was a student. I will never forget that intensity and joy they brought to their instruments and those around them.

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

BL: – Although I am currently in a phase which is guided more by original compositions, I generally choose cover songs that younger audiences can relate to. Lately I have been playing songs by James Blake, Radiohead , Bjork, David Bowie as well as using modern rhythmic feels in our own tunes. Not necessarily to convince anyone, but because it keeps our repertoire fresh for ourselves as well.

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

BL: – I think that Spotify and free downloads are unfair to the musicians who spend all of their energy and money producing music for the listeners. For example,  the system is such right now that I have a Cd release in a few weeks and already am getting emails that tell me where i can download my album for free. That’s not right and needs to change. This change can only take place if the listeners respect the musicians and choose to reward them for their efforts. Spotify is not a solution that is fair either, but cd sales and record sales seem to be on the rise again.

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

BL: – To listen to each other and respect one another,  no matter where you come from. When we play music together it only works if we take a step back and hear what the other person is trying to express. Only by taking out ones own ego and submitting to the sum of all sounds can we have a meaningful exchange. When we have a conversation it is exactly the same thing.

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

BL: – I would love to be able to sit at the Village Vanguard and see Bill Evans live. Or Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel or Coltrane’s Quartet at any concert that they gave.  Also, Monk at the 5 Spot would be nice to experience in real time. Whenever I saw one of my idols live it really changed my inner core and relationship to music.

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

BL: – What motivates you to have this deep commitment to music and to have this wonderful exchange with musicians all over the world? We need people like you to keep the music alive and spread the word.

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. Love of JAZZ!!

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

BL: – I am really focusing on time management and efficiency these days. Meaning, I try and use every minute of the day for something productive. Before I had kids i wasted so much time drinking coffee and having around. Now I schedule my entire week in advance so that I know exactly when to practice, exercise, manage my business emails and then relax with the family without stressing about everything else The more organized I get, the easier it is to actually relax and be in the moment in every aspect of the day. I am am getting more efficient at preparing for concerts and even plan the sets we play for weeks in advance. This allows for greater comfort on stage. The spontaneous elements then get fed back into the set, once I am relaxed.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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