Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Xose Miguélez. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Xose Miguélez: –I grew up in Galicia (north-west of Spain) I started at age six playing the bagpipes and in traditional Galician music bands, then at the conservatory studying flute , I started with the saxophone and jazz in my early twenties. From the beginning it seemed like a way to meet interesting people and I always felt that there was something deep behind the music. I still think the same today.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
XM: – The instrument changes you little by little, at first it may seem that you play the instrument, but the reality is that the best thing is when the instrument plays you. it’s a matter of learning how to fit into any musical context. Playing with other musicians with more experience than yours is the best way to achieve it.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
XM: – Rhythm has always been my weakest point and that is pretty bad for a jazz musician. I currently play the drums and I try to use the saxophone more like a percussion instrument. Playing with musicians with a great tempo is the best thing for addressing that but it is not always possible. Imitate the greatest and play along with the recordings is another thing that has helped me a lot.
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?
XM: – Thanks a lot for your kind words, I try to be as melodic as possible when I improvise and do not overplay, sometimes it makes me play too diatonically but I think I’m learning to use the dissonance in a melodic way. It’s something that I have to improve quite a lot.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
XM: – I do not prevent then.
JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: <Ontology>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
XM: – All of the compositions on “Ontology” come from a four-note motif that i found in a song sung, in 1981, by my great-aunt Amparo in an old songbook of Galician traditional music. The idea came from the great Kansas City based saxophonist Matt Otto, a teacher, friend and mentor to me and the producer of this recording. Have had the opportunity to record with such incredible musicians and then publish it with a label like Origin Records has been really amazing.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
XM: – The intellect is useful when you are practicing, but on stage it can easily turn against you. It would be great to have a button to turn it off. I do not know what the correct balance would be, I guess it depends on the type of music and the context.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
XM: – There is an energy that comes back from the audience and if you know how to use it, it can be good for the music. In my case, most of the time it feeds my ego more than the music, so I have to be really careful with that.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
XM: – Any time I’m able to get out of the way and not interfere in the music. Lot´s of great concerts that i´ve heard. I remember a solo by Roy Hargrove at the Café Latino in Ourense, many years ago, where you could see heaven through his trumpet. Beautiful moments hearing great musicians when you are on stage. Music is so great…
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
XM: – Time will make them old and they will be interested in jazz hopefully, we just have to be patience.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
XM: – Coltrane was the most honest musician of all time. His union with music was total, I suppose that when you reach those levels the boundaries disappear. I am very far from that so, I do not know very well what to say. The only sense I find in life is to live and jazz makes you live more intensely, especially when you get lost in the form.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
XM: – Listen more and talk less …
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
XM: – Bach in the morning, after that, Paul Desmond, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Coltrane, Getz … Jean-Michel Pilc, Chris Cheek, Matt Otto … I like meaningful musicians.
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
XM: – That´s tricky. Be honest i think, that´s the main thing.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
XM: – I would like to go to the Olympia in Paris on March 21, 1960, when they booed Coltrane and slapped them all.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
XM: – You are really good asking, i can not reach that level… Ok, i´ll make you one, What makes, in your opinion, music so great?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. The improvisation …
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
XM: – Stay humble, practice smart, listen, enjoy, keep swinging. Thanks a lot for the opportunity, Xose Miguélez.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan