May 20, 2024

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Interview with Pawel Kaczmarczyk: Virtuosity is undoubtedly a very important part of feeling at ease in the world of sounds: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Pawel Kaczmarczyk. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Pawel Kaczmarczyk: – I was born in Krakow, but grew up in my family home in a village near Krakow. My parents had a farm, which was their main livelihood. My grandfather was an organist in our parish church for half a century, my father plays the accordion non-professionally and my brother plays the saxophone. In fact, it was the brother who planted the love for improvised music in my heart. I showed predispositions in this area already at the age of three. That is why I was sent to I. J. Paderewski’s music school in Krakow.

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

PK: – I have always been very much interested in the history of American and Polish jazz. I quickly understood that the deeper the roots reach the higher the tree grows. In the beginning, I created own versions of my favourite music pieces only to realise that they differ greatly from the originals. That is why I soon decided that I should begin composing my own music. I still have a fondness for arrangement, however, I derive greater satisfaction from composition. I suppose that I have been most profoundly influenced by the 15-year cooperation with the band of the Polish jazz legend, Janusz Muniak, who mentored all of the leading Polish jazzmen, including Marcin Wasilewski Trio. What influences my music the most at the moment is being open to all of the styles and trends that help jazz music attract young generations of listeners. That is why I often juxtapose various musical concepts not only across my albums but also in single pieces. I have always strived to turn my albums into an absorbing substantial plot rather than a simple collection of compositions.

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

PK: – Routine? Jazz and improvised music probably despise this word. I dedicate a lot of time to all of the technological novelties related to the production and creation of music. When it comes to practice, I avoid any kind of routine and accept challenges that are difficult to face. Development requires you to leave your comfort zone. I practice what I can’t do and try to forget what I have already mastered in order not to follow the same footsteps. As for the rhythm, I have developed my own ways of working with a metronome, based on the musical exercise of “The Virtuoso Pianist” by L. C. Hanon. For many years, it has helped me develop my efficiency, improve the sound and position the rhythm and the feeling.

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?

PK: – Due to my classical background I have approached the canons of classical music harmonically. Especially the Polish legacy of Chopin or Paderewski. I am also deeply moved by the work of such composers as Bartok, Ravel, Debussy or Brahms. I have always had the impression that this is exactly where we can find the most direct harmonic connections with jazz music. Harmony is a sort of reflection of the emotions that guide me. It seems to me that the harmonic language that I am using is a palette of colours on the canvas of a painting, which is how I see my albums. Balancing between dissonance and harmony is a natural part of our lives. In the albums that I have recorded so far, one can find a direct reflection of my emotional states as well as the story of how I have been developing.

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

PK: – Desperately trying to create something new may prove to be a wrong direction. With every step we take in the world around us, we are bombarded with various types of music, which influences us automatically. If a listener finds a connection between what he or she has heard before and the music I have created, it will be a compliment for me. It would be like comparing a common girl’s beauty to that of a top model’s. It is always pleasant and ennobling. In my music, I always try to juxtapose the opposites: acoustic music with electronic music and scratching, ethno and folk with contemporary groove and motion or a large ensemble of instruments with solos. While doing so, I strive for perfect harmony of these juxtapositions in order to create an impression that they have always sounded well together. I suppose that we can only decide whether music was innovative in retrospect. It comes naturally, without any unnecessary influence on our part.

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

PK: – Virtuosity is undoubtedly a very important part of feeling at ease in the world of sounds, but the backbone and the essence of music is the soul and emotionality. The spiritual aspect of creation and performance has ensured the survival of a great deal of wonderful music till our times. Using virtuosity and intellect is like creating a draft plan. The soul of the music comes to life the moment you consciously resign from that plan and create something that cannot be described with words.

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

PK: – This aspect has always seemed more complicated to me than the question you’ve just asked. Each creator strives to be uncompromising while creating his or her art. It’s like the constant struggle between to have and to be. I am not sure whether in my case it is about giving the audience what they want. What I can say is that I’m very happy that my fans identify with what I do without me having to resort to any extramusical measures. It helps me feel confident that I am moving in the right direction.

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

PK: – Undoubtedly, one of such special musical encounters was the concert I gave together with the masters of the Norwegian improvised music: Arild Andersen and Jon Christensen. To me, they represent the unbelievable dimension of space and sound that characterises Scandinavian musicians. Saxophone Summit, which took place a few years ago in Krakow, was another extraordinary musical meeting. I had the indescribable pleasure to perform in its final part together with Branford Marsalis’s quartet as well as Greg Osby and Lee Konitz. I remember seeing Lee Konitz warm up before the performance with a piece of cloth in the bell of his saxophone. It gave the instrument a quieter matt sound. Janusz Muniak, whom I performed with at that time, was mocking Konitz by stuffing the bell of his saxophone with a bunch of bananas and then with a shoe and a sock that he had just taken off his foot. While doing this, he kept asking Konitz which sound he liked more. Lee laughed a whole lot.

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

PK: – At the peak of the popularity of jazz music, people who went to Broadway shows, cinemas or concerts wanted to listen to the music they had heard at those shows and on the big screen. Subconsciously, we like listening to the music we already know. At the moment, more and more jazz musicians add popular music covers to their repertoire, which attracts young people’s attention. In my opinion, Robert Glasper does a lot in this respect by connecting a familiar beat with sophisticated rhythmical structures and virtuosic instrumental passages. A significant aspect of jazz music is its danceability. It’s enough to look at the golden era of swing or the funky 1970s. I think it’s that danceability that appeals to the young audience, which is full of energy and eagerness to dance to more sophisticated music.

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

PK: – In my view, the spiritual aspect of life is of paramount importance. It means constantly searching for answers, discovering them and posing more and more difficult questions. I’m not sure if I’m ready to talk about the spiritual aspect and the sense of life from my point of view. I believe that the doubts I’m having allow me to open my mind and my heart more to the things that happen to me. It guides me calmly and patiently along the path to the unhampered and well-thought statement concerning this topic in the future.

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

PK: – I think that the world around us is, in a way, perfect. The musical one as well. I’m not sure if it requires any changes. I suppose that we all have a huge potential to influence the world on a daily basis. It all depends on us really.

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

PK: – I am currently listening to all kinds of music that originate from the Afro-American culture and tradition: jazz, hip-hop, gospel, soul and blues. I spend a lot of time browsing through ethno and classical music. I sometimes listen to electronic music too. When it comes to specific performers, Wayne Shorter and Robert Glasper belong to the group of the artists whose music fulfils my needs.

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

PK: – It’s a bit like the soundtrack of a film that hasn’t been made yet but wants to be created in the mind of the listener. I don’t want to deprive my audience of the freedom of interpretation. I would like my music to be accompanied by emotions that will stay in each heart and soul for a long time. I want to stimulate their creation, not their shape.

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

PK: – I sometimes dream about going back in time to personally experience the music of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, when the different styles of music were being shaped and the division between them was very clear. Those were amazingly interesting times.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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