Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Fredrik Carlquist. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Fredrik Carlquist: – I grew up in a small town in south of Sweden called Jönköping. As a kid I sat at the piano with my grandmother who sang and played piano. That’s my first recollection of being involved with music. My neighbour had a clarinet that I got to try and at 9 years age I could start getting instrumental classes in school and I choose the clarinet. At ten years age I switched to alto sax.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
FC: – As a beginner I don’t remember being very aware of my sound, I just tried to imitate my teacher’s way of playing. Up until I was 16 I listened mostly to pop and rock music where the sax wasn’t very prominent which led me to get some jazz records because I wanted to get a better idea of what could be done with the the sax. I was hooked immediately and it was striking how different players had different sounds. From that point I just tried to emulate what they did – with various success. It’s very obvious that the early influences make a foundation of my conception of what a “good” sound is. Being a tenor player mainly since 30 years I still find myself gravitating towards an alto sound sometimes since that’s where I started out. In later years I think I have a tendency to relate to sound more out from an emotional starting point more then stamping off in one of my idol’s sound. E.g to play soft, aggressive, lyrical or smooth for instance.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
FC: – I play a lot of solo sax and clarinet and record I record myself. That reveals if what I’m playing makes sense both rhythmically and melodically and if the listener can follow the song that I’m playing. I think that really strengthens you as a player if you can do that well.
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?
FC: – To try to understand how melody and harmony naturally want to develop is very essential and enormously interesting to me. Dissonance is a natural part of harmony and if you know how to resolve things the most dissonant notes can sound smooth too. The more you learn about this the freer you will be. The American Songbook has always been some kind of starting point to me. It sums up western 20th century harmony very well and it can take you anywhere if you start to work on it. Blues is very interesting and important also and is what gives jazz another harmonic colour then classical music and it opens doors to many other musical domains. How much dissonance I use depends on the context and my mood of the day but I do have a sweet tooth for smooth melodies.
JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
FC: – By trial and error and respect for what you are playing and trying to achieve you can hopefully come up with something that works. I try listen closely to what I am doing and get an idea of what sounds good out from my taste. You also need to give things time to get a perspective on what works and what doesn’t.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
FC: – Music is an expression for both soul and intellect and the exact balance probably depends on the player’s personality. Personally I feel that the intellect is more prominent during practice while soul, expression and intuition should take the lead in the performing situation.
JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
FC: – With experience and the ability to read the audience you will most likely become a better performer. If you feel that you don’t reach your audience you’d better look into what’s not working. The problem could lay within your music or the situations you perform in – or in booth. Either way you need to deal with it if you are interested in having an audience at all.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
FC: – In the mid 90-ties I got the chance to do a couple of tours with the great trumpet player Benny Bailey. Looking back at playing, talking to and to watch this legend in action I realize what a privilege it is to get to learn directly from the source. He was generous and we had a great time but he also let me know what needed to be worked on and I’m still working.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
FC: – The typical jazz repertoire of yesterdays seems to have the quality to become truly classic. You hear more young players today performing jazz standards then 30 years ago which is good of course but it is also important to really learn this music well. To develop a voice that engages the listener and that you have a strong relation to what you are playing. That successful artists record jazz songs probably helps also to find a broader audience where some might get interested to dig deeper in the jazz field.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
FC: – To me the spirit is what goes beyond what can be put into words and perhaps that’s why we play music in the first place. A genius artist like Coltrane had the capacity and knowledge to go so deep into what he was doing that things started to come out that go beyond the notes and the intellectual part of it. That’s something really meaningful in life to me.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
FC: – To add a thirteens note … 🙂 No, but it would be wonderful if your audience just automatically growed with your musical growth and we all just could focus on playing.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
FC: – Trying to get more of the greats into my system I have tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse on my list for the moment. I also listen to classical music and now I’m checking out Ravel. For my clarinet playing I’m listening to Kenny Davern.
JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
FC: – To have a voice that is strong enough to engage people to stop up and listen and be in the music or a while. To try to encourage people to be “hear and now” and enjoy it.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
FC: – Well, the New York jazz scene in the 50-ties must have been absolutely mind blowing.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
FC: – Looking at the jazz business from your perspective as an editor – Do you think that jazz reaches out to more people today with all social media, youtube etc then let’s say 25 years ago? Are there more listeners today? (There seems to be more players at least)
JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. Jazz reaches out to more people today with all social media, youtube etc then let’s say 25 years ago: No, of course, becouse many impostors among musicians who do not even know what the cooperation of the media …
JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
FC: – I will just continue doing my music and try to find new paths leading ahead building on what I have and know and learn more.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan