Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist and fluteist Niko Zeidler. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Niko Zeidler: – My hometown is Berlin and I still live in the south there. I have two brothers who do music as well. One studied Composition and the other works at Grammaphon, the classic label of Universal. For me music always was a huge thing in my life. When I got my first radio I listened my whole free time to music and this never stoped, only now I listen to records.
I think my both brothers were a big influence too because they started early with playing drums and so I was sour-rounded with live music as well.
With seven I began to take Saxofonlessons and when I heard the first time Charlie Parker’s Au Privave I was into it.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
NZ: – Listen and transcribing. Most of the time Dexter Gordon. That’s it. And to transcribe doesn’t mean playing the notes, that’s just the first step. It means to play EXACTLY like the Cat, in terms of timing, sound, volume, Intonation and energy.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
NZ: – I always start with long notes. Holding notes as long as you can and as voluminous. After that I practice technic something like scales in different ways or articulation or Etudes. And than I do a bit of Transcribing and playing the Transkription and the last step is doing Music. Playing tunes, and more tunes, checking out some solos and try to imitate some Cats.
Concerning time I would say you have to have a vision in your hat, how it should sound. For me a big source for that was transcribing Dexter. He has such a nice laid back time!!!
After you know how it sounds in your head I take swinging lines and patterns, play them really slow and try to time them as I hear it in my head. When it flows I increase the tempo.
For me the most important aspect of good timing is, that I’m never in front of the best, always in or better a bit behind the beat.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
NZ: – I hope I didn’t get the question wrong, but I thing disparate influences shaped me to this what I’m now, personal and musically.
As I sad without Dexter Gordon or Charlie Parker I wouldn’t play like I play or maybe wouldn’t play Saxofon at all.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
NZ: – The balance changes with the years. In the beginning it’s nearly 100% intellect. You have to learn notes, scales, chords, which tone fits to which chord etc. but after you internalized that the soul should get a bigger part and hopefully when I’m 80 I can only trust on my soul let my mind complete free in the music. Now days when I play a blues it’s taking the direction. Looking forward to play everything and just switch of my head.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
NZ: – I’m ok with it, if it’s the music I want to play, actually then it’s perfect. I don’t like the thought about giving the audience what they want. I want to do my music in my style so that it satisfies me. In my opinion it “just” has to be on a top level then everything can convince the main part of the audience. Everyone should do it like this and don’t lie to himself.
BUT I take much time to think about how to present it to the people. What do I wear, how is the light, the setup, how much eye contact do i have, how many emotions do I transmit to the audience. Many of the Jazz musicians forget this, but that’s a big part of our job.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
NZ: – One day with the Kenniko Standards Duo we played a ballad, could be These Foolish Things or In the Wee small hours of the morning, and one woman in the audience shed some tears, that was a really warm compliment.
And one thing I want to say: The “Bundesjazzorchester” is the pleasant and familial Big Band I know:)
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
NZ: – This doesn’t matter. It still has its charm and all the recordings are so great, ther is no way to don’t like it :))
The young generation can play the tunes as they want, in a new unprecedented way. They can follow the freedom of jazz and can do what ever they want. That should be good enough to get people interested into jazz.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
NZ: – In my opinion the meaning of live is to enjoy not to work. Many people are working and working for some free time but as a result there is no free time. So your job should be free time, like playing Saxofon and doing music. That’s my way to get happy.
John Coltrane was a genius living on a nother planet. I can’t reach his spirit and the way what music is for him. For me music is my life. Without I wouldn’t know what to do and I would be unhappy.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
NZ: – The reason why the main part of the music industry exist is because of money. Because some non musicians think: “ohh with this I can become rich. Let’s do it” There is so much music which is for making money and not for it self. I would change that. Everything has to be real, from the heart of the musicians.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
NZ: – I’m still listening to Dexter Gordon. In the last weeks I discovered Bob Berg. Crazy Man. Besides this I listen to much hip hop, like The Roots, D’Angelo, Slum Village etc. but also to the rising London Jazz with f.e. Nubiyan Twist, but also some music which is more “popy”like Tom Misch or Jordan Rakai.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
NZ: – Be real, have fun and enjoy your life.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
NZ: – Back to the 40s and 50s, to the Bebop and Hardbop area. Until now this is my biggest inspiration source with Bird, Dexter, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell. I would love to hear them live get in touch with the energy of a concert and in the Jazzclubs. Must be crazy when this music is the today’s pop music and everybody wants to hear it. Maybe play with them on a session. That would be dope!!
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
NZ: – What is jazz for you?
JBN: – My life !!!
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
NZ: – I can spread it on my social media channels and hopefully many people read this get interested and a closer look on me. Maybe come to concerts and support me and jazz.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan