Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Bernd Suchland. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Bernd Suchland: – I grew up in Bueckeburg, a small town near Hannover. When I was about 9 years old, I got my first audio tape recorder and – influenced by my elder brother – started listening to 70’s Rock and Pop Music which was popular at that time, e.g. Deep Purple, ABBA and Suzi Quatro. I recorded songs from the radio and started my first music collection. Later, I became a freak with long hair. My first (conscious) encounter with a saxophone was when I saw the movie „The Wanderers“ and listened to the soundtrack – I really liked it. However, I started playing the saxophone not until I was 16 years old and just for fun I played songs like Samba Pa Ti by ear. I got into jazz a year later since a friend of mine played the piano and lots of famous jazz-standards. I was immediately overwhelmed by the melodies and beautiful chords. As a consequence, I started looking for the most important recordings in the record stores, always with several discography lists (e.g. one list I found in a music notebook from Jamey Aebersold). So right from the start I became aquainted with the famous LP’s like Kind of Blue, Saxophon Colossus, Blue Train, Speak no Evil, Maiden Voyage, Go. That was a huge advantage and it influenced my taste and sense for quality in everything I listened to since then.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
BS: – My favorite was Dexter Gordon with his full sound, rich in overtones/harmonics. I compared lots of saxophonists, mouthpieces, but I always came back to that „Dexter Gordon Sound“, that had a lot to do with the then Florida Otto Link Metal mouthpiece.
However, my partner on tenor saxophone Patrick Braun is based on Gene Ammons. He plays an old Brilhart mouthpiece. That’s how we differ very well.
I think that somehow you have to make a clear decision – for one direction/style and one kind of mouthpiece. The rest is a good reed, regular practice, but foremost you need an inner vision.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
BS: – To play everything with a metronome set to 2 and 4. While practicing with play-a-longs or with a real band, I open my ears and try to listen to what’s happening in the band – especially the drums – and align with this, all at the same time. It’s like multitasking. The moment you have a new idea, you stop listening and loose the time …
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
BS: – Discipline and structure in your everyday life.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
BS: – I try not to drink too much or too little beer before our perfomances.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2020: <The Toughest Tenors – Well-Kept Secrets>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
BS: – The sound, especially from the saxophones, is great. The Band swings. The assortment of the pieces fits well and the cover is unique, just have a look at that photo of Minton’s Playhouse on the inlay. The artwork is a real highlight!
It was formed when I had saved enough money for the production, that took a few years.
Each day, I practice melodic lines, riffs and motives in order to bring them to swing.
JBN: – Is misculled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
BS: – We are a steady band, playing together since nearly two decades. Over the years, we have found each other in Berlin’s many Jazz Clubs and on the numerous Jam Sessions in the city. What belongs together comes together and stays together! This two tenor formation is unique in the consequence and the large repertoire of over 150 tunes in the world. I was lucky. The band really is a miracle.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
BS: – On stage everything is soul, feeling, inspiration, if you’re lucky. I need my intellect only for issuing the invoice and for my way back into the hotel after a gig.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
BS: – The audience is different, depending upon the region. We always perform like hell and give 100 per cent. But the audience always is thankful for the opportunity to listen to straight ahead jazz and not that endless, headlessly European crossover.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
BS: – I could tell a lot of awkard stories. But it is always real fun if an established Jazzclub cancels an appointment because our music might not want to fit into its programme…
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
BS: – This does not depend upon the age of the tunes. Young people should listen to more hip Jazz Standards, e.g. Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine. This style is swinging, it is cool and it stands for a laid back lifestyle. These days jazz music often is seen as an awkward playground where everybody feels free to try themselves out or mix up things. No wonder that people often are put off.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
BS: – The meaning of life is impossible to define, even though there is one. The spiritual meaning of music, however, should not be overinterpreted. You can lead a happy life also without music.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
BS: – I would like to get rid of all CDs, MP3s and all streaming services in order to make money with LP vinyl records.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
BS: – Most of the time, I listen to myself while improvising. Sometimes I listen to music at home. If it’s good, like for example an solo by Lester Young, it blows my mind and I cannot do anything else but listening. That’s really stirring me.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
BS: – I don’t want to transport a message or anything like that. But I am happy to introduce the timeless quality of this style of jazz to the people. Since jazz has it roots in Blues music I’d rather love to get the soul of Blues across to the audience.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
BS: – Even though you might not want to believe this after all these questions: I don’t want to go back to the 1950ies. I’m rather forward-turned. I would like to know where the journey might lead us. Please note, this kind of music is timeless and the milky way is huge….
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
BS: – What do you think chances are that I could sell enough CDs to reach a good return if I invest money in your platform?
JBN: – Thank you for answers. Yes, of course, because every day our website have more 64 000 readers.
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
BS: – By telling the people to consciously pause for a moment and listen to „Idle Moments“ from my new CD.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan