June 19, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Harald Svensson: I wish the big audience could become more curious: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Harald Svensson. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Harald Svensson: – I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. My father played the piano. Not professional though and exclusively from classic reportoare. With time I grew up he became collector of records. There was all kind of classical music from Hildegard von Bingen to Boulez and Penderecki. Jazz came to me mainly through radio and TV but for some reason there was a couple of Louis Armstrong records in the collection that I listen a lot to as a kid. But before I got in to jazz, during my teenage period, I listen to pop music as we all did in the neighborhood in the 60’s.

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

HS: – I was maybe about 16 years old when I started to go jazz conserts listening to the local bands. Most of them playing in the style of the 50’s and me and a couple of classmates tried to do what they did. However me and my nearest friend who was a guitar player, very soon got in to the contemporary music of eg. Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Gary Burton. During my time at High School trombone player Eje Thelin came and had workshops in free improvisation. I later came to stay in his group for about eight years.

I never had any pronounced goals conserning what kind of style I wanted to play in exept it should be contemporary. The music we played in Eje Thelin Group was very free but I also played in a fusion band and in a quartet where the music  was inspired of both Brasilian stuff as well of Keith Jarrett and others. This was in the 70’s and there were a lot happening in jazz sceen during that period. In my own collection of records and tapes there were music by Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Joachim Kuhn, John Surman and of course a lot of Swedish artist like the piano players Bobo Stensson and Per Henrik Wallin. Maybe those too alongside Paul Bley have been the most important pianists in the long run.

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

HS: – I am a very disorganized person. Routins are not my strong side although I have of course been spending a lot of time at the piano from time to time and even moore with age. Nowdays I spend ours and ours every day at the instrument. I sometimes wish I had spent that time when I was young. Most often I play what I use to call “random improvisation” which is a way of trying to play whatever without missing notes. Slowly new frases, chords or patterns get in to my mind and fingers. I am not sure I can explain that 🙂 Or I just pick a standard tune and play it around over and over.

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

HS: – I don’t think I quite understand that question. I try not to think when I play. Just listen.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

HS: – I never prepare. I only have a very vague idea what it is going to be. I know some of the musicians I want to work with but all I no for sure is that it’s going to something completely different.

JBN: – Ism is culled 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?

HS: – The last eight years I have been giving most of my time to free improvasation allthough it has allways been a part my way express myself. I guess my sound has evolved, it would be strange otherwise, but I cannot tell in what way.

The musicians on the album are partly old friends with who I’m been working with since long back. Others are young musicians in the free jazz field thad I have met more recently but also worked with. Finally a couple of the musicians in the string section playing on the record they were the first time I worked with together. But I had meet and heard them play. When I select people to play with it is as much important that I get a nice feeling being together as it is how I like their playing.

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

HS: – Intellect is maybe a tool like scills. Soul is what you do with it.

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

HS: – It depends if I play in my own band or as a sideman. But I cannot play music that I don’t like. When it comes to my own music I don’t comprimise.

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

HS: – There are so many I don’t know what to chose. First time in the USA with Eje Thelin playing at the Monterey Jazz or maybe more recentely at a barock festival I Göteborg in a performance playing music by female composers from the 17th century.

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

HS: – Maybe it’s not what you play but how 🙂

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

HS: – I don’t belive there is a meaning of life. Not in a metaphysical way. Meaning is what I myself give to life. For me it is good friends, love, music, art, reading … things that make me want to go on and learn.

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

HS: – I wish the big audience could become more curious and not only go for the music they already know but give themself a chance to explore what richness there are out there.

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

HS: – I have a weakness for early barock music and all kind of contemporary stuff. But normaly I don’t longer listen much to recorded music. I prefer live and usally I go out to listen as often as I can.

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

HS: – I have no message. I do what I do and hopefully I have given something to some to bring with them.

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

HS: – To the 17th in Venice. To world of Monteverdi.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

HS: – What could that be? 🙂

JBN: – Life, that have there is a meaning !!!

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

HS: – I’m sorry but I don’t understand this one. Best regards, Harald Svensson.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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