June 18, 2024


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Interview with Evgeny Lebedev: The soul without intellect can damage itself: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Evgeny Lebedev. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Evgeny Lebedev: – I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. My father often played accordion on family celebrations and these days are still in my heart. All family members and friends gathered together singing Russian folk songs accompanied by accordion. I realized very early that music and happiness are very close to each other. So it was pretty natural for me to pick up an accordion and start playing music taught by my father. Mostly Russian folk stuff though.

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

EL: – This is a very interesting question, because I’m thinking about it frequently. I may be wrong, but I don’t think that you have to do something very special to find personal sound. Your sound is basically you. This is why I became interested in jazz, because jazz can open yourself for yourself. Sorry for pun. Off course, many things and influences affect every musician, but core doesn’t change much through the years, unless you really force yourself to be someone else.

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

EL: – I think the best way to grow as a person is to be surrounded by people that better, stronger and  wiser than you. The same rule works with music. I’m very grateful to have an opportunity to work with high level musicians as Anton Revnyuk (bass) and Ignat Kravtsov (drums). This is LRK Trio. Anton and Ignat are certainly better than me in many aspects and rhythmically as well. So I’m learning every time we play. And if I have decent sense of rhythm I give a big credit to my partners.

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

EL: – It is almost impossible, because this is human nature. We influence each other and can’t do anything about it. But what we can do is to transform influence into inspiration and that can help us to go more far from influence or take another direction, totally different from our influence. My favorite example is Herbie Hancock, who is often saying, that he was influenced a lot by George Shearing. But when we hear Herbie Hancock play we can definitely say that he has not only personal style, but whole personal language, that goes beyond all influences. And many great musicians are like that. Term inspiration has more freedom in it, so I guess this is the way out of influence.

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

EL: – I’ve tried every possible technique. Sleeping before concert, practicing a lot, not practicing at all on the day of the show, eat or fast, meditate etc and still haven’t found the best way to concentrate before the gig. It is mysterious thing. The best way for me is not to think too much, not to prepare too much, not to judge, not to expect. When you start playing and you are in the moment, not trying to show what you want to show, but just beauty of this particular moment in music. If this happens I feel the best on stage.

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

EL: – I think knowing a lot about music theory and overall intellectual side of it is great and necessary. But when you go on stage and start playing like you’ve forgotten all that intellectual stuff and just go for the moment is the best feeling for me.

Soul without intellect can damage itself, but intellect without soul doesn’t work in music for my opinion.

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

EL: – I’m totally fine with this, but only when threethings meet together: I really understand what people want. I know how to play what people want. It doesn’t distract natural flow of the concert.

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

EL: – I have a bunch. One moment which I can think of immediately is when we had a concert with LRK somewhere, I don’t remember exactly. We played piece “Nebylitsa” which we performed thousand times and at some point we went pretty far in our creativity, making lots if breaks, pauses etc. Than by accident everybody made a pause and after pretty loud and intense part suddenly long dead silence occurred, than we continued as one playing loud and intense again. Audience loved this moment of silence! That day I learned that silence in music may be more powerful than intensity and loudness.

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

EL: – What If not jazz, how can we get young people interested in classical music for example? I was learning classical music in school, but really started loving it deeply when I got much older. I like analogy with food. Most kids likes fast food by default, they also like colorful wrapping of this food. When they grow and parents teach them they start to appreciate more healthy stuff, than become adults and start to be interested in more sophisticated food. But some people keep loving fast food whole life. The same with music, it reflects our lifestyles and interests, so I don’t think we can do something special to force young people to start loving jazz, classical, rock etc. Many people live without Bach’s music and feel pretty happy. This is normal and a little sad at the same time. What we can do, is to teach music in schools more deeply, but more fun and acceptable at the same time. So students would start loving music, that is not often played on TV through understanding. This love maybe will not come right away, but the seed will be planted. People tend to dislike what they don’t understand. I guess, understanding is the first step towards interest.

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

EL: – I wish I could say that music is my spirit as well, but I can’t, because it is partially true. I believe that spirit is something that  goes way beyond music, but certainly involves it.

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

EL: – I would take away musical snobbism and discrimination.

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

EL: – Random stuff. It depends on what I’m looking for at the moment. If I want to learn from music, I listen to classical. If I’m in the good, but intense mood, I’m listening to rock. Also like to find some inspiration from electronic music, but Louis Armstrong is always in my playlist for any mood.

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

EL: – Honestly, I don’t like thinking too much about message I chose to bring. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say musically, but I believe when you think you bring some important message in your music, you immediately lose it

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

EL: – I appreciate the time I’m living now.

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

EL: – Sure! How the greatest jazz album should sound good n your opinion? I mean the one, that is not recorded yet (from imaginary artist).

JBN: – The jazz quartet Herbie Hancock, David Murray, Dave Holland, Brian Blade, if possible!

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

EL: – It’s hard to tell right now, but all these questions really made me thinking hard and I’m sure that benefits will come later. Thank you for that, Simon.

                                                                                                                                            Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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