Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Alexey Kruglov. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Alexey Kruglov: – I was born in a great city near Moscow called Pavlovsky Posad. It`s pretty famous with its weaving mill. When I was 5 we removed to Zheleznodorozhny, a city near Moscow. It`s also is very good known by the famous novel by Lev Tolstoy Anna Karenina. It`s the place (the previous name is Oberalovka) where Anna Karenina threw herself under the train. From an early age I was amazed by my father`s way. I remember that a lot of different music, poetry sounded at our home. At 7 I began to play piano at a music school, at 13 I started to practice the saxophone at a wind orchestra and at 14 I began to practice different art technics in a unique Moscow place that time called Class Centre. It`s a music drama school, a place where children play jazz and act at the same time. So from the very beginning I was interested in a huge field of art trying to find myself in a classical music and theatre and do something new at the same time. Later I is received two diplomas, I became a musician and a director officially, work as a poet as well, but all basics were formed in these early ages.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
AK: – I had amazing teachers, famous Soviet-Russian saxophonists. Ernest Barashvili in Class Centre, Sergei Rezantsev in a collage, Alexander Oseichuk in the Gnesin Academy. I was lucky that all they played classical music and jazz in a very high level in both directions. They gave me important sound principles, I practiced trying to find a sound code which has a unity between classical music and jazz. I am happy that my new album Yardbird Suite with Charlier Parker`s music is dedicated to my teachers.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
AK: – I practiced a lot with very simple things – long notes, scales, etudes. To be exact it`s very good to start a daily practice routine with such things and gradually develop it to some complicated exercises including developments of some simple things for example in a polyrhythm complex or in some strange harmonic stuff. contrasts work out very well, I guess. I must also say that last few years I connect my musical method with an acting and poetry ways. We now work with artists of my Krugly Band group with the method called Dromuse (the name is a reference to the Ancient Greece Art as a combination of words «drom» and «muse»). The method is based on word, sound and plasticity. I think that if to tell about my musical principles I can`t consider it without poetry and theatre.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
AK: – I guess that the most important thing is try to transform minus to plus. Sometimes disparate influences can give many useful meanings. I think if you can analyze processes with a «cold head» trying to have a distance to emotions then you are able to recognize which influences can help you or not.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
AK: – For me the important thing is to be in a silence or have a chance to think about a coming performance or concentrate on its ideas. And I also used some things from Mikhail Chekhov method. For example, my solo-album released by Fancymusic in May, which was recorded by myself during the lockdown in our village in Pavlovsky Posad, is called The Psychological Gesture. It`s the direct reference to the system of Mikhail Chekhov. Play as an actor on stage I sometimes use some things from his method and the psychological gesture is a very important part of it. I think that if we tell about preparing to performances the methods by our great actor is very useful to this process. By the way Fancymusic released two my albums in row which are dedicated to artists who were born on August 29. The first one is Mikhail Chekhov, the second is Charlie Parker. We dedicated the album Yardbird Suite with Bird`s music to his 100th anniversary.
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?
AK: – I think that the sound is evolving constantly. Yes, collaboration with different artists from absolutely contrast directions in art gives new ideas, meanings. It reflects on many components. I like to control my own sound and at the same time allow it to be free. Krugly Band is like a family and it`s not like a selection. I just feel to whom I should ask if he is interested in some projects.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
AK: – I also can turn my gaze to a theatrical way. When I am an actor I should control emotions, keep track on some logical things but at the same time I must catch inspiration and fly, having walked away from the earthiness. You are inside but not inside this time. I think it`s not a question about the balance because intellect and soul work together with such method.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
AK: – Yes. But I am also okay with giving people what they don`t imagine what they will receive. For me the good option is when each person discover only his own individual meanings. That`s why I often use metaphors, alligories in my project. I love conventionality.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
AK: – Wow! There are so many… The legendary Leo Feigin. We became big friends, organized Leo Records Festival in Russia, he is like my second father. The collaboration with the great Jimmy Heath, playing my music with Cristian Mcbride in the USA, a jam with Joe Lovano in Poland, a great warmy collaboration with Joachim Kühn, Fritz Hauser, Slava Ganelin, Gebhard Ullmann, Simon Nabatov, Frank Gratkosvky, Jaak Sooäär and our Estonian-Russian quartet, many Europian, Russian artists, the legendary Soviet poet Andrey Voznesensky when I played a solo at his author event with the video clip where there were presented how the general secretary of USSR Nikita Khruschev at the Politburo (or some strange soviet big meeting) in the beginning of 60-ies reviles the young poet Voznesensky. Many stories.… I think it`s not so simple to write about it in an answer. I should write a book dedicated to many amazing artists with whom I have a big honor to play.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
AK: – The standart tunes get a new reading in some modern versions in contemporary styles. At the same time, it`s a great idea to include jazz projects to big festivals of music which don`t present straight jazz. Why not? When I play classical music with organists in a big churches I often use jazz stuff. We even created a programme called «Bach and Jazz» where we play original material from Bach and improvise at the same time. People like it a lot.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
AK: – His last music is close to a prayer to God. I think that he was on the way to some very deepest meaning. We are tripartite. Body, soul and spirit are in each of us. It`s like a channel. Artists work on the second channel called soul. I guess if our art tries to rise from soul to spirit then we can better understand the meaning of life because everything is our life is interconnected.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
AK: – I love music and art like it is. I really don`t want to change something I the past. Who knows, if we changed a simple thing then maybe we wouldn`t know the greatest canvases in the history of art.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
AK: – To tell you the truth I don`t listen much now. I know that now all musicians are very well prepared technically but find many great musicians looking similar to each other. They don`t have their individual faces, but refined art-toques are usual story. That`s why I prefer to listen to free jazz or classical music or old jazzmen. I really open for myself much inspiration from The Ganelin Trio.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
AK: – My message is an appeal to all the people to live in Peace and Love.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
AK: – Amazing! Then I would go to the Ancient Greece to speak with Greece philosophers like Sorkrates, Plato, Aristotle. Also would be nice to meet with Alexander Pushkin and maybe to do with him a joint project. Recently we released an album with our Kruglov – Sooäär Quartet based on music by Poytr Tchaikovksy which was released this year dedicated to the 180th anniversary on the composer. One of tune is Arioso of Lensky from Eugeny Onegin. We did it so wildly like an image of the fate of a poet Lensky in the novel. I think that Pushkin would like our ideas. By the way through the fate of Lensky we dropped a hint of Pushkin`s fate in this tune. So, meeting such amazing people like Pushkin, Tchiakovsky is a great idea!
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
AK: – When there will a machine of teleportation be made?
JBN: – Ha-ha-ha 🙂
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
AK: – It was a great conversation. I am so grateful to you for such deep questions! It gives me a lot of things to think about them. I deeply appreciate these situations when it possible to reflect and touch inner foundations of being! Thank you!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan