Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Johan Leijonhufvud. An interview by email in writing. JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Johan Leijonhufvud: – I grew up in Växjö, a small town in southern Sweden. There was a lot of music in the house. My father played in groups and we had a lot of instruments. Guitars, piano and percussion. We also listened to a lot of music from the vinyl player. Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley… I think I grew a spontaneous interest in music.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
JL: – I´ve had three main instruments in my life. My first guitar was a Gibson Les Paul. I experimented a little with some effects with the Gibson. Flanger, chorus, distortion. I bought my first archtop guitar when I was 20. It was an old Swedish Levin guitar. I´ve been playing archtop with flatwound strings ever since. I´m currently playing a Höfner Jazzica.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
JL: – I don’t really have a practice routine. But I play every day. And I always find something new to learn.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
JL: – I don’t really believe in bad influences. If I hear something I don’t like, I try to understand why and learn something from that.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
JL: – As I said, I play every day. So I am normally musically prepared. I like to think through the repertoire if I am the band leader.
Mental/spiritual preparation is more important for me. I take a shower, iron my favourite shirt and take care of all practical things like cables, strings etc in good time. I always found it very disturbing to deal with practical/technical issues when i`m at the gig. I also like to be at the venue in good time.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2021: JLT – Harlem Nocturne, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
JL: – We began to work with the trio six months before the recording of “Harlem Nocturne”. So, I am very happy and proud that we were able to find a communication and sound together so fast. We are now working on adding some more original material to the repertoire.
JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
JL: – I have known Johnny Åman and Niclas Campagnol for a long time and have been curious to play with them. I live in Berlin/Germany, Johnny in Malmö/Sweden and Niclas in Copenhagen/Denmark so we didn’t
play together except for a few sessions. But we found the opportunity to meet in a house in the countryside in Skåne/Sweden during the lockdown 2020.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
JL: – For me. In this context. The soul is the source of music and then we need the intellect to express what we find there(in the soul). But the intellect is a tool. We can easily get lost in the intellect. We can’t be progressiv if we lose the connection to the source.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
JL: – That has never been an issue for me. I play the music I want to play..And I think I can feel the audience and communicate with them. I never saw a conflict in that. I try to enrich my musical language every day to be a better communicator of the music I love.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
JL: – I played at a Jazz Festival in Northern Italy many years ago. I was very young and it was my first international performance. We went to a jam session after the gig. I went on stage and we decided to play “All Blues” by Miles Davis. A few bars into the intro I realised that Jimmy Cobb was sitting in the audience two meters in front of me. My first thought was to leave the stage (and if possible the country). But after a couple of minutes I realized that it was an honor to play this song for the man who played the original version and it turned into a beautiful experience. Ever since then I`m always inspired when there is a great musician in the audience.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
JL: – I don`t think it matters for a young audience if a song was written 70 years ago or today. I love to play “old” songs as much as new compositions. I think the only way to reach an audience (young or old) is to stay honest and play what you love.
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
JL: – I understand (or don`t understand) the spirit as a “place” where we can experience the present and the past, everything and nothing. I think great music can bring us there for a moment. The meaning of life is 42.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
JL: – Music has to be created in the present so i don`t think I would change anything. But I wish the musical world would slow down a bit. We need more time to listen to each other and embrace each other musically. This narcissistic “15 minutes of fame” world we live in is not very creative.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
JL: – I listen to a lot of music. But I guess mostly Jazz, old and new. My Spotify history tells me that i`ve been listening a lot to Charles Lloyd, Horace Silver and Betty Carter lately.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
JL: – The music is the message.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
JL: – I think the world is in a very bad shape. But I`m convinced that we will make it somehow. So I would like to go 500 years in the future to see how.
Or to New York in 1962 and listen to the John Coltrane Quartet.