June 13, 2024


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Interview with Johan Leijonhufvud: The soul is the source of music and then we need the intellect: Videos, New CD cover

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.
JLT - Johan Leijonhufvud Trio - Harlem Nocturne (feat. Johan Leijonhufvud, Johnny Åman & Niclas Campagnol) | Play on Anghami
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.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Johan Leijonhufvud with David Haynes "Jan Jan" (Grant Green) - YouTube
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