July 13, 2024

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Interview with Karl Ratzer: … with playing you are connected with the folks, the listeners: Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist and vocalist Karl Ratzer. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Karl Ratzer: –Post war period, Vienna in the 50s. My Roma family has been in Auschwitz and not all of them survived. My father and my mother actually met in the concentrationcamp. After the war surviving was all and looking ahead was the main focus. Reconditioning had no place. We lived in a worker‘s district. Opposite our house was a blacksmith shop and the 4 sons of the owner made always music during the lunch break. Fascinating for me, they showed me the first chords and so my mother organized a guitar for christmas when I was 10 and when 12 years old I already played in bands. With 15 I was a local rockstar and with 22 I went for 8 years to the US.

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

KR: – From the very beginning my musical education was on the street, encounters with great players. I never learned music in a school. I am an autodidact. All I know, I know it from the street, from all these unforgettable musicians I met. And by listening to music as for example Chuck Berry, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Lowell George, Tal Farlow, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery and many others. In jazz music , when you listen and listen, you come to a point, when you have to develop your own sound, which people can recognize on a sequence of tones or on a melodic motif.

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

KR: – Halfnote scales and quint doublets.

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

KR: – I let no sound come that close to me. Stay en vogue.

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

KR: – I love silence.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2021: Karl Ratzer & Ed Neumeister – Alone Together, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

KR: – The most I love about my new album, is Ed Neumeister. We recorded the album at this Italian wine bar Vinifero, where we had a steady gig over years. I also work with Ed in a quartet and I‘m planing a soloalbum.

JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

KR: – The musicans I work today, we found each other naturally, a kind of magnetism. I‘m very happy and  thankful it came this way.

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

KR: – Power.

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

KR: – I learned in the South and in New York one thing: The way to play, to become a magnet to the people, you don‘t need propaganda. The people remember when they love what they hear. They tell their friends and they come back to the concerts. I‘m grateful, I also have fans for nearly 60 years. They look for us, we don‘t have to jump in their face.

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

KR: – Late 70s in New York, Joe Chambers, Eddie Gomez, Jeremy Steig, Ray Mantilla and me had a gig at the Bottom Line. On the way, in Greenwich Village in the middle of the summer, my new blonde 1957 L5 with fantastic round cutaway slipt from my shirt and hit the ground and broke open. So I went to the soundcheck with my broken guitar and Joe Chambers was already on the bandstand with his modest drumset, asking a big guy with long blonde hair, big muscles under his seaman‘s shirt, polishing the biggest drumset I ever saw, where to put his set. And the guy without turning around just showed Joe the edge of the stage. Just in that moment, Chambers‘ voice starts getting very high, Alphonse Mouzon came into the room with a Panama hat and a striking Hawaii shirt and saw Joe and fell in awe and  told his rowdy to remove his  roomfilling drumset in a minute. Could be kind of a showbizz parable.

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

KR: – Don‘t try to convince, like the big mistake of the christian missionary. Young people are looking out by there own.

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

KR: – I wonder. With prayers you are connected with above and with playing you are connected with the folks, the listeners.

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

KR: – To remove all of this background music at the shops, summer parks, beaches, elevatores and other public places.

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

KR: – Silence.

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

KR: – I‘m constantly looking for it. I have not finished with the search yet.

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

KR: – In the bible you can read the answer ……… everybody got his place, if he leaves that place, he will be missing…

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

KR: – How can I be sure that my answers are comprehensible?

JBN: – Comprehensible.

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

KR: – The readers of the website get to know me more personally.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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