June 17, 2024

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Interview with Cole Chandler: That really touched my heart – and I had to embrace that: Video old guy

Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if vocalist problematic person Cole Chandler. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Cole Chandler: – I was born and raised in the country side in northern germany near Hamburg in the 1970s. I had the privilege to grow up in a slightly musically family. My dad played a little guitar and my mum loved her accordion. To be honest that didn’t affect me to much. But when I was about ten years old I watched the “Benny Goodman Story” on TV – and that changed my life: I wanted to be a clarinetist! A little later I got my first instrument and took lessons. Meanwhile singing is much more important to me. I still keep my beloved “stick” but I don’t play it on stage any more.

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

CCH: – I started singing immediately after founding my first band. We wanted to do sort of swing/classic jazz and I was the only one who dared to sing in front of an audience, so I became the singer. I always liked singing. But soon I realized that singing is an art that must be learned properly. So I took lessons. I wanted to make sure not to harm my vocal cords. And I always liked strong male voices with a certain kind of virility. That’s why I decided to go for a more or less classical vocal technique. One of my former vocal teachers is a well known german opera singer. She helped me to find a healthy way of singing, teached me how to sing long notes and how to adapt pronunciation to be make sure that  every word is understandable to the audience. Later on I participated in vocal jazz workshops and took additional lessons with jazz singers as well. But the key skills I learned were those classical ones. And of course I’ve been listening to jazz recordings ever since…

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

CCH: – I’m trying to do a proper vocal warm up every day – even if I’m not going to sing that day. That helps to keep the mental an physical skills on a certain level, especially the vocal range – which would inevitably “shrink” without practicing. Knowing that you can rely on your voice is important and helps you to find free mental space to “play” with timing an rhythm. When preparing a new song I always start to sing it almost straight on the beat. That’s a little weird for a jazz musician. But it helps to learn the structure of rhythm and harmonics the composer and lyricist had in mind when they wrote the song. Then I try to liberate from that as far as it makes sense to me. But whenever I’m in doubt I keep close to the original composition. That’s never a mistake.

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

CCH: – I don’t know wheter that’s necessary. You’re always free to decide what influences you want to use – and wich to ingnore. Even if you decide not to follow an influence it can help you to asure that your current idea of a song ist what you’re looking for.

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

CCH: – Get a good and long sleep at night, don’t drink (especially no alcohol of course), get up late, have a huge breakfast (’cause later on there will be almost no time to eat), get all my stuff packed. Prepare the stage clothing to perfection! Double check this!! And the spend the remaining hours as calm and peaceful as possible.

And before leaving the house I do a complete vocal warm up. I try to arrive at the venue as early as possible to do the setup and soundcheck on stage unhurriedly. Afterwards I try to sleep for a quarter of an hour or so, do another quick vocal warm up and get on stage…

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

CCH: – Soul is perhaps the most important musical quality. But without intellect – if you want to define this as technical skills – you’ll never be successful and vice versa.

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

CCH: – I would do never do songs I don’t like just to please the audience. The challenge is to find songs I love and then to find a way of interpretation that touches somebody else.

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

CCH: – A few years ago we played at a company event in northern Germany. We had a quite huge audience of about 300 people packed like sardines in a hot and poor ventilated space. During the break an old gentleman came up to me and smiled all over his face. He explained:

“When I was a young boy during WW 2 I was in service at an anti aircraft gun near Hamburg. We were just 14 or 15 years old boys trying not to get hurt. During the attacks of allied bombers we listened to the british and american radio communication – of course that was forbidden… The british bombers used to attack at night. During those attacks we were able to receive to types of aerial signals: Tactical advises on one channel and modern dance music on an other. Of course we always listened to the dance music. And hearing you sing those classic tunes today made me feel young again”.

That really touched my heart – and I had to embrace that old guy.

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

CCH: – Sorry, but I have to insist that most of the standards (especially those I sing) are almost about a hundred years old! They were already written in the 1920s and 30s. But however –  the great challenge is to get young people to listen to live(!) jazz music. Once they’ve heard, breathed and experienced the vivid atmosphere of live jazz there’s a huge probability that they’ll come back. We’re lucky to see that happen quite often during our concerts.  And talking about quality: A huge number of jazz standards are true works of art – especially the lyrics. Just think of a line like “a teardrop kissed your lips and so did I” from “The Shadow Of Your Smile”. That immortal poetry at its best. It’s timeless! And so are the melodies. Especially compared to modern dance music… Believe me: Quality will last forever!

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

CCH: – Music is an important part of my live. I can’t even imagine how to get through without my music. It enriches every day. But as a unique guideline? I believe in god. Christian values have always been part of my life and they still are.

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

CCH: – Sufficient pay for free lance musicians would be a huge progress. If you decide to become a jazz musician you don’t expect huge financial benefits. But beeing asked to play for free (“We offer a stage – and you can increase your popularity”) is a no go – but it’s still found. Nobody argues about the demanded pay for a plumber or electrician. We’d be lucky to be payed like plumbers.

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

CCH: – Mel Tormé, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Hartman. Theses guys knew how to tell a story. And Tony Bennet of course. He’s a great inspiration to me. The authenticity he shows on stage especially in his later years is incredible. He’s a true singer!

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

CCH: – Never give up and “Look for the silver lining”!

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

CCH: – I’d really like to meet George Gershwin back in the early thirties. Depending on modern music and jazz he changed everything.

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

CCH: – It was quite refreshing to talk about our recording project again. Being far away from having finished that episode I’m very curious on what’s coming next and where this will lead us to.

Thanks for your kind invitation.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Artist "Cole Chandler Quartet" | HIGHRESAUDIO

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