Jazz interview with jazz alto saxophonist Helge Albin. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Helge Albin: – I grew up in Malmö, in southern Sweden, my father was a pianist so music came as a natural part of my life already as a child. I started playing saxophone at the age of 10 and because jazz in the 50s, more than ever, became contemporary music, I naturally came in contact with this form of music.
I later took a degree at Malmö Conservatory within the classic music with clarinet as the main instrument. One can say that my contact with classic music shaped my way of composing within jazz.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
HA: – Cannoball Adderley was a great source of inspiration, especially regarding his singing alto sax sound. From imitating a sound to developing a personal sound is a long process that in my opinion may take the time it takes. In addition to tone exercises ,I got from Dave Liebman, my personal sound has naturally grown over the years.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
HA: – To improve a strong time – or rhythm feel I have in my daily practice routine done․
a lot of hand clapping exercise, playing with the metronome, odd meter exercises, all to getting comfortable with all kind of rhythmic pattern. To improve harmony it´s all about ear training! Practice singing all kind of harmony by ear.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
HA: – To this question I answer with a quote from the world-famous cellist Pablo Casals․
At the age of 83, he was asked why he was still practicing 4-5 hours a day.
Casals replied, “Because I think I’m making progress.”
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
HA: – I meditate! …and ensures that no disturbing moments suddenly occur!
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Tolvan Big Band – Interacting, how it was formed and what you are working on today.
HA: – I like several things about this album. ..․ that my compositions and arrangements are interpreted brilliantly ,according to my intentions by my musicians ….. that the soundscape is at the highest level (….thanks to Peter Dahlström at The Ends Studio , who recorded and mixed this album) and that the music feels varied for the album’s overall experience!
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
HA: – I have been lucky enough to be able to surround myself with the musicians who have been involved in all previous productions! (TOTAL OF 14 albums).
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
HA: – To take my composition work as an example, I lay out one or more starting plans for how I should start designing my musical ideas . Often I set up “limitations” on how I must proceed when it comes to thematic development. For example, “I am only allowed to compose within a certain octave, at a certain number of beats” . This can be perceived as an obstacle to spontaneous creativity, but instead of hindering creativity, it becomes twofold!
In this way I have set up a “problem” that I have to solve and usually the spiritual takes over through this. If I “break my rules” because there is a spontaneous idea
Which feels inspiring, I take that idea instead, even if it violates my set rules. I will not be “fined” or “go to jail” because of this
In conclusion: The intellectual process opens up for creativity or for what we call the soul!
In the end, the soul has to take over!
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
HA: – Of course, I want my music or my playing to create emotional feelings ,but I don’t give up on my musical expressions so that my music will fit or be liked by my audience. It would be dishonest in front of myself and my audience.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
HA: – I have many! For example, Tolvan Big Band’s collaboration with David Liebman that in addition to tours resulted in the recording of “Guided Dream”.
Over the years we have done several tours together and there has always been a musical magic between TBB and David.
Memorable is also a two-week tour together with Michael Brecker where I together with Sten Ingelf ( … trumpeter in TBB), had the honor of writing the music For Mike and the band.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
HA: – First of all, there are a lot of young people who love jazz. Certainly not enough to lift jazz into the Billboard ranks but they are out there. There are many reasons many young people don’t like jazz․ Their parents don´t like jazz so jazz is never heard at home ;never played on the radio ,on CDs or streamed on home devices. So, in my opinion, “old – standard tunes” have nothing to do with creating disinterest in jazz in young people. There are many more reasons than above , but this was the first one that came to my mind.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
HA: – When I was growing up (the 1950s-early ’60s), most radio stations played a diverse range of music. Today , Each media offers only the narrow genre that their demographic algorithm determines, all in advertising and trading names.
When I was young, there wasn’t much money in the music industry. A HUGE difference from now ,which makes the term ,”Money Takls”, valid!
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
HA: – The meaning of life is to.. find yourself,… Become aware of who you are, be happy, … a non-dualistic state. A state that, in the best moments, one can experience , (for example), when playing music . And as ,when it occurs, develops a feeling of, “non-separation” ( ..beyond the ego) A feeling that the music flows through one’s body from a universe beyond oneself. Feelings such as:
1.-“It’s not me playing” (spiritually)
- Strong “we-feeling” (Together in a group)
- Everything is one, (in a group). (The different parts of music are magically collected, beyond thought processes and ego))
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
HA: – Mark Turner, Will Vinson, Alongside my old heroes.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
HA: – I want more quality music in the music industry. To get this, you first have to educate people so they can …. hear, … understand and appreciate the difference between quality music and junk music.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
HA: – True music in its innermost essence.
To come back in time and have the opportunity to have a chat with Johan Sebastian Bach, doesn’t feel wrong!
JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
HA: – What drives you the most,to launch and work with Jazz Blues News Website?
JBN: – Jazz is my life!
JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
HA: – That jazz-interested people get to know my thoughts on what I think about my answers in this interview!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan