July 13, 2024


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Interview with Irene Albar: The intellect is necessary to connect with your soul: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Irene Albar. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Irene Albar։ – I grew up in AranJuez (Madrid, Spain). Music chose me and for me it was like a new game. It was my uncle who was always listening to classical music, Rubinstein. He enrolled my cousin to take piano lessons with a retired teacher who came to town and my parents decided to do the same and bought me a piano. In 1982 I became independent from my family, settling in Madrid because the Yamaha schools gave me a job. And it is at that moment where I began to know jazz in depth. It fascinated me, I thought, that’s the music I want to make. In 1986, the company sponsored the first Workshop of maestro Barry Harris in Spain. I attended a week of master classes. When I met him, I chose him to be my main teacher.

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

IA: – This great master of be-bop, Barry Harris changed my technique, but I only saw him once a year, they were very hard years. In 1991 I went to NY and he did not have school at that time, I went to his house, he told me about the technique in the different Chopin studios, I went back to working on classical pieces. But the key for me was when I met Chikung and Taichi and I began to realize that I could apply it to the piano, they are years of personal research, music is a meditation that connects you with the universe.

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

IA: – Practice as much as possible the exercises that Barry teaches me in all the keys. Motherhood and the work in which I specialize, which is to compose and play piano for silent films, kept me away from this constant practice for almost two decades. The pandemic has been a master that has allowed me to resume the teacher’s classes on a weekly basis and make this a routine again. I have also written and studied themes and solos by Bud Powell, Monk, Tommy Flanagan, etc. I have another teacher, George Cables, to whom I also copy ideas and give me advice.

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

IA: – This is an interesting reflection that constantly appears on the recommendation of many people around it as a way to substantially improve the economy. I don’t know how to make music that doesn’t come out of my soul, I did it as a profession when I was young and it was fun. But after my career, I have the need to express my influences and my feelings.

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

IA: – I usually do warm-up and stretching exercises, coordinated with breathing. Before starting I do a meditation Chikung exercise that works the heart meridian and helps connect to give your best. It’s magic.

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

IA: – I believe that the intellect is necessary to develop the maximum language to connect with your soul, but I feel that you have to forget about it to fly to other dimensions. You do not have to show everything you know if not everything you feel.

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

IA: – I don’t know what the people who come to listen to me want, maybe discover something new and get excited. What I know is that they like it and they communicate to me the feelings that my music produces. It moves me when they tell me this song has taken me to another dimension. This happened at the concert where I present this theme of the next project that I present in this video.

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

IA: – Too many, the last one that surprised me was the first concert after the hard phase of the pandemic. When we received the special applause from the audience at that moment, an intense emotion invaded me and I couldn’t stop crying.

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

IA: – With education. Bach is older. And new standards will come. What should not be missed is the language of improvisation. Here in Spain unofficial, untitled schools have emerged that have created great musicians where they are working with very young people since they were 8 years old. This is happening in several different cities and they are very interested in creating jazz in an impressive way for their young age.

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

IA: – This is something very abstract, life is learning with constant questions and puzzles, difficult to solve, which leads me to constant research, I love neuroscience and neurolinguistic programming. I think the spirit has more to do with your emotional and personal trajectory of values, it makes you connect with an inexplicable energy. The constant in my life has been to be a free Spirit and music allows me to develop it to the point that the meaning of life loses meaning.

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

IA: – Everything is constantly changing, I don’t want to change anything, I like to be surprised. If there is something I would like to change in the world in general, it would be for all human beings to be filled with love, peace, respect and empathy to avoid unnecessary suffering.

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

IA: – Terry Pollard, I discovered it last year and it surprised me, I never tire of listening to it. Every week I also listen to Monk, Bud Powell, Kenny Barron, Bill Evans, etc… I dedicate some time to all the great musicians that Barry proposes. And musicians that I don’t know too, in addition to different styles.

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

IA: – Beauty, Peace, emotion, feed the soul to elevate us to other states of consciousness. In our trio we play like children and when we have fun, the public receives it, they tell us: we really enjoyed watching you have fun because you spread it.

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

IA: – My first thought was in the early 19th century. Where artists from all disciplines got together to debate and you didn’t have to spend so much time on the changes that technology has brought. But I thought, at this time women were not highly valued and this revolution has been very interesting. And I figured if I had a time machine I could travel a lot. So I would also go to the future. I imagine it having all the benefits of the devices in our mind. Without having to learn the programs and with the ability to quickly execute everything in order to have more free time and to be able to do more leisure things. When this revolution started, I didn’t have time to get up at the speed it was going, so I need a lot of time and effort not to get lost.

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

IA: – Now I need to re-educate myself in the digital world to spread it, this takes a lot of time from me to be focused on the goal. Best regards!!! Irene Albar.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan


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