June 13, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Interview with Merlin Breij: Very important to express something real, deep, and important … Videos, new CD cover, Photos

Jazz interview with guitarist and composer Merlin Breij. 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?

 When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of? 

Merlin Breij: – I grew up in the Netherlands and then in Switzerland from age 6. My first experience with music was with the French horn, an instrument I was immediately passionate about after listening to a recording of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Later, I chose to switch to electric guitar to have access to a wider stylistic range: rock, blues, jazz… Currently I still evolve in the two worlds, between classical/contemporary music and jazz.

My professional path was very quickly directed in musical creation, I started composing music for Jazz bands, and then evolved to write musical poems inspired by Rimbaud or Carnevali… This then pushed me into the field of musical creation. Imagining music in my mind and finally hearing it played during a concert or on a CD is an incredible experience ! This is why I wanted to do this for a living.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

MB: – There are many parameters to consider… whether it is regarding the instrument or as a composer. There are, however, two central elements: the technical mastery of the medium (instrumental, orchestral), and how we manage to imagine the sound in our mind. It is by creating a strong connection between this “inner sound” and our ability to play it that the personal sound develops itself… and by listening to a lot of music, trying to imitate any sound we like, even if it is not the instrument we are playing!

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

MB: – Concerning harmony, there are so many possible approaches… Personally, I study every day the harmonic writing style of musicians that interest me. It is also very important to improvise singing – without playing the instrument – trying to become aware of the harmonic colors that our ear has not yet well integrated.

As for rhythm, there are even more possible directions… I always have a rhythmic subject that I want to develop during the course of my work… holding fast tempi, odd meters… But it is especially important to keep a strong rhythmic curiosity to enrich one’s vocabulary as much as possible… It is so vast and complex!

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

MB: – Of course, as a musician, you have to constantly question yourself, and of course it changes you quite a bit! That’s such a beautiful thing about this profession!

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

MB: – I work a lot! You have to get to a recording session at least 200% ready! For me, it is the only way to be « free » in music, which allows you to put into the music the expression that you want to find afterwards!

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Merlin Breij Group – Impulsions, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

MB: – I love to hear the personality of each musician of the project in the final rendering of the composition that until then existed in my mind only! That’s what I love most about listening to Impulsions… I started the composition 2 years ago, it was a long process, I’m very proud to see it finished today!

At the moment, I am planning a new large-scale piece, like Impulsions… I won’t say much more about it, but there will still be a string quartet involved!

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

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

MB: – This album uses both jazz and classical musicians. Concerning the jazz musicians, I chose them according to several parameters: their musical personality first. Since not everything is written in their part, it’s important that what they offer fits the rather particular musical esthetics of this music. Secondly, it was also necessary to have musicians who could express this personality within a very written framework without feeling constrained by the very elaborate dimension of this music. And finally, that they are musicians who inspire me and make me want to write for them!

Concerning classical musicians, I needed them to be flexible in their habits, to be able to adapt their type of interpretation to the framework imposed by this rather particular mix of languages, so I privileged musicians who are used to creating today’s music… But there again, the most important thing is that their sound and their playing inspire me!

I must say that I was lucky to be very well surrounded in this project.

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

MB: – Both have to be linked! The intellect is only a means to help the soul to express itself. When the intellectual topics have really been integrated, there is nothing “cold” about it!

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

MB: – I think that this is a central question of creation… I have a rather nuanced answer… music is an art delivering a strong emotion. This then has the gift to create a magnificent link with the public, a link which is necessary to be genuinely alive. But one must not fall into a stereotyped creation in order to arouse an “easy emotion”, and especially avoid providing an emotion that is not authentic for the artist. And finally, we must be careful, as creators, not to give ourselves boundaries imposed by the public that would harm artistic creativity…

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

MB: – I once got off stage after a concert in a very small venue. As I was leaving, somebody came to me and said: “Your music was just what I needed right now… If you would have been playing darts, you would have reached the central circle. Thank you!”. Even if it was a tiny concert with a tiny audience, I thought: ”How more beautiful can it be?

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

MB: – A standard is only a framework for improvisation, it does not necessarily induce an esthetic… the rhythm can be reworked, the harmony enriched, the melody varied ! So what you do with it can sound in many different ways, traditional or modern! I think that the most important thing is to play in a way that transmits something to the public: an emotion, a rhythmical state…

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

MB: – Personally, music is the way I express my spirit… I think you can give a lot of different meanings to life, and music is a very nice option!

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

MB: – I would go for a musical world where creation, musical integrity, and curiosity would have a more central place.

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

MB: – I find a lot of things very inspiring in Penderecki’s music, music that can open many new doors and dimensions! At the same time, the Mingus Big Band and the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra accompany me a lot, and always, always, the master: Jim Hall!

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

MB: – For me, it is very important to express something real, deep, and important … whatever the message! but also to express it under all its faces: joyful and sad, but also bitter, funny, distressing, desperate … it is necessary to avoid formatting the music to the most usual expressions, we must open art to all the shades of emotions that inhabit us in life! This allows the audience to experiment and feel a wider range of sensations, which proves to be enriching.

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

MB: – Wow, tricky question! I would love to go to New York to see Duke Ellington’s concerts in the 20s and 30s!

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from you…

MB: – These questions were very stimulating, I am delighted to be able to express myself on all these topics! My question to you would be: what albums do you take with you on a road trip?

JBN: – It was a good question, I usually don’t carry it, I buy new ones. This year, for example, I traveled a lot in Europe. I bought new records in Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Riga and everywhere else, I also get them from recording studios, I am an expert in some of them, and from the employees of my jazz festivals in European countries.

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

MB: – Yes, I have! If this interview allows me to share a little of the passion I have for music, that’s great!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Verified by MonsterInsights