May 27, 2024

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Interview with Jacob Karlzon: It all depends on who you are as a person: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Jacob Karlzon. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – Before we jump into anything historical, can you tell us about what we can expect musically this evening?

Jacob Karlzon: – I grew up in Jönköping, a pretty small town in Sweden. The interest for music was always there. My older sister wanted a piano and it was there when I grew up so I started to play along with records from my parents’ collection that included all kinds of music.

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

JK: – My interest and awareness for the sound of my instrument really started when hearing Keith Jarrett’s album “My Song”. I was completely amazed by his touch. The interest in sound overall has always been there and is developing constantly. When it comes to the piano, I work on it when practicing and keeping aware of the projection. When it comes to producing, I listen to a lot of things, getting inspired from what I hear and maybe bring it into my own musical universe.

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

JK: – Sometimes there are routines, sometimes there are none. Nowadays, I work on things I want to go deeper into for the moment, depending on what music I’m writing or what other artists’ music demands for me. I want to be prepared in whatever I do so I don’t have to focus on the craft when playing with others but on the communication.

JBN: – How do you keep stray, or random, musical influences from diverting you from what you’re doing?

JK: – Since you hear so much music around you all the time and every day, I think it’s important to find a way in navigating in this. For me, that is to accept that it’s there. When I get musical ideas, I try to get them down on paper or recording them so I don’t forget them. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because the ideas are so strong so they stick with you anyway. I think that if you see the musical ideas of other’s that you hear around you as a threat to your own musical aesthetics and direction, you spend your day in a state of fear and loneliness.

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

JK: – I try to focus on what I’m there to do. Once again, it’s important to be prepared so you can be open to what happens around you and have a connection to your inner voice. Sleep and an overall (more) healthy living, prepares you on everyday basis so you don’t have to do some stressful yoga with a hangover 30 minutes before the show.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

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

JK: – It’s very individual what you focus on. It all depends on who you are as a person. I love music that is clever but not for its own sake. To me music is about to express yourself and to do that you might need to know a thing or two about who you are. To find the balance between brain and heart is up to the artist him- or herself. When music and art overall works in the best way, you never think about what is what. It just works as a whole and hits you hard.

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

JK: – I don’t think of what they long for since this is a very individual thing. I want to express myself and what I think and feel and when that resonates with my listeners, I feel like the richest man in the world. However, this can’t be my expectation.

Music and art to me is about to feel a connection to yourself and others. My greatest musical moments as an artist and listener have been when I’ve felt that someone spoke to and about me when they actually expressed their own thoughts and ideas. To do that it takes courage and you’re never guaranteed a positive outcome.

To me, being popular because you do something you think people wants is just being popular, not being an artist.

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

JK: – I think there is a change coming. When I and my peers went to conservatories and universities to “learn how to play jazz”, there was a great focus on learning jazz-standards, learn how to play in certain idioms etc. It was a different situation at that time, at least in Sweden. Many educations focused on playing “any standard in any key and any tempo” without any direct purpose but to be able to play standards on standard gigs. In many ways that has changed and I guess that is because music is “consumed” today in a different way. For instance, when working with young classical musicians nowadays I notice how broad their musical taste is and how they often embrace any genre. This is very clear among young jazz-musicians and students as well. However, jazz-standards still work as a great vocabular to know and to agree on when it comes to start playing music together. I still love playing these songs and I think there is a great challenge to make these songs your own, to make them sound fresh and to play them with a very open mind. I have the greatest respect for musicians that focus on playing these songs in a way they were played at a certain time, even if it’s not what I’ve decided to do as an artist The most important thing for getting young people interested in playing and listen to jazz and improvised music (or interested in culture ove all) is in my opinion to make this music and art accessible to them. To see the magic and mystery in when people communicate and interact on stage is incredible. When young people who play an instrument discover the fun in improvising together with others, they also discover that they are listened to, that what they say brings reactions from their fellow players and that they themselves have to listen to make the music live and breathe. To me this is more than music and art and makes improvised music completely unique since it beside being music as well is an exercise in democracy and empathy.

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

JK: – I’m trying to be a good person and learn more about my and others’ life every day. Music is a language for whatever we want it to be and the meaning of life varies depending who you ask. Our own spirit and the spirit of others can be connected through music. I think it’s important to know about yourself and the world, then you can live your life with an open mind.

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

JK: – I would like to see that music was considered music and art again and not information. The difficulties among artists in any genre to earn money from their work are challenging the music and art itself. Music that is streamed through some of the platforms has the financial value of a selfie in jpg-format even if was produced in an expensive studio with the most personal and skilled musicians and mastered in high resolution.

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

JK: – I listen to a lot of different things. Still listening to my old heroes within the genre like Hancock, Jarrett, Alan Holdsworth, Miles and Coltrane but always listening to other things. I love Radiohead and the work of Thom Yorke and the scene around them. I always keep an eye on what KoRn is doing as well as Björk. For the time being, I’m revisiting the work of Glen Gould, both his Goldberg-recordings as well as his wrk with Hindemith’s sonatas

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

JK: – I don’t have one clear message in my music. I would like people to feel free in- and with it where they can use it as a soundtrack to their everyday-life and apply their own images, feelings and emotions to it.

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

JK: – I’d like to go to a near future and see what life and art is.

JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

JK: – When will we realize that we’re depending on each other?

JBN: – I’m sorry, but I think you don’t understand that we are dependent on each other, or that you musicians are very dependent on the media. You did not want to cooperate with us, which is the same that you will not cooperate with dozens of jazz festivals in Europe and the United States, of which I am the main organizer. 

Try to be a better person yourself. My interviews are to get to know musicians a little before inviting them to festivals, how willing they are to share their modest means with those who do a little good for them. 

JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

JK: – As said before, I try to live without expectations. Life is richer and more surprising that way.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Jacob Karlzon - jazz-fun.de - Magazin für Jazz Musik

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