Jazz interview with jazz trumpeter Christian Winninghoff. 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?
Christian Winninghoff: – I grew up in Osnabrück, that’s a City in Western Germany with approx. 200.000 citizens. There were some great blues bands playing in my hometown and I knew everyone of them. We also had a weekly blues jam session in a tiny little bar named ‘The Pink Piano’. So I played my first improvised solos on the trumpet in the Pink Piano, and the older blues musicians were very encouraging to me.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
CHW: – Miles Davis’ sound on the trumpet touched me deeply when I was 17. So, in my early years as a trumpet player I was just trying to copy the warmth and strength of it. Later on, I was being influenced by other trumpet players. The great names on the one side and the guys from the Cologne jazz scene on the other. I loved the sound of the flugelhorn played by my teachers Ack van Rooyen and Markus Stockhausen. Both of them sound very elegant and pure in their own way.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
CHW: – As a trumpet player the first thing you have to keep (if you have ever found it), is to have a feeling like singing through the horn, to keep the air moving steadily into it, to make it sound as easy as possible and not work against your body. The rest, I mean, training the jazz skills, this is just fun to work on.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any changes or overall evolution? And if so why?
CHW: – Looking back on my solo albums releases and lots of work as a sideman in other musician’s projects I can state that I was always very interested how my improvisations would connect to different musical styles: Straight Ahead (‘La Vie’), Contemporary (‘Color Music’), Funky (‘The Hi Hornz Project’ and the pop-focused actual album CLOUD SOUNDS. So the evolution is not just my personal development on the trumpet as an improvisor. It’s also about composing, arranging and producing.
JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
CHW: – Well, the band had just two days to record the 14 tunes for the CLOUD SOUNDS album. Good preparation was essential for the success of this. So, I did a lot of pre-productions on my little computer to get an idea in which direction the music could evolve.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Cloud Sounds, how it was formed?
CHW: – I like the vocal pieces very much, especially ‘Playing With The Clouds’ performed by Nora Becker from Hamburg. For the first time in my life, I wrote some of the songs on my own and it was a thrilling adventure how the sounded sung by some of the greatest jazz singers on the scene.
JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?
CHW: – There are 15 musicians all in all performing so great on the album. I’ve been knowing them from so many different projects and musical settings. So meeting each other and bringing out their qualities through playing my music, felt like a blessing for me.
JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
CHW: – If you ask me, I’ll be in the SOUL team. Music is not about intellect, it’s about feeling and expression.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
CHW: – I don’t like jazz musicians who give a damn about the audience, play 20 minutes solo after a 20 second composition. I think, that doesn’t work in most of the cases. I’m thankful for everyone spending 1 or 2 hours of his life time to listen to my music.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
CHW: – I’ve been playing in theatre productions for over 15 years already. Sometimes I had little little theater roles, and this is so much fun every time I have the chance. In one year I was playing a fisherman kidnapped by a bunch of zombies doing the original MJ Thriller dance choreo. That was the highlight of my actor’s career.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
CHW: – I have an 8-year-old student who just want to play ‘A Night in Tunesia’ over and over again. I think, great music can survive many decades. But we should also be open for actual music.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
CHW: – John Lee Hooker said: ‘Music is the healer’. I think that’s really true. When I’m in a bad mood I might just take my guitar or sit on the piano and sing my favourite songs and then I feel better, I hope the neighbors do, too! J
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
CHW: – I would forbid all the streaming platforms. understand that these are great apps for the consumer but for the artists it’s just giving the music all away for free.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
CHW: – I just discovered Eva Cassidy, because I was in a project performing her live version of ‘Over the Rainbow’. I think, everybody should have listenened to Eva’s wonderful performance of this song from 1996 at Blues Alley, Washington.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
CHW: – We have such a wide range of emotional states. When I write a song or a jazz tune, I’ll hear inside myself first asking me: what kind emotion should be expressed by this? One is about longing, one is about nostalgia, one is about breaking up and to celebrate life again.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
CHW: – I’d make a musical round trip. First of all comes Bebop New York in 1946 watching the Charlie Parker Quintet. After that I’d be at the first performance of Stravinsky’s ‘Sacre’. Before I come back, I’d spend I week with the Bach family in Leipzig around the 17.30’s…
JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…
CHW: – Simon: Thanks for giving me the opportunity and the time to do this. How do you like the new album? 😉
JBN: – I have all the new albums, yours too, great!!! I’ll write about that in a CD review soon.
JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
CHW: – Well, I hope this will help to attract interest in my music. It took me two years to get it all together and now everybody should have a listen.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan