Jazz Interview with a bad musician, as if saxophonist, problematic person John Helliwell. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – Please explain your creative process … What are your main impulses to write music?
John Helliwell: – I have only written music sporadically. I sometimes create a tune out of my own practice routines.
JBN: – What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments and pieces in your work and/or career?
JH: – The tenor saxophone solo at the end.
JBN: – Before we jump into anything historical, can you tell us about what we can expect musically this evening?
JH: – If you play tunes then the listener can relax with a nice glass of red wine in front of the fire.
JBN: – Are there sub-genres within the jazz field that you tend to stay away from or focus on?
JH: – I focus on piano trios such as Bill Charlap’s and Keith Jarrett’s. I don’t focus on the ramblings of “smooth jazz,” especially the saxophonists who play endless twiddles.
JBN: – When your first desire to become involved in the music was & what do you learn about yourself from music?
JH: – At age 11 or 12 I heard a version of “Petite Fleur” played on the clarinet by Monty Sunshine of Chris Barber’s Jazz Band which prompted me to save my pocket money for a £15.00 clarinet. I learnt very quickly that a great deal of time and effort would be necessary in order to play it well — I found that I could progress slowly and that it was worth the effort.
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JBN: – How would you describe and rate the music scene you are currently living?
JH: – As regards gigs, the music scene is getting more and more difficult as time goes by because of the generally deteriorating economic situation. I’m lucky to be semi-retired and playing for the hell of it!
JBN: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?
JH: – I usually start an improvisation not knowing the outcome except to say that I want to be melodic, have plenty of spaces and perhaps build to a a more intense stage at some point.
JBN: – Do you ever get the feeling that music majors, and particularly people who are going into jazz, are being cranked out much like business majors? That they are not really able to express themselves as jazz musicians?
JH: – I think that some players put technique above playing musically and therefore their soul is absent in the music (see my comments on so called “smooth jazz” players)
JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?
JH: – It’s tough! He or she could try to get a manager to look after the business side of things.
JBN: – And lastly, being a teacher, do you find it difficult to write music yourself?
JH: – I don’t teach, I only try occasionally to give young players a few tips.
JBN: – From the musical and feeling point of view is there any difference between a old and great jazzmans and young?
JH: – No.
JBN: – What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career?
JH: – Do it for love first, monetary success second.
JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?
JH: – Free to the audience — very rarely. Free to me — lately, gigs sometimes pay so little that I only earn enough to pay the musicians.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan