Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Roman Pokorny. 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?
Roman Pokorny։ – I grew up in a musical family. My grandfather played the accordion and drums and my father played the trumpet, piano and sang. I started playing drums, so I had to slave in the family band. Grandpa, father and son! I hated it! The repertoire was more or less folk. Czech folk music and popular music of the seventies. We played in the Czech countryside at weddings and funerals. So at the age of 13 I started playing with my own rock band. When I went to study in Prague, I switched from drums to guitar due to noise. It took me a many years to realise that I could make a living playing music. This was preceded by a big obsession for Jazz and Blues.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
RP: – As for the sound, I was influenced by a few guitarists. I won’t count those at the very beginning like John Scofield, Bill Frisell or Pat Metheny. I just had to try everything. But the real role models for me were Jim Hall, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessell and Johny Smith. The sound is created mainly by the guitarist in the head, but the touch of the fingers on the strings and the fingerboard plays an important role. A tone is formed there. Another important part of guitar sound is the instrument and amp.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
RP: – I am of the opinion that the rhythm is innate and cannot be influenced much, but it is still useful to practice with the metronome, for example, for the second and fourth times. This can improve the swing feeling. Practicing scales and their modifications is a daily routine. Playing bebop themes also helps me a lot. Charlie Parker’s songs such as Anthropology, Scrapple from The Apple, Confirmation or Donna Lee are exercises in their own right. As for harmony, I’m always trying to learn new standards in playing chords, a style like Ed Bickert or Johny Smith.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
RP: – Evolution is necessary mainly in the spiritual realm, but it comes casually. Sometimes I have a desire for change, so I deviate from the usual cliché and do a different project in terms of genre, but the focus of my work is still the same.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
RP: – Like who. In my case, it combines about 50/50. The soul is very important, but in jazz intellect is essential.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
RP: – I think it’s two-sided. The more accommodating the audience, the more they get from me. These laws work very reliably.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
RP: – I don’t see a serious problem with that. It’s similar to classical music. There, the compositions are even older and yet it finds its supporters among young people. It is not about age, but about quality. The number of young jazz musicians is growing and they have ambitions to create their own jazz songs. Jazz will never die.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
RP: – Music is very important in my life, but it is not the only one. In my free time I write or paint. I like to go in nature, ride a bike, scooter and kayak. I like meeting friends and family. I think the time Coltrane lived is quite different from ours. In any case, the music is still the same good or bad.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
RP: – Nothing comes to my mind. Every music that has its listeners is good for something.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
RP: – Still the same. Jazz Mainstream of 50 ‘and 60’. Wes, Kenny, Jim, Miles, Art, Gerry, but lately I’ve discovered a great album by the underrated guitarist Luis Steward Live in London. I listen to that often now!
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
RP: – Be cool and listen to jazz!
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
RP: – Definitely to the fifties in America! It was a wonderful time of prosperity for American society and incredibly great music!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan
Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/us-eu-jba/