May 19, 2024

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Interview with Tord Gustavsen: I really don’t always know where I’m going: Video

Interview with jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – Please explain your creative process …

Tord Gustavsen: – It’s about «listen more than you play». Trying to listen for what is needed, for what’s essential. Trying to stay where things are vibrating, and go with what feels authentic and important.

JBN: – What are your main impulses to write music?

TG: – The musicians I play with are always my main inspiration. How they respond to my ideas, what they do when playing around with a motive, a groove or a sound texture during sound check, for example. Ideas can also come out of meditation in silence, or simply by sitting at the piano and improvising.

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JBN: – What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments and pieces in your work and/or career?

TG: – The first time I played a ballad with Jarle Vespestad on drums; the first time I heard Simin Tander sing; and the phase where I understood how to combine gospel/hymnal earthiness with Impressionist-type airiness and bi-tonality.

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

TG: – We never decide fully what we will play until we are actually on stager – but most nights bring a combination of pieces; renderings of a Bach choral; and free improvisations, all depending on where the energy goes and what feels right there and then.

JBN: – Are there sub-genres within the jazz field that you tend to stay away from or focus on?

TG: – All genres can be fantastic. But I generally do not deal so much with music that is written out in great detail and ‘composed’ – I prefer then arranging and developing the music while actually playing it. If playing through-composed music, I’d rather do classical repertoire.

Our US/EU Jazz-Blues Association Festivals 2023 with performances by international stars: Photos

JBN: – When your first desire to become involved in the music was & what do you learn about yourself from music?

TG: – I have been involved in music since my father played the piano and I sat on his knee, and starting improvising and playing 4-handed around 4 years of age. Since then, music has always been an essential part of my life and how I express myself and how I feel sacredness and meaning. I did not think I would have music as a profession, though – I studied sociology, psychology, and comparative religion first; but then I realised that no matter how interesting and great these subjects were, I had a calling to play full-time.

JBN: – How would you describe and rate the music scene you are currently living?

TG: – Very creative, diverse, rich and inspiring.

JBN: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

TG: – I really don’t always know where I’m going. it’s a matter of combining rehearsed building blocks and known ‘paths’ with the actually unknown and feeling everything with freshness. Of course, there is no such thing as completely ‘new’ in music history – the modernist thinking of linear development is long dead. But freshness is still possible, and necessary..

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?

TG: – Not the musicians I know, at least – the emphasis in music education in Norway lies on originality and creativity. Of course, knowing the history and working hard to get it under your skin and not be arrogant towards tradition. But then, to actually say something with the language your have developed, not to reproduce and become machine.

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?

TG: – Totally understandable that that can happen. It is really difficult to make a living, and often really difficult to find the good places to play, with good pianos, good sound systems, etc.

JBN: – And lastly, being a teacher, do you find it difficult to write music yourself?

TG: – I don’t teach at all these days.

JBN: – With such an illustrious career, what has given you the most satisfaction musically?

TG: – The best concerts with my bands over the years, has given me the most satisfaction.

JBN: – From the musical and feeling point of view is there any difference between a old and great jazzmans and young?

TG: – No. Perhaps more experienced, perhaps less vulnerable to self-hatred when a concert does not go so well, perhaps better at finding alternative ways in the improvised music when something is not feeling right… but the basic feeling of sacred joy when music is really happening, is the same.

JBN: – What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career?

TG: – Listen more than you play. And only do music as a profession if you realize that you really have to. Otherwise, working with something else and enjoying music on the side is better.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues FESTIVALS 2023

The US/EU Jazz & Blues Association (US/EU JBA): Who we are 2012 – 2023! Photo

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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