June 19, 2024


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Interview with Gilles Grethen: I don’t believe there is a meaning to life than life itself: Video

Interview with Luxembourgish guitarist Gilles Grethen. 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? 

Gilles Grethen: – Growing up in a musical household, this was pretty clear to me at a young age. I started with classical music: first violin then clarinet until I realised at around 15/16, that my real passion lies in the guitar and in Jazz music. But I can remember at 3 or 4 years old I already wanted to become a musician, so there was no other way than to make it work.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

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

GG: – I grew up listening to a lot of classical music but my father also had some records of Count Basie Big Band, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. So I listened to those a lot. That definitely formed my sense of traditional sound in my head, which I adore until today. The first guitarists I heard were Wes Montgomery (Boss Guitar and Smokin’ at the half note) and Kenny Burrell and later Scofield. So I oriented my Sound to the more traditional side without using any effects. Now, I still don’t use many effects (apart of reverb and delays, maybe a little overdrive some times) but I go for a more modern sound like Kurt Rosenwinkel or Lage Lund.

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

GG: – I do a lot of work over Jazz standards. Playing continuous 8ths lines through the changes, arpeggios and harmonising the melody in different ways. Then I play every possible chord tone through the changes, I start with the 3rd for example (so 3rd on top of every voicing). Rhythmically, at the moment I work a lot on odd groupings and polyrhythms.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

GG: – I think everybody should change over a certain amount of time. What that change is, is different for everybody. So yes, I’ve changed a lot especially in the last years. I practice a lot and I write a lot of music and I can that with more experience come better choices.

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

GG: – For me the intellect in music lies in practicing the music, perfecting your technique, training your ear by listening to a lot of music and knowing the theory. The ‚soul‘ comes from expressing your emotions on stage and telling a story through your music.

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

GG: – Big yes! I think this is what it’s all about. I really like to open up on stage and tell my story.

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

GG: – How do we get young people interested in classical music if most of it is several centuries old? I think the age of the songs is not in the way of making new music with them. There are so many great musicians like Melissa Aldana, Joel Ross or Gilad Hekselman (to only name a few) who take the old songs and turn them into modern music. I believe it’s not what songs you play but how you play them.

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

GG: – I don’t believe there is a meaning to life than life itself. I like to enjoy life and making music definitely is the best way for me.

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

GG: – That musicians get payed fairly and the perception of a freelance musician as a ‚real‘ job.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023


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

GG: – Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Big Band, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Mahler symphonies, Brahms, Stravinsky.

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

GG: – I’d make a trip to the late 1930s. Big Band music is the popular music of the time and Count Basie Orchestra is touring the world. It’d give a lot to see them live at that time.

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

GG: – Great questions, although some are quite deep and hard to keep short answers.

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, 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/useujba/

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