June 14, 2024

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Interview with Maarten van der Grinten։ More people would see the beauty of more intimate concerts: Video, new CD cover

Interview with Jazz guitarist Maarten van der Grinten. 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?

Maarten van der Grinten։ – I was unstoppable. Started to play drums at the age of 8, first by constructing my own drum kit (buckets etc) when I was 10 or 11 I had my first “gigs” as a drummer (Honeysuckle Rose and Take Five were the tunes I remember).

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Not – I suppose-because I was so good, but simply because there were no other drummers in my village:) At some point the boy next door, who was a guitarist, put strings on the old guitar we that we had from my grandmother. Then it went fast, I don’t know where it came from but I was very disciplined in studying, found a very nice teacher, played classical music, Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, etc.

The day – I must have been 15 or so – when the mail man delivered the copy of the Real Book, then still illegal, was a very memorable day and I spent the next years biking weekly to the library in the next village where you could hire records, checking out all the Real book referenced albums. At 18 I found out they just had started the first jazz education in the broadcast city Hilversum. I went there and met my teacher Wim Overgaauw, the biggest name in modern jazz guitar then in the Netherlands. When I was 21 I started to do my first Radio and Tv gigs and soon it became clear there was no way back. This was it for me. And that stayed ever since.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound? What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

MG: – At the time in Conservatory I tried everything, all kind of picks (even stone picks), strings, fx etc. I still had my Ibanez GB-10, the sound was pretty thick and tight, going for a kind of Martino like sound. When I arrived for my master’s study in New York (Manhattan School of Music) soon I landed at 48th street at We Buy Guitars. And there my future friend Epiphone Triumph was awaiting me. It sounded so nice and full that it allowed me lighter strings and a thinner pick and my sound became more expressive, the chords more crisp.

Finding my own sound came natural by connecting all the influences I had and listening to a lot of music, definitely not just guitar. Bill Evans, Lee Konitz and Sonny Rollins were among my biggest heroes.

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

MG: – That’s a great question. It was important for with this solo project that it kept the feeling of a spontaneous jazz performance. So although interesting arrangements where a key factor, it was not supposed to be a stiff classical execution. I kept most of the arrangements very loose and there was a lot to decide on the moment and always a fully improvised section. Also I really cared for different textures within the instrument and a lot of care for dynamics. I added also some arrangements that I played for years but never recorded and I did not really rehearse them especially, to keep something for the moment. I also composed some tunes especially for it and wanted to use some effects because I definitely did not want it to sound as if I could have been recorded 30 years ago. Neither I wanted to go for the overused delay thing that many guitarist nowadays have on by default. FX, I love them but they are to be used as FX and the natural sound of the guitar always has to breath through it, I think.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Maarten Van Der Grinten – A Guitar, A Man & A Song, Vol. I – II, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

MG: – I love very much that I succeeded in the things I described in the answer to the last question. Also the fact that all songs are captured with 9 great UHD cameras while recording adds so much to the experience while listening.

And above that: I constantly had the picture in mind of a beautiful album like Undercurrent of Bill Evans and Jim Hall. A record that allows you to listen to it on two levels: intense with great artistic input, but if you zoom out, it’s still pretty music that wouldn’t bother you , even when you are not 100% listening to it. Then just creates a good mood. That’s fine too.

Actually that is a factor that used to be part of jazz always. At this moment I’m working on the follow up of A Guitar, a Man & a song, Volume I. Guess what it’s called: Volume II and later Volume III , brilliant or what?

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JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

MG: – Making a solo album was a step I had to make, to put myself more clear on the map as a solist. I’ve been playing so much with others and even in my own projects I not often used my own name as a band name, like it’s the classic way to go in Jazz. So it gave many jazz people the feeling I never did my own projects. It works quite different than in pop music.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

MG: – There are many! Big ones (thousands) like in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, in Korea (almost having the escape from fans that wanted autographs:), Taiwan, São Paulo, but also nice small ones. Even played for the Dutch Queen who was dancing in the end. One sweet memory I have from playing with my trio with Clark Terry, for the release of his CD with Wes Montgomery, who wasn’t alive anymore then. He counted in God Bless the Child and although I never played the tune then I could dream the Sonny version. Also we panicked when he proposed on stage to play A Slow Boat to China (we did not know really it then), but luckily he added immediately: but I DO mean a SLOW boat. So it was played so slow, that the bass player and me had all the time to think of every chord that was coming. Wow, what a phrasing and articulation had he!

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

MG: – The soul is the thing the counts, the communication you can create with the listener. Intellect is just among the tools that helps you to prepare your style and performance; to create freedom of thought during the performance.

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

MG: – Jazz always has had that perfect balance of creative artisticity and entertainment. Even the most free improvised music players e.g. here in the Dutch scene often realized that it shouldn’t be only high brow arty stuff but that entertaining people in some way must be part of the deal. That’s the human part, nothing wrong with it. Finding the right balance that’s the clue. Art should alway be this cocktail of pleasing sounds and more edge. Keith Jarrett e.g. always hates it when his ‘romantic’ stuff is separated from the rest; then its de-cocktailized 🙂

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

MG: – Knowing songs has always been my thing. I had the golden rule, whenever there was a song called on a jam session that I had to say ‘no’ to: first thing in the morning is to learn the tune.

These wonderful simple tunes that can carry a performance all on its own are still a key factor to jazz and its open structure to listen to as an audience. By playing the songs like I do on this album and the coming 2 volumes I hope to make a good pledge for the songs.

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

MG: – I wish more people would see the beauty of more intimate concerts. Music that is made in front of you, tailor made. Nowadays people are willing to spend their money on big pricy events with thousands of people and in the end the find themselves watching screen, just like at home. Why not spent money on smaller events and more diverse artists. There are soooo many great talents who are not recognized, lost in the algorhythms. And the big stars just suffer from their fame. The load is sometimes too heavy for them to stay creative. We should get rid of the power of the numbers. The connection of money and music (and art in general) is a very unhappy marriage.

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

MG: – One very creative artist I really love nowadays is Rosalía. Her approach with flamenco and reggeaton is so playful, like jazz eclecticism, and then this great persona she creates. She is so strong that she can carry this load of much succes till now. Even though she sings about Fame, being a bad lover, who can stab you in the back. As a guitarist I love what Julian Lage is doing these days. But I am really stylistically an all-eater.

JBN: –  What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

MG: – It is about connecting to people. Music is there in the most important moments of your live. To listen to, to dance to, to eat to, to have fun to, to relax to, to mourn to and to celebrate to.

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

MG: – Yes, I love your questions.

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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