March 3, 2024

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Interview with Alan Barnes: Generally I avoid intellectuals

Interview with jazz saxophonis and bass clarinetist Alan Barnes. An interview by email in writing. After publishing the interview, he is a rude person who is incapable of writing even one thank you …

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?

Alan Barnes: – I grew up in Altrincham Cheshire in the UK. It sounds unpromising at first but there was a local pub “The Malt Shovels” that had 8 jazz sessions a week where I was eventually allowed in.

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I loved the sound of Acker Bilk playing “Stranger on the Shore” which was constantly on the radio at the time and so started bugging my parents for a clarinet. I had to prove I was interested and then received an alto saxophone for my 15th birthday (the same horn I play today) Soon after I had some paid gigs and that was that as far as I was concerned. You can’t go into a conventional job after that.

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

AB: – I think my sound has got a bit bigger recently when I realised I had to stop struggling and decided to drop a reed strength. I love the sound Cannonball Adderley and Benny Carter got at the bottom of the alto and I’m getting nearer that now- harder to control tuning but worth it. I like the quicksilver qualities in Art Pepper’s sound which I have tried to emulate and Johnny Hodges remains one of the finest saxophone tones of all time. I think I sound like myself on alto and possibly baritone.

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

AB: – I just practise tunes that are going to come up or that are of interest at the time. Trying to make my lines resolve onto strong notes on each chord and really getting to know the material. I try and play in unfamiliar keys but stop when my head starts aching.

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

AB: – I think I’m pretty much the same- just trying to play as well as I can and doing a lot of listening. I play less notes these days and am happy to play simple tunes that leave lots of room to make them your own.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

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

AB: – I think soul is the most important- you have to have heart and you have to mean it and love the music. Generally I avoid intellectuals.

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

AB: – There is no point in playing in a vacuum. Audiences are important. They pay to hear you and give their leisure time to hear your music. Jazz is a branch of the entertainment industry. This doesn’t mean you have to compromise the music just that you have to acknowledge their presence and draw them in. When I first started listening to jazz, I loved being given insights into what was happening by the musicians-that’s what I try to do now on my own gigs.

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

AB: – Well great music is great music however old. There’s room for everyone but not looking at and not studying the tradition is folly. It also means missing out on a lot of enjoyment. Great playing is not a new thing-it’s happened in all periods of jazz and continues today. I don’t view things as getting better and better through the years and I don’t like discussions about whose the best now. I think the media are obsessed with musicians coming up with something new instead of judging them by their quality and, most importantly, individuality. Pressure to come up with something “new” and recognisably “new” is something I think that works against us.

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

AB: – Well the spirit is the lovely thing you hear in great playing or great writing. As to the meaning of life I’m not sure there is one- you’ve just got to get through the weird experience of being on the planet!

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

AB: – I wish everyone would listen with a bit more kindness and give all the different styles a chance.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

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

AB: – Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington all the time!

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

AB: – I probably go and hear Dizzy and Bird playing together, Louis Armstrong with King Oliver or the early Ellington band at the Kentucky Club. It would just be wonderful to be there in person.

JBN: – Do You like our questions?

AB: – The question are quite stimulating.

JBN: – One can imagine that someone who doesn’t like intellectuals must have the sense to criticize the mass media organizing one of the biggest festivals in the world, an unknown saxophonist.

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/

Alan Barnes Quartet - Oaken Grove Vineyard

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