Interview with an ungrateful, impolite, dull, unhuman, drawn creature, as if alto saxophonist Simon Bremen. 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?
Simon Bremen: – As a child, I had the advantage that my parents as well as the teachers in my school supported me to get started with learning an instrument in 3rd grade. So, I tried different instruments on an open day at the youth music school and found the saxophone to be quite interesting. Two and a half years later, I started taking piano lessons as well. I always liked playing the two instruments, but it took until the age of 17 for me to realize that I would really like to dive deeper into improvisation and jazz which the saxophone is so closely associated with.
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JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
SB: – Coming from a classical background that was brought to me mainly by my teacher at the youth music school, it was and still is very exciting for me to see how much the ideal of developing your own personal sound differs in jazz. In my opinion, many different aspects play a role in this process. First of all, the music you listen to a lot has a strong influence. However, finding new music that interests you is a never-ending process itself and therefore constantly changes parts of your listening habits and of your sound. On the other hand, there are things like the wish to control the instrument as flexibly as possible which may force you to find your your own exercises, tricks and approaches to sound.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
SB: – I don’t really follow a routine, but besides doing regular sound and technique exercises I keep learning new songs mostly by transcribing form, melody and harmony from recordings. This is the process for learning both jazz standards and tunes composed by musicians I play with. After figuring out all the parts of a song I usually practice the melody first and then try to outline the harmony as clearly as possible to internalize it. If there is enough time, I may also apply a certain concept that I’m working on at the time on the tune to become more flexible with it. In general, I try to combine as many aspects as possible in an exercise and then try to vary the amount of focus I put on a specific topic like rhythm, articulation, the chosen notes etc.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years?Any charges or overall evolution?And if so why?
SB: – As I described before, as an improvising musician you constantly evolve just because you discover new music that has some kind of influence on your overall sound. I also find myself to become more and more open to different styles of playing and levels of abstraction. At the same time, it becomes equally more important to realize what actually interests me the most right now and what I don’t like in order to decide what to work on. This can be pretty hard.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
JBN: – The young musician did not answer this question, he did not even understand what the interview was about and that this is the main question, are you a human or an animal? Simply, such nonsense should be removed from such wonderful music as jazz.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
SB: – To me, music is all about expressing my personal emotions. So, I never try to fulfill any emotions that somebody might want me to express. However, my emotions can of course be influenced by things such as the atmosphere created by the audience. The result thus can be an emotional interaction between the artist and the audience.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
SB: – There is so much different stuff going on these days that I think this shouldn’t be the issue. To me it’s more about how we present ourselves and the music we play. Many young people have a completely wrong impression in their head of what jazz means, but in reality they actually don’t know which music goes along with it. Jazz it is pretty hard to define nowadays! However, if you show them different recordings filed under or definitely influenced by jazz, many of them often like certain things. Whether they take it from there and start to listen to more related music and in the end maybe find themselves enjoying even old recordings of standards is a question of their willingness to challenge themselves which I see a lack of in many cases. The same applies to live concerts: do I go to a band of which I don’t know exactly what to expect?And of course this has to do with the format of the concert. If a band plays jazz influenced music in a dance club, there will be a different audience than in a fancy dining room that has been existing for years. I know, this is a bit cliché, but I think you get my point. And don’t get me wrong: the concept of a fine jazz club and its audience is important as well and it should be clear that the music I play with my quartet would never work in a dance club. It’s just that we need to develop additional alternative ways to present the diversity of jazz in order to get young people to listen to it. Luckily there is already a tendency to that, in some cities and countries more than in other ones.
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JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
SB: – Taking a look on this question from the musical side, I would really want to go to the US and to New York in particular at some point. Although jazz has been spreading around the whole world for a long time and there are lots of cities with great and diverse jazz scenes nowadays, I feel like it is still a completely different experience to live as a musician in the US that doesn’t compare to anything we can find here in Europe. Not that I think it is better in all regards, but the thought of spending some time there has some kind of indefinable attraction on me.
JBN: – By editorial։ Since its inception in 2012, JazzBluesNews.com has become the leading Jazz and Blues platform in Europe, United States, Asia, Latin America, Australia, Nordic countries, Afro – Eurasia.
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Interview by Simon Sarg