June 19, 2024


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Interview with Niels Lan Doky: You need to live intertesting lives to have interesting stories to tell through your music

Interview with an ungrateful, impolite, dull, unhuman, drawn creature, Jazz pianist Niels Lan Doky. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish this program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new address this year, also in Budapest and Liverpool.

JazzBluesNews.com: – Please explain your creative process … What are your main impulses to write music?

Niels Lan Doky: – Since 1986 I have accumulated a lot of experience with playing compositions, as well as interpreting material by others including jazz standards and doing jazz renditions of songs from other genres. I love all of itThe greatest musicians all have in common that their music is a crystal clear reflection of their soul. For that reason, working on yourself as a human being is just as important as working on your craft as an artist.

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Ultimately, music is more about who you are than about what you play. So whenever I play it it always feels like I revisit the experience again, including all of the memories, feelings and emotions associated with it. I try to encapsulate all of that in musical form whenever I write a composition.

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

NLD: – I remember a very long time ago I heard Pat Metheny say that jazz artists generally don’t mature until they are in their mid-thirties. And then I suddenly remembered what Pat said, and I realized he was right. Music is a language, not the story in itself, but the language that you use to tell stories, and jazz is an improvised collective interactive art form. As I mentioned earlier, ultimately, music is more about who you are than about what you play. So reaching a certain level of life experience is essential to becoming a mature jazz player. So in retrospect I very much agree with Pat on this topic.

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

NLD: – No not really. I am open to all music. I agree with Duke Ellington who once said “There are only 2 types of music, good music and bad music. I like the good kind.” A genre of music that interests me a lot though is Flamenco. That genre has an incredibly well-structured division of frequencies between the instruments and their individual musical roles, which in turn makes it possible to make incredibly powerful mixes and stereo perspectives during recording. I am trying to translate.

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

NLD: – I was playing classical guitar from age 7 studying with my father who was a classical guitar teacher. At age 11 I saw the Robert Redford movie “The Sting” featuring soundtrack of ragtime music by Scott Joplin and I feel in love with the piano and switched to piano then, first with a traditional classical piano teacher but later studying with Ole Kock Hansen, a great Danish pianist from the Danish Radio Big Band and also a close childhood friend and neighbour of bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen who later became a mentor and close musical associate of mine for many years. I studied with Ole off and on during my junior high and high school years until I left for the USA to study at Berklee College of Music where my piano teacher was Ray Santisi.

My main learning about yourself from music is that music is a language, not the story itself. It’s a language and not the story itself. It’s not enough to master a language if you don’t have good stories to tell. So it is just as important to live an interesting life as it is to practice your instrument and musical skills.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

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

NLD: – The current jazz situation in Denmark and the Nordic countries is really very good. In the Nordic countries in general, but in particular in Denmark. There is an abundance of great new young players, and audiences too. And many great foreign musicians continue to move to Denmark to be a part of the scene which is great too.

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

NLD: – Improvising is a form of meditation. You have to learn to be in the moment on command. It takes experience to be able to do so when you can do this, you are ONLY in the moment, the past and future does not exist, only the present moment does. That is when creativity flows in abundance and the next note will come to you effortlessly, you don’t have to struggle to find or choose it.

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?

NLD: – Yes and it really relates to what I was saying earlier, music is just a language, not the story itself. You need to live intertesting lives to have interesting stories to tell through your music. When I was studying at Berklee College of Music in the early 1980s, there was numerous students spending 8 hours a day in the practice room, that I have never heard of since. They didn’t have any career after graduating. The reason in my opinion is that if the only story you have to tell is how it feels to be in a practice room for 8 hours a day for 4 years then that is not an intersting story, and you don’t have anything to offer an audience.

Instead, go out an life life too. Fall in love, travel the world, take chances, make mistakes, fall, get back up on your feet, go into deep water and learn how to swim, metaphorically speaking.

JBN: – What has given you the most satisfaction musically?

NLD: – As I have elaborated on earlier I don’t separate my life and my music, they are totally intertwined as all times. I think the most satisfactory experience has been to meet, play with and befriend, so many great musicians, who are also great human beings, inspirational on all levels, starting with Thad Jones when I was 15 years old.

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

NLD: – This question is mostly answered in my Pat Metheny anecdote further above. Young players are interesting too. Just like young people. As long as you don’t stand still. Young people who are on their way to higher levels of existence and have a different perspective on the world are very interesting to follow and interact with. Just like many band leaders before me (Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Stan Getz, etc) that is why I enjoy having musicians in my band of younger generations.

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

NLD: – I like the old African proverb “those who stand on the shoulders of their ancestors, stand tallest”. I would say that there is so much to learn from the people that came before you. Study the greats, not only their music, but also their personalities, their careers, their lives and life choices, etc. Try to understand who it all synthesized into such great music.

In terms of a music career it has always been difficult. It usually chooses you, you don’t choose it. You should only do it because it is a real calling and you have no choice. Otherwise it is just hard hard work.

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

NLD: – Yes Yes here is my question: Why do you think jazz has evolved over the decades from being a pop culture genre to a niche-genre?

Miles Davis touches upon it in his autobiography: At some point in the 1960s jazz musicians started to design their music to appeal more to jazz critics/writers than to audiences, and that was the beginning of a new parallel path that gained momentum and to some extent overshadowed the music made by musicians (like myself) who are primarily interested in a dialogue with the audience.

JBN: – Were our questions not enough that you found it necessary instead of asking us your question, you asked yourself a question and answered it? Ha, ha, ha …


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Interview by Emmanuel Bolton


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