Talking to artists I always found interesting and challenging and exciting, as to find out more about the person behind the music. To get a bit of the background, the philosophy and even the worries or moments of happiness.
Last week I did spent a few days with Branford Marsalis, doing interviews for his new quartet album in a hotel room in Vienna. The dinners and times off, when we could chat, were for me the most interesting part, as he is a very clever and conscious man, with his own set of strong views about the music and the world.
As he is a teacher as well as a musician, he deals a lot with young players and it took me bit by surprise when he mentioned that a lot of the young musicians he meets when teaching, think that the history of the music is not important any more, as long as they have their own ‘concept’. They know who Bird (Charlie Parker) is, but don’t consider him relevant. As an educator and performer, Branford knows that evolution comes from the knowledge of the past and taking it into a new age – whatever form of art you are talking about. If you get stuck in your ‘concept’, you might stay there forever. What is needed to move forward is curiosity, but a lot of the youngsters don’t have it – like in many different ways in our times, in music as well, all is centred around the ego and oneself.
A word on Branford – it has always been a pleasure to work with him, as he is truly one of the most professional guys in the business. Within three days in Vienna he did 23 interviews – each at least 40 minutes long! Never tired of talking about his music, the way the band approaches a recording or concert, his philosophy. An example in many more ways than musically.
The week before going to Vienna I had a friend and great musician visiting my wife Yolanda and myself in Madrid: Tunisian oud player and singer Dhafer Youssef. So we arranged for a dinner in one of our favourite places and invited as well flamenco/jazz guitarist Josemi Carmona, bass player Pablo Martin and singer La Shica – friends from around town, as well ex-colleagues from Universal, a manager and an agent, all with partners. We had an amazing evening with talk about music and everything else, and some of these guys meeting for the first time proper – Josemi and La Shica had met Dhafer briefly at a concert a few months before, but never had had time to chat and get to know each other a bit better.
(La Shica, Josemi Carmona, Dhafer Youssef, Pablo Martin)
The day after the dinner Dhafer, Yolanda and myself went to see Josemi at his house in Madrid and the two musicians almost immediately started playing around – Dhafer had brought his studio oud and after a few minutes the tape was running – and out of an idea a song was brought to life in an instant. It was pure magic to see these guys communicate musically with so much respect for each other, but as well with the sensibility to follow or to lead and to play together. One take, one song! After 2 more hours, sketches to more music was recorded and everyone had a smile on their faces. Later we went to see Pablo perform in a small club, in a duo with a guitarist and really enjoyed what they were doing. As he hadn’t brought the right oud for a concert, Dhafer didn’t take up the invitation from Pablo to join them – he’ll do that on his next visit.
Talking music and listening – different ways to expand the horizon, but equally satisfying the never diminishing curiosity!