Archive for the ‘Master Class’ Category

Las notas más vitales que musicales del profesor Rubalcaba – MIQUEL JURADO Barcelona 6 NOV 2016 – 09:02 CET

El pianista cubano da una sentida clase magistral en el Festival de Jazz de Barcelona

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LORENZO DUASO.

No es habitual que en el escenario se instalen tres estudiantes y, mientras tocan su música, uno de los pianistas más importantes hoy los observe atentamente desde un lateral. Serio, con cara de póquer, ni entusiasmado, ni contrariado. Y que después tome el micro y comente la jugada ante la mirada nerviosa y expectante de los jóvenes artistas. No hay suspensos ni recriminaciones, solo comentarios en positivo, incluso más vitales que musicales. Y si la cosa no ha quedado clara, el mismo artista de campanillas se sienta al piano con ellos para mostrarles que el salto adelante es posible.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba (La Habana, 1963) impartió el jueves en el Conservatorio del Liceo una de las clases magistrales incluidas en el Festival de Jazz de Barcelona y no fue una lectura académica; al contrario. El pianista optó por la forma más participativa: tres tríos de estudiantes le tocaron un tema que más que un examen era un trampolín para que después el cubano se abriera en disquisiciones que tanto servían para la música como para cualquier otra actividad creativa.

Rubalcaba defendía la melodía y el sentimiento, hablaba de sus experiencias personales, se confesaba enamorado de las baladas románticas y enemigo visceral de los bateristas (algo inaudito, ya que horas después compartía escenario con el explosivo Jeff Ballard). “Para componer lo importante no es la técnica sino tener algo que decir”, lanzó. “Es imposible convencer a nadie si uno no está convencido de sí mismo”. Algunos alumnos, como mínimo los que tuvieron la suerte de tocar con él, se fueron a casa convencidos. “Guai”, describía después la experiencia uno de los que pisó el escenario.

El segundo trío interpretó un clásico de Charlie Haden Sandino, oportunidad magnífica para que Rubalcaba hablara de su amigo y mentor al que iba a dedicar el concierto de la noche. “Haden creaba su música en términos humanos, de vivir la vida, de percibir los hechos que le rodeaban. Tenía la genialidad de componer melodías muy sencillas y eso no se estudia, se posee”.

Fueron unas palabras que quedaron claras horas después cuando Rubalcaba regresó al mismo escenario acompañado de su cuarteto (con Ballard a la batería) para ofrecer un concierto sensacional en recuerdo de Haden. Fue una reinterpretación de su espíritu: sonaba a Haden pero era distinto. Rubalcaba, más jazzístico y menos latino que otras ocasiones, doblegó su virtuosismo pianístico evitando superficiales fuegos artificiales y, magníficamente acompañado, dejó que las melodías coparan el protagonismo. La magistral versión de La Pasionaria, volcánica y tempestuosa como el Haden más comprometido, valió por todo un festival.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba- “The Making of XXI Century” Available April 2012

Las Fotos de Eduardo Leyva Benítez

Mozart, Early Jazz Musician?

Mozart’s compositional method

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mozart portrayed by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange

The question of how Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart created his works has long been studied. 19th century views on this topic were often based on a romantic, mythologizing conception of the process of composition. More recent scholarly study has attempted to address the issue through systematic examination of the surviving letters and documents, and has arrived at rather different conclusions.


Mozart’s approach to composition

A surviving letter of Mozart’s to his father Leopold (31 July 1778) indicates that he considered composition to be an active process, the product of his intellect and carried out under conscious control:

“You know that I immerse myself in music, so to speak — that I think about it all day long — that I like experimenting — studying — reflecting.”

In other words, a popular stereotype about creative artists, that they passively wait for “inspiration” to strike, is probably inapplicable to Mozart. For discussion of this stereotype as applied to Mozart, see below.

Sketches

Mozart often wrote down sketches, ranging in size from small snippets to extensive drafts, for his compositions. Although many of these have not survived, having been destroyed by Mozart’s widow Constanze, about 320 sketches and drafts are extant, covering about 10 percent of the composer’s work.[1]

Ulrich Konrad, an expert on the sketches[2] describes a well-worked-out system of sketching that Mozart used, based on examination of the surviving documents. Typically the most “primitive” sketches are in casual handwriting, and give just snippets of music. More advanced sketches cover the most salient musical lines (the melody line, and often the bass), leaving other lines to be filled in later. The so-called “draft score” was one in an advanced enough state for Mozart to consider it complete, and therefore enter it (after 1784) into the personal catalog that he called Verzeichnüss aller meiner Werke (“Catalog of all my works”). However, the draft score did not include all of the notes: it remained to flesh out the internal voices, filling out the harmony. These were added to create the completed score, which appeared in a highly legible hand.[3]

This procedure makes sense of another letter Mozart wrote to Leopold, discussing his work in Munich on the opera Idomeneo (30 December 1780), where Mozart makes a distinction between “composed” and “written”:

I must finish [writing this letter] now, because I’ve got to write at breakneck speed — everything’s composed — but not written yet.

In Konrad’s view, Mozart had completed the “draft score” of the work, but still needed to produce the completed, final version.

Of the sketches that survive, none are for solo keyboard works. Konrad suggests that “improvisation [at which Mozart was highly skilled; see below] or the actual trying out of particularly challenging imaginative possibilities could compensate in these cases for the lack of sketches.”[4]

Use of a keyboard

Mozart evidently needed a keyboard to work out his musical thoughts. This can be deduced from his letters and other biographical material. For instance, on 1 August 1781, Mozart wrote to his father Leopold concerning his living arrangements in Vienna, where he had recently moved:

My room that I’m moving to is being prepared; — I’m just off now to hire a keyboard, because I can’t live there until that’s been delivered especially as I’ve got to write just now, and there isn’t a minute to be lost.[5]

Konrad cites a similar letter written from Paris, indicating that Mozart didn’t compose where he was staying, but visited another home to borrow the keyboard instrument there. Similar evidence is found in early biographies based on Constanze Mozart‘s memories.

Incomplete works

About 150 of Mozart’s surviving works are incomplete, roughly a quarter of the total count of surviving works.[1] A number of completed works can be shown (e.g. by inspecting watermarks or inks) to be completions of fragments that had long been left incomplete. These include the piano concertos K. 449, K. 488, K. 503, and K. 595, as well as the Clarinet Concerto K. 622.

It is not known why so many works were left incomplete. In a number of cases, the historical record shows that what Mozart thought was an opportunity for performance or sale evaporated during the course of composition.[6] Braunbehrens (1990) observes: “Most pieces … were written on request or with a specific performance in mind, if not for the composer’s own use. Mozart frequently emphasized that he would never consider writing something for which there was no such occasion. Indeed, hardly a single work of his was not written for a particular occasion, or at least for use in his own concerts.”[7]

Improvisation

Mozart evidently had a prodigious ability to “compose on the spot”; that is, to improvise at the keyboard. This ability was apparent even in his childhood, as the Benedictine priest Placidus Scharl recalled:

Even in the sixth year of his age he would play the most difficult pieces for the pianoforte, of his own invention. He skimmed the octave which his short little fingers could not span, at fascinating speed and with wonderful accuracy. One had only to give him the first subject which came to mind for a fugue or an invention: he would develop it with strange variations and constantly changing passages as long as one wished; he would improvise fugally on a subject for hours, and this fantasia-playing was his greatest passion.[8]

As a teenager visiting Italy, Mozart gave a concert in Venice (5 March 1771). According to a witness, “An experienced musician gave him a fugue theme, which he worked out for more than an hour with such science, dexterity, harmony, and proper attention to rhythm, that even the greatest connoisseurs were astounded.”[9]

Mozart continued to improvise in public as an adult. For instance, the highly successful concert of 1787 in Prague that premiered his “Prague Symphony” concluded with a half-hour improvisation by the composer.[10] For other instances, see Mozart’s Berlin journey and Dora Stock.

There is apparently little evidence to bear on the question of whether Mozart’s improvisations were a source of ideas to him for permanent compositions.[citation needed]

Improvisation as a backup for sight-reading

On one occasion, Mozart evidently used his improvisational ability to bolster his limitations in sight-reading. The composer André Grétry recalled:

Once in Geneva I met a child who could play everything at sight. His father said to me before the assembled company: So that no doubt shall remain as to my son’s talent, write for him, for to-morrow, a very difficult Sonata movement. I wrote him an Allegro in E flat; difficult, but unpretentious; he played it, and everyone, except myself, believed that it was a miracle. The boy had not stopped; but following the modulations, he had substituted a quantity of passages for those which I had written …[11]

The meeting of Grétry and the young Mozart apparently took place in 1766.[12]

Improvisation as a time-saving device

Braunbehrens suggests that on at least one occasion, Mozart met a deadline by simply not writing down part of the music and improvising it instead while performing before the audience. This was evidently true of the Piano Concerto in D, K. 537, premiered 24 February 1788. In this work, the second movement opens with a solo passage for the pianist. The autograph (composer-written) score of the music gives the notes as follows:

Braunbehrens and other scholars infer that Mozart could not conceivably have opened a movement with a completely unadorned melody line, and instead improvised a suitable accompaniment for the left hand. Similar passages occur throughout the concerto.

The work was published only in 1794, three years after Mozart’s death, and the publisher Johann André found some other composer (whose identity is unknown) to fill in the missing passages; it is these interpolations that have standardly been performed since that time.[13]

Mozart’s memory

Mozart appears to have possessed an excellent memory for music, though probably not the quasi-miraculous ability that has passed into legend. In particular, the use of keyboards and sketches to compose, noted above, would not have been necessary for a composer who possessed superhuman memory. Various anecdotes attest to Mozart’s memory abilities.

Two of the violin sonatas gave rise to anecdotes to the effect that Mozart played the piano part at the premiere from memory, with only the violinist playing from the music. This is true for the Violin Sonata in G, K. 379/373a, where Mozart wrote in a letter to Leopold (8 April 1781) that he wrote out the violin part in an hour the night before the performance[14] “but in order to be able to finish it, I only wrote out the accompaniment for Brunetti and retained my own part in my head.”[15] A similar story has survived concerning the Violin Sonata in B flat, K. 454, performed before the Emperor in the Kärntnertortheater 29 April 1784.[16]

One may perhaps question whether in these instances Mozart retained the entire keyboard part note for note in his head; given the independent testimony (above) for his ability to fill in gaps through improvisation, it would seem that Mozart could have done this as well in performing the violin sonatas.

Another instance of Mozart’s powerful memory concerns his memorization and transcription of Gregorio Allegri‘s “Miserere” in the Sistine Chapel as a 14-year-old. Here again, various factors suggest great skill on Mozart’s part, but not a superhuman miracle: the work in question is somewhat repetitive, and that Mozart was able to return to hear another performance, correcting his earlier errors. Solomon suggests that Mozart may have seen another copy earlier.[17]

19th century views

Konrad describes the views that were prevalent during the 19th century period of Mozart scholarship.[18] In particular, “the ‘making of music’ was … mythologized as a creative act”. The 19th century regarded Mozart’s compositional process as a form “of impulsive and improvisatorial composition … an almost vegetative act of creation.”[19] Konrad states that the 19th century also mythologized Mozart’s abilities in the area of musical memory.

The Rochlitz letter

An important source for earlier conceptions concerning Mozart’s method of composition was the work of the early 19th century publisher Friedrich Rochlitz, who propagated a number of anecdotes about Mozart which were long taken to be authentic, but with more recent research are now widely doubted.[20] Among other things Rochlitz published a letter, purporting to be by Mozart but now generally considered fraudulent, concerning his method of composition.[21] This letter was taken as evidence concerning two points considered dubious by modern scholars. One is the idea that Mozart composed in a kind of passive mental process, letting the ideas simply come to him:

When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer; say traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come I know not, nor can I force them. Those ideas that please me, I retain in … memory, and am accustomed, as I have been told, to hum them to myself. If I continue in this way, it soon occurs to me, how I may turn this or that morsel to account, so as to make a good dish of it, that is to say, agreeably to the rules of counterpoint, to the peculiarities of the various instruments, &c.[22]

As evidence that the Rochlitz forgery does not provide an accurate picture of how Mozart himself perceived the act of composing, Konrad lists the first (authentic) quotation from Mozart given above.

Rochlitz’s forged letter also was used in earlier study to bolster the (apparently false) story that Mozart could compose relying entirely on his memory, without the use of keyboard or sketches:

All this fires my soul, and provided I am not disturbed, my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined, and the whole, though it be long, stands almost finished and complete in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a fine picture or a beautiful statue, at a glance. Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them, as it were, all at once…. When I proceed to write down my ideas, I take out of the bag of my memory, if I may use that phrase, what has previously been collected into it, in the way I have mentioned. For this reason, the committing to paper is done quickly enough, for everything is, as I said before, already finished; and it rarely differs on paper from what it was in my imagination.
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KEYBOARD Magazine Gonzalo Rubalcaba Redefines Jazz Piano

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Redefines Jazz Piano

BY ERNIE RIDEOUT

Interview translated by Rebeca Mauleon-Santana

“This is only my second tour of the United States,” says Gonzalo Rubalcaba as we drive across San Francisco Bay. “We are just getting to know each other.” It’s astonishing to hear him say this – after all, he’s been amajor force in jazz piano and Cuban music for years. Ever since Discovery, his debut recording for Blue Note, it seems that all anyone can talk about is his phenomenal speed, articulation, power, and unique blend of Cuban and jazz styles – but it’s true. The world at large has had much more opportunity to become acquainted with Gonzalo than we have inthe States, thanks largely to the U.S. State Department’s ongoing embargo against the Castro government. But that’s astory we explored in our August 1991 interview with Gonzalo, and amoot point at that. He now resides in the Dominican Republic, and as he makes additional appearances in the States, his albums are becoming more readily available as well. One aspect of Gonzalo’s playing that we in the States have only experienced on disc is his writing for electronic instruments. Synths played amajor role in his work with Projecto, his pioneering fusion band, and they even make appearances on recordings of his current group, the Quartetto Cubano, such as Rapsodia (Blue Note). “I see technology as an extension of what you can do with music,” says Gonzalo. “I use a Yamaha KX88, aKorg T1, and an Akai S3200. I first compose with asequencer, and then of course record the natural band sound over the sequenced sounds. Then I try to reach abalance where you can’t feel the pressure of the live music on the sequencing, or the other way around. That’s the most difficult thing to reach when you’re working with technology.” With the release of Diz (Blue Note), the influence that Dizzy Gillespie had on his life became public. “I met Dizzy in 1985 at the Havana Jazz Festival,” recalls Gonzalo. “He was, is, and will be forever a vital reference, not only musically, but also spiritually. It was wonderful getting to know him and messing around with him. He was like my father.” Given the influence of Cuban music on Dizzy, it’s a touching tribute that his music would hold sway over Gonzalo. Indeed, over the course of a recent set at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, the Quartetto Cubano used “Woody ‘N’ You” almost as a leitmotif, the familiar A section making brief appearances throughout the evening. At one point it was swinging. At another, it was the subject of a massive montuno that Gonzalo subsequently displaced by a sixteenth-note, then augmented, then diminished. Finally, they brought it back around to the familiar head, which brought the packed house to its feet. Once across the Bay in the Keyboard studio, we asked Gonzalo to show us how he achieves this remarkable synthesis of Cuban montuna and jazz. Since his reply is rather technical, you may find it helpful to refer to Rebeca Mauleon-Santana’s article, “The Heart of Salsa,” in our January 1996 issue.

Your montunos occur on unexpected divisions of the beat. Tell us how you work with them.

This idea of augmenting or diminishing the rhythmic presence of the montuno really has to do with the percussive elements at that moment. Everything having to do with the montunos is not written or notated. There may be some general harmonic framework as a guide, over which one might feel free to create spontaneous rhythmic cells. Historically, the montuno has always been a part of the ABC’s of Cuban music, stemming mostly from the son, the danzon, and from other traditional forms, including the bolero-cha, the boleromontuno, etc., combined with other Latin musical influences such as the cumbia, samba, bachata, Puerto Rican rhythms, and so on. So here we see that the signature of our music is the montuno, which is also played outside of Cuba, sometimes with different results. The most important thing is that any instrument can play the montuno, not only the piano, but the guitar, a trumpet, the bass, even a harp! I have also been interested in playing a little less simply, with slightly more harmonic complexity to the montuno. It wasn’t until the 1950s and ’60s [in Cuban music] that the harmonic aspects of montuno playing became more advanced – influenced of course by early Impressionist harmony – with musicians like [Antonio] Arcano, [Israel Lopez] Cachao and his family, Enrique Jorrfn, and Rafael Lay, among others, who took it upon themselves to expand the harmonic possibilities of the tumbao, not only with the obvious harmonic instruments such as the piano, but the bass in particular. From that point on, the harmony became increasingly complex, and rhythmically, the accents begin to change. What I have tried to do is “re-create” myself with all of this history, and take on not only these aspects of Cuban music, but of jazz as well, even from the sometimes obviously strong elements of pop and rock, which of course also have many of the same ancestral roots as American and Latin music. In a nutshell, I’m not trying to make any qualitative statement with all of this that any style is better or worse than another; rather, they are transparent, and are the result of varying degrees of rhythmic development, particularly the popular styles that are closely linked to folkloric music. For example, in “Woody ‘N’ You,” where the basic harmony is [as in Example 1, page 491, I tried to transform or invert the harmony. That is to say, I look for a different harmonic space that functions with the theme [Example 2, page 50]. Then in the bridge, we try to play with the rhythm, such as when the melody is in eighth-notes, we try to put triplet figures in the rhythm section to create an echo to the tune. Then we repeat the head with yet another harmonic texture [Example 3, page 50]. That same harmonic framework can be outlined in montuno-like phrasing as well [Example 4, page 52]. This can have any number of possibilities or versions according to the musician’s imagination. It’s interesting how certain cultures – such as the North American – “know” (or need to know) where the “one” is, as opposed to other cultures who “feel” where the beat is. There is a difference; sometimes we can understand or learn a concept without feeling it, when it’s explained.

How can one learn to feel it?

I think it’s a generic problem.For example, a while back I went to Brazil to do a series of solo concerts. I played also with some Brazilian musicians, and later one night they took me to a dance club to see a pianist who plays Cuban music. She said she had learned through recordings, but wanted to know how she could play with a more Cuban feeling. I told her the only way was to go to Cuba. It’s important to be surrounded by the cultural codes which provide you with certain required ingredients: interpretation, diction, behavior, communication, which – as a true artist – one adapts or converts into his or her art, whatever that may be. I don’t doubt that there are people who have an easier time than others assimilating aspects of a foreign culture. This is certainly a function of individual talent, or perhaps geography.

Of course, Cuban culture is very rich and varied. Cuban musicians tend to be quick, very able, and perhaps this is due to the richness of our music, and its rhythmic complexity. Cubans seem to easily assimilate other styles of music, perhaps due to this concept of rhythmic independence which is so prevalent in our music. You see this with classical musicians in Cuba, although perhaps they haven’t achieved the notoriety or recognition. But nevertheless, there has always been a high level of artists, both composers and performers, that have maintained a fluid connection with new developments [in classical music]. The same appears in Cuban popular music, where – despite the fact that these musicians have been cut off from many sources of information and resources – they have been able to develop their skills with influences from beyond Cuban geographic boundaries. We also see this in the last century, where Cuban classical and nationalist composers such as [Manuel] Saumell, [Ignacio] Cervantes, Amadeo Roldan, [Alejandro Garda] Caturla who were always in step with the latest in European musical innovations – never became “Europeanized” composers. They were always very nationalistic, but not in a limited or closed sense; rather, it was a responsible nationalism, dedicated to the exploration of all of our codes, as well as the search for other sources of inspiration. What can I say about this Cuban – rather, this Latin American (but especially Cuban) music? Perhaps North Americans have a clearer understanding of the Cuban clave, for example, which has not only a metric but a spiritual meaning and connotation, and has so many variations which affect the dance, the harmony, thousands of things. Now, many musicians feel the concept of clave without having to adhere to such a strict relationship. You could say that early styles utilized the clave as a type of leitmotif, and you had to play (or compose) without altering it. Now there is more freedom to break the rules, to add an odd measure here and there; the clave disappears and re-appears. Perhaps the u.s. hasn’t been as in touch with these new developments in Cuban music.

Melodic variation is an essential part of your style as an improviser. How do you approach the concept of variation?

The concept of variation is of course an elementary aspect, particularly as a method of composition stemming from improvisation. There are various possibilities: melodic, metric, dynamic, expressive, generic (where the actual genre or style may be changed), or mood. There is really no music which doesn’t have within it some structure of variation. I think this is an essential human quality, notto repeat constantly in the same way, but rather to vary. We can’t precisely reproduce the same thing the same way – you may be precise in the interpretation, but it still has some sort of variation in its message. Perhaps the most important thing is to develop a larger harmonic plane – more than rhythmic – from which to proceed. Cubans tend to build on rhythmic foundations, and this has often limited us in terms of composition. Ideas such as form, dynamics, structure, voicings, use of exotic scales – these have been my concerns as a composer and as an improviser. I like to look at all of these aspects. Within popular music there is a problem: It is rare to find a wide range of dynamics in popular music. There might be one dynamiC level for the beginning [of a tune], and another for the vamp section. Whereas, in something by Beethoven, for example, you may find everything from pppp to fffff, and everything in between. This is a necessary expressive tool, one that perhaps hasn’t been as explored within popular music, but it is one which is very important. The other things to take into consideration when you’re improvising are pre-conceived ideas and extensions of the actual theme, or independence from it. I use both approaches. There are some tunes which have such strong themes that the resulting variations are easy and flowing. There you can use the obvious tools, or decide not to have such obvious restrictions. I like to consider a complete break from the rhythm, moving it ahead or behind – not by accident, but with purpose with a consensus between the musicians, who embellish behind the improviser. There is communication without limitations. Sure, we all have individual experiences – sometimes you feel the strong presence of [drummer Julio] Barreto, of [bassist] Felipe [Cabrera], or Reynaldo [Mel ian, trumpet]. But we are all working toward a common goal.

How did you develop your extraordinary hand independence?

You have to get away from the left-hand role of pop music, which is usually more sedentary – just using block chords. In time, this causes the “death” or lessening of the role of this hand. The idea is that we work to take away these barriers and utilize both hands, not only for chordal accompaniment, but we expect the same technical requirements of the left hand. Music is music, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the idea of left and right. But I am right-handed, so I have to develop the left hand more. If we are conscious of this, then we can break away to other ideas such as other scales, which may have other fingering (or technical) requirements, as well as broader (or artistic) requirements. I think we should have this exposure at an earlier age, instead of [being taught] the obvious chronology of major scales, then minor scales, then, at a higher level, the modes. In other words, we want to bring to non-classical music the same diverse palette of scales and other requirements so essential to musical creativity. For example, a normal major scale could be used to develop a different hand position, as well as a different musical mood. You can experiment with the fingering, which poses a series of other possibilities. Changing the starting point within the scale, or transposing it, forces you to select a different mental structure, as well as fingering, touch, and articulation. The average pianist tends to play with the hands very close to the keyboard, similar to the old German school which requires you to keep phrases and fingerings within a smaller spatial range. Then came the Russian school, which stipulated one should articulate more, flexing the fingers as much as possible for increased strength. Of course, this doesn’t mean you use the same techniques for all music. jazz pianists tend not to articulate as much, perhaps because many have a strong classical background. They may have a harder time with more legato passages, as they tend to play more staccato. The more you can vary your articulation, the more colorful and varied your expression. Perhaps for pop music this variety is unnecessary. But it is necessary if it will be used for the sake of the music.

How do you develop your dynamic power?

There are different ways of sending or manipulating strength or power, which have nothing to do with politics! [Laughs.] One way is from the wrist, another from the forearm, and another from the entire arm. Of course, you have to consider your own particular techniques and guide yourself according to your own strength. I use all of these approaches, depending on the song and the force required. Now we are working mostly in an acoustic format, although, of course, we are being amplified, and this has a great effect on the dynamics. The ideal acoustic format would have the drums and piano on the same level, which is impossible, ofcourse. Technology may help to create the sensation of balance, which really isn’t a balance, but rather, amplification. Notwithstanding, the music written today, it seems, tries to put the dynamic levels of the piano and the drums on the same plane. Then you have to – consciously or unconsciously – search for a certain amount of power or strength in the interpretation. This can create problems by establishing an unwanted competition for volume between the instruments, which can also hurt you physically. So, we propose to achieve a level of dynamics within the ensemble – regardless if the music is loud or simply very strong (which is different than just playing hard). We wish to play music that is strong and powerful, not to play with excessive strength and force. You have to take into consideration all of the instruments and their possibilities, and it has taken me quite a bit of time to reach this conclusion now with my quartet. We have a trumpet, drums, and electric bass – which could easi Iy have a much louder dynamic range in the ensemble – with an acoustic piano. So we have spent these years trying to polish this sound, to tame that youthful zeal and desire to play and convince everyone that you can play, in order to get to a calmer and more confident place. Coming back to the aspect of power, as I mentioned. It is not only from the wrist and the arm, but rather from the abdomen. Sometimes I lean back so as not to put so much pressure on my arms.

Do you find that audiences in different countries react differently to your music?

Every audience reflects a culture, a collective experience, a tradition, and I think this is an important learning experience, not only for the audience, but for the performer as well. What I could say is that sometimes it is easier to appear in a particular context as opposed to another. For example, Germany is one context, not necessarily because they simply don’t accept everything at face value, but because of Germany’s enormous history and pioneering of so many musical traditions. They are very prepared, well-trained, and highly critical, which makes them an excellent audience. It has been very beneficial to us to play all over Germany – East and West, in clubs, concerts, festivals, and schools. Of course all European countries have a particular significance; we’ve also played in Eastern Europe, which for many years had been somewhat lim ited or separated, perhaps, in its variety of musical propositions. Some of this had to do with the political situation. But now you see an enormous number of festivals and concert halls are opening their doors to many styles of music. japan is a medium without comparison. There is an audience there for everything! There’s so much going on all the time, every day. You ask yourself, how do they fill the venues? On a given day there will be a circus act, ballet, jazz, rock, and theater, and everything is full. The japanese are an active audience, not merely because of their large population. They go to events. And of course we’ve had important recording work in japan. It has been a very healthy experience for us to work for the japanese public. The United States is new for us, but we feel we belong here. There is a common code here, a feeling of home, and the reactions have been positive. You know when you’re being heard, when you’re being understood. In these concerts we’ve had here at Yoshi’s, I really feel our music has been accepted and understood, even through all of the subtleties and nuances of performance. It has been a wonderful experience. ~

Special thanks to Jose Forteza for his patience and assistance with this interview.

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