An interview with Tobias Meinhart: There is so much unused potential in this music …Video

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Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Tobias Meinhart. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Tobias Meinhart: – I grew up in a small town in Bavaria, called Regensburg. A very beautiful small town at the Danube river. The interest in music came through my grandfather who was a bassplayer, both classical and jazz.

JBN.S: – What interested you in picking up the saxophon?

TM: – Well, I started on drums first. But then I saw a lot of Big Bands – also through my grandfather – and in the first row was always this line of saxophones. I was very impressed by the sound and imagined how it would be to be a part of the sax section.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the saxophon you are today? What made you choose the saxophon?

TM: – I was lucky to have several great teachers. One who helped me when I decided to play professionally was a great saxplayer in Munich, named Hugo Siegmeth. Then I went to study at the conservatory in Basel with Swiss Sax player Domenic Landolf. He is a monster player and I still admire him. Other teachers in Europe included the great Ferdinand Povel and Andy Scherrer.

When I moved to New York I had lessons ao. with  Seamus Blake, John Ellis and a memorable day with Joe Lovano at his house.

JBN.S: – What about the Your sound did that influence at all? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

TM: – Hm, honestly I think I’m still developing it. I think it mostly happens by listening for me. I’m drawn a lot to old-school big sounds, like Ben Webster. His sound is just amazing. I also love Stan Getz’ sound. I try to do a lot of longnote exercises in my practicing which means for me to almost meditate on the sound. I’m realizing more and more though that sound is also connected to everything else, Time, Rhtythm, Technique etc.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

TM: – That’s a great question. I think horn players often neglect the Rhythm part and focus only on harmony. I was definitely guilty of that. I have several routines to work on rhythm, For example I like to play basslines over different metronome settings. I love to put the metronome on dotted quarters. I’m  also working on several triplet groupings. And I picked up the drums again.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?  

TM: – Never give up! Stay polite, be persistent and follow up. Define what success means for yourself, and try to balance practicing and the fun part of playing with doing business. Never forget what made you play music and stay true to that. Sounds easier than it is! A great lesson I got was from my former teacher Antonio Hart. I played my recital at Queens College and he complimented me afterwards. I wasn’t happy with my playing and shrugged it off. He told me to never do that again and respect the audience, if someone gives you a compliment, take it seriously. He said he often prefers to listen to an amateur who just plays for fun and could chose to do anything else with his time. We often forget to convey the joy of playing music. That really made me think!

JBN.S: – Аnd finally jazz can be a business today and someday?

TM: – Yes, absolutely. But to make money from only playing is hard. I don’t mind teaching though. Obviously you have to really love being a jazz musician and battling all the struggles. I still think there is so much unused potential in this music, I am optimistic.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are from half-a-century ago?

TM: – I don’t think it matters so much how old the tunes are, compared to classical music these jazz tunes are relatively young. The most important thing is to get young people to experience this music LIVE> Then they’ll see it’s a living artform,- hip, cool, fresh, young and modern. Whatever you want it to be. It’s also essential to get more jazz in radio, tv and daily live. Of course standard tunes are a big part of jazz, but Jazz always drew influences from current music as well, and there is so much new music happening in the jazz genre that we definitely can attract a young audience.

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

TM: – That’s a big question. For me personally music has a very spiritual quality. You can learn all about harmony and technique but still those magic moments only happen once in a while and only if everything falls into place. For me making music is definitely a spiritual act in some way. It’s also a form of meditation and trying to be in the flow, accepting whatever happens. This Zen like feeling I also try to apply in life in general.

JBN.S: – What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

TM: – My hopes and fears lie mostly outside of music. I hope we get to understand each other better as people, don’t kill us and our planet and respect each other. In terms of music my hopes would be that people sometimes try to get out of their comfort zone and listen more deeply, my fears concern the rise of streaming and its exploitation of musicians. I hope there is a way of compensating the musician in a fair way in the future.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

TM: – I started experimenting with electronics, for example the use of an EWI. This is a very interesting field for me. I would also like to get deeper into different European folk music traditions and explore my Bavarian roots more.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between the blues/jazz and the genres of local folk music and traditional forms? 

TM: – That’s what I would like to explore more. I know that in some Bavarian folk a big part is improvisation. In the end all music is connected.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

TM: – I re-discovered Songwriter Elliot Smith, Joe Henderson with Wynton Kelly Trio, Kenny Wheeler (Double Double You), Joe Lovano (Live at the Vanguard), Seamus  Blake (Superconductor)…

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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