Interview with Chris Gall: Your audience cares about intellect? Not a bit! Video

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Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Chris Gall. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Chris Gall: – I grew up in the south of Germany close to Austria, somewhere in between Munich and Salzburg. I started out with classical Piano by the age of five. Music has always been a big part in our family life…

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano?

CHG: – We had a quite old and huge upright piano in our living room. Both my parents used to play on it every here and then. My Mum played classical pieces, my father blues and boogie… For a little boy, that sound coming out of such a huge instrument is really overwhelming! Plus, the piano was the instrument that was just there… we also had an acoustic guitar, but for me, it had no chance against the piano!

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

CHG: – Starting out with classical music, you always focus on sound. Since there is no melodic and harmonic improvisation, its mostly your sound, that makes you interesting. Now, as a jazz musician, I think I still profit from that classical background.

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

CHG: – In times of touring and playing many gigs there is not much time for a regular practice routine. But if you play a lot life, it’s not so important anymore. Learning and working on new songs is good to keep a good “vibe”. Composing as well! After all, composing is nothing else then improvising in super slow motion. Joanne Brackeen once told me, as an exercise for improvisation, I should be composing one piece a week as a minimum! But if there is a time with less life gigs I try to keep my fingers “up to date” with all kinds of exercises… scales, Hanon – Exercises, arpeggios…

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

CHG: – Contemporary jazz is strongly influenced with everything but harmonies and harmonic structures that you find in 95% of all jazz standards… Influences from impressionism to folk, songwriters to all kinds of world music are getting normal. Consequently, that’s also what I am listening to and studying. In my composition you hardly find any standard type of II-V-I jazz cadences…  On my new album Cosmic playground as an example, I think, it’s only the title song Cosmic Playground, that has some of that cadences.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?

CHG: – The Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile Duo Album is kicking! What an intimate sound. Have you noticed that there is no effect or reverb on Chris Thiles voice? When you listen to it, it feels like he is just standing right next to you!

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

CHG: – To exaggerate, I’d say, one is needed only when learning, studying and practicing at home. The other one is what you need on stage! If you play a live concert, do you think your audience cares about your intellect? Not a bit! But the audience cares about your soul!

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

CHG: – The nicest thing to happen is always the unexpected! On my very first trio album which was released on ACT, one of European most influential jazz labels, I wrote a song called “Climbing Up” for my guest vocalist. Somehow he didn’t find the right lyrics for it by the time we went in the recording studio. So we recorded a Playalong version of it – hoping our singer would sing on it at some later point. But for some reason, that recording in the instrumental version became our title track of our album and is still one of my favorites. It can’t be more unexpected than this I guess!

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?

CHG: – I wish I had an answer for myself. It’s true, it’s a hard task to juggle between inspiration, musical proficiency and business part of music … quite frustrating to be honest. But I think it’s important to simply accept, if you don’t take care about the business yourself, the chance is very low, someone else is doing it for you.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

CHG: – What is considered as a business or not is a question of perspective I guess. In terms of professionalism in the international jazz scene, yes, it is like a business. But still, most of the jazz clubs are run by non-professional promoters that do it simply because they love the music! As a musicians it’s the best to look at jazz as your hobby, even if you have to make your living out of it!

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

CHG: – Working with musicians from different musical cultures have always been the most inspiring moments for me. Studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston was a great chance to meet and play with musicians from all over the world. I currently have a Duo collaboration with London based drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberger, who was a steady band member of Anoushka Shankar. His experiences in world music, his different rhythm-language and approach to song-forms are helping me a lot the find new ideas for my piano playing.

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

CHG: – That’s an issue! Still, for some reason, it seems standard tunes do still have some fascinating magic to some of the young people. But nevertheless, time is moving one, standard tunes and the great American songbook maybe take the biggest part in jazz history. But jazz nowadays should only be connected with that period. By now, I think Jazz is much more then that!

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

CHG: – Musically? Nothing! Music will always find its way and is always strongly connected to musicians that a driven by innovation! But with the new culture of streaming music, I do hope listening to new music will not become “tinder-ized”: one brief look or listen, and then you swipe left or right. Music needs more time then that!

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

CHG: – Bringing music instruments to all children in the world!

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

CHG: – I’ll be releasing my second piano solo Album by the end of the year … I guess it will be quite a intense year writing, practicing and recording it! But I am already  thrilled if I just think of it.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

CHG: – Too many yes’ and no’s to answer that questions! But one main feature of jazz compared to folk or world music is, that Jazz – such a s classical music – is the genre that also works great purely instrumental without lyrics! Spoken words don’t necessarily have to be said, to get a message to the listener!

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

CHG: – Funnily: Larry Goldings! To be honest, I am not a big fan of jazz organ … but Larry Goldings is one of my favorite piano players! Beside his Solo album “In my room” I just listened to his piano-trio recording with Paul Motion and Larry Grenadier “Awareness” from the late 90s. Awesome!

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

CHG: – I tend to look forward, rather than looking backward… Looking ahead 50 or 100 years would be kind of thrilling… If there was a nice gig that pays well, I’d go… but only if I get a roundtrip ticket!

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself …

CHG: – Great, that’s fun! OK: “For your next birthday party, who would you hire: Art Tatum or Jason Moran?” And why?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. When you do not answer this question: John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life? This means that you do not have the philosophy of life, then does it really eat your music? Tomorrow is the birthday of the great pianist Esbjorn Svensson!!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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