Interview with Thomas Bracht: In the past there where times when access to music was to intellectual for me: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Thomas Bracht. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Thomas Bracht: – I grew up in a small village in the beautiful mosel valley in South West of Germany! My Dad and his brothers had a Band, they played in Dancehalls,  – no Professionel Musicians, but there was always music in the house. The Rehearsel Room was in the Cellar of our House. My first professional Gig, I did when I was 14 Years old, was in a Diskothek/Night Club. As a kid I played in a Brass Band/Marching Band, later in a Big Band (this was my first touch with Jazzmusic – Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Count Basie). I had a nice music teacher, he always supported me – he helped me with my first steps in Improvisation as a Member in a Blues Rock Band.

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?

TB: – My first Instrument was the drums. I started playing piano quite late in the age of 14. My first Music I tried to play on the Piano was Boogie Woogie and Blues Music. I got some classical lessons for 2-3 Years, but I was not motivated for classical music at that time. I also tried to play the Guitar – I did it for a couple of years. At that time I wanted to play all the Instruments of a Rock Band. In my own Rockband I was singing, playing the Guitar and the Keyboards, in the Big Band I was playing the Drums. I always composed music, so I started to play piano to get more inside of harmony and theory, but then I started to like the piano more and more, someday I’d quit playing Drums and Guitar. When I really  decided to want to be a Jazzmusician, the piano was my choice, because for me it was the instrument for composing. Then I started to get all the technic and knowledge of the piano – a journey without end. I was practicing very hard – 6 to 8 hours a day. I’m an Autodidakt. When I was 21 I took lessons from Khris Defoort, when he was a teacher at the Conservatoire in Luxembourg and I’ve learned a lot from this awesome Musician. I got some private lessons by John Taylor and other Artists. After 3 Years I quit and I never went back to any College or University. I couldn’t give almost 20% of my skills in a Examen, for me it was like hell, but I never had a Problem to perform on stage. So I learned playing by doing it. I need to do my own stuff – I don’t want to have somebody telling me what to do. Even in the early years in a Rockband I never wanted to cover songs, I always wanted to do my own music.

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

TB: – I was listening to the music I liked – no stylistic limitations – classical music, pop, rock, free jazz, swing, folk, everything! my way to learn: transcripe the music you like, try to understand it,  learn it and develop your own style out of it.

But I didn’t transcribe that much. I listen to music to let music touch my soul…that is what you need to develop your sound, the music has to touch your soul and the souls of the audience.

Over time my sound changed from a hard attached, wild and loud style to a more smoother, softer sound. I also like to play the Synthesizer and keyboards.

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

TB: – Rhythm is always the most important inner touch. The first thing that touches me when I listen to music is the rhythm. I’ll probably always be a drummer. At the moment I’m practicing again as in the days of my rock bands – no reading of notes, all over my ears, I sing and try to make a direct connection between singing and playing. Develop the inner ear. I play songs in all keys – at the moment Beatles songs, also standards or own pieces – to feel the different moods of the keys. Of course, the “normal” exercises of a pianist, scales, chords, music by Bach, jazz standards … and so on. In addition, I have to practice my new compositions so that I can master them on the next rehearsal with the “Thomas Bracht Band”.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

TB: – Music is always an output of what was putting in! I did a lot of „dissonance stuff“ in the past. The Music of my other Band „Settembrini“(with Stefan Scheib on Bass and Franck Hemmerle on Drums) is different, sometimes it moves to something like free jazz. I did also a lot of new contemporary classical music and music for radio plays was rather weird and dissonant compared to my current music! A small excerpt of my inputs (really often heard and / or studied): „Strawinsky“, „Ornette Coleman“, „Art Ensemble of Chicago“, „Weather Report“, „Miles Davis“, „Wynton Kelly“, „Chet Baker“ „Gil Evans“, „Charles Mingus“, „Santana“, „Björk“, „Sting“ „Brahms“, „Franz Schubert“, „Bill Evans“, „McCoy Tyner“… and many, many more … At present, a major part of my music is little dissonant or atonal. I do what I like. I don’t like Dogmas! That’s true freedom! In life you have harmony and disharmony, humans are sometimes happy and sometimes depressed – so in music! And: what sounds already “dissonant” to one, is a melodious sound for the other! I like to tell stories with my music – everything should be possible …

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

TB: – Have no prejudices! Listen to everything – do not be shy. What touches me, may affect me, no matter what it is. Some music does not touch me and that’s why it does not affect my sound.

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

TB: – In the past there where times when access to music was to intellectual for me. I had “lost” … just one example: music you can not sing – maybe you can play it purely mechanically – will not reach your soul. It does not always have to be either – of course I also play melodies that I could not immediately sing along with, especially the piano tempts me to invent such melodies – but it is my goal to get as many notes as possible from the soul. This is an ideal! It is not always 100% implemented. The mind can sometimes help, for example when you run the risk of losing the songform or concentration. The mind helps in learning, in understanding contexts, the soul should take over on the stage. But also the soul has to be trained.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

TB: – It depends on what they want…

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

TB: – I told you about my first Gig, when I was 14 years old. I was too young to play in a Night Club and my Uncle told me: „Here, you can see your place, its near the door to the toilet, when you see the hat of a policeman please run to hide in the toilet .“

We where playing with a Jazz Band on a Party and most of the audience didn’t know about Jazz Music. They wanted to listen to traditional German Music or Pop Radio Stuff. We where at the wrong place! Suddenly a Person where coming to the Band Stand and said to me: “What you play, you invent everything yourself!“  And believe me this was no compliment!

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

TB: – Difficult question! We do not play standards, but own pieces. Standards are like etudes to us.

I do not really care how old people are listening to jazz. I feel like jazz has become more and more popular with young people lately. That depends on their education and their socio-cultural background. I think our music also appeals to young listeners or, let’s say, would appeal to them … they just do not know that they exist!

It was definitely a good decision to work with young musicians (they could be my sons), which gives my compositions freshness and timeliness. If these young musicians tell me that my music is cool, then I know the pieces also appeal to a young audience.

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

TB: – I believe in God. I go to church. And I think music has something divine. You can not explain everything. Music touches people, much as love does. I can not imagine a church without music. I can not imagine a life without music. When I try, there is a horror world in my imagination!

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

TB: – less musicians, more clubs … (ha ha ha)

There is a lack of agencies that represent us “little artists”! I’m doing 10 jobs at the same time …. Musician, composer, teacher, manager, booker, secretary, sound engineer, director, web designer, producer – that’s definitely too much – some of them are already full-time jobs in their own right!

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

TB: – At the moment I don’t listen much music.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

TB: – I want to tell stories with my music and take the listener on a journey. At our concerts, I also like to tell little stories about the pieces to get people in the right mood. In my experience it is easier for the listeners to get involved in complicated pieces as well.

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

TB: – The late 1950s would interest me – then I would like to visit a Rehearsal of Charles Mingus. But actually, I’m very satisfied with our time!

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

TB: – How did you come across our music?

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. I have all new and very more CDs.

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

TB: – Und wie findest du sie?

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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