Interview with Martin Brandqvist: If the intellect has done a good job the musicians can interpret: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz drummer and percussionist Martin Brandqvist. An interview by email in writing.

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

Martin Brandqvist: – I grew up in the south of Sweden in a house full of music. My father who was a classical composer and jazz musician was and still is constantly composing or practicing on the Steinway grand piano. I was helplessly influenced by his timbre, rhythm and passion for music. My father commuted to his work at the university in Gothenburg and on his way home he bought records with Keith Jarrett and Stanley Turrentine. I longed for these moments. When I was nine he bought me a drum kit and we started playing.

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

MB: – As a drummer my first influences where American and Scandinavian jazz drummers like Jack DeJohnette, Jon Christensen and Anders Kjellberg, but over the years I have met and played with folk musicians from Sweden, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, West Africa… and that has influenced my playing a lot. My role as a drummer and my role as a composer are very interconnected. I experiment with rhythms that I use both in my drumming and in my compositions. I have a vision of a sound that I want the whole group to have. This vision governs everything from the choice of cymbals to the selection of microphones.

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

MB: – I practice rudiments to maintain a good steady technique. I practice on the tunes we play in the band. We have odd meters, metric modulations and polyrhythm’s that need to be practiced. I practice meditatively on the grooves for a long time so that I can go mentally in and out of the different parts of the rhythms. I try to have patience and practice on a few things over time so that I get familiar with them and can involve them in my playing.

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?

MB: – The music consists of melody, rhythm and harmonies. For me, the chords are the most important. That’s where the magic lies. The chords give the atmosphere. The time, place and room. The chords determine how we improvise. The intensity of a song, if it’s major or minor. I strive for a flow in the music and the chords are subordinate to that endeavor. The chords are not important one by one but as a whole. As you say, the music contains dissonances, but in the whole they are not directly perceived as dissonances.

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

MB: – I don’t need to prevent what I’m doing from disparate influences. I let myself be influenced and trust that my personality shines through in the end result. I am also a strict judge during the process of a new album and will remove what I do not like. I trust my taste. I have to. Otherwise the many decisions in composing music would be very difficult.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2019: < Martin Brandqvist Quartet – Relations>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

MB: – I like when the songs become like little stories and on our new album Relations the improvised parties also becomes small adventures. Inge, Johan and Mattias are really storytellers. We are heading towards something together as a group and I love the power of the collective. Right now we are working on collaboration with a string quartet. The Friis quartet. I have composed a piece of music inspired by a play by Ibsen. A string instrument represents each role in the play. There will be a concert film about 10 minutes long, which will be released this fall 2019.

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

MB: – A new song is created by inspiration, a lot of feeling and soul. Then the intellect must force it into a manageable form so that you can communicate the music to other musicians, that’s the hard work. If the intellect has done a good job the musicians can interpret and add their feelings to the music. In the end, there will be soul again when someone listens to the music

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

MB: – I can’t be anything but true to the music that comes to me. I have a picture of what I want to achieve and I strive to complete that picture. I have the strong believe that if I like the music somebody else will do to. During the work process, the audience also comes into the picture. I can imagine how we meet and how you will receive the music. It is an important relationship.

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

MB: – I remember one time when we traveled from Sweden to Miami to play 10 minutes. It does not feel okay today with what we know about being climate smart.

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

MB: – I don’t se that as a problem. Jazz music is so extremely broad and you can chose from so many different styles. For me the standard tunes is just a way to learn how to improvise on those jazz chords.

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

MB: – The Meaning of life? oaw the biggest question of all. I am flattered but I cannot answer that question. Recently, however, I have had a thought that we are all God. But unlike the great god, we must constantly choose between good and evil because we have access to both. Music is good.

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

More live music in radio and TV.

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

MB: – I listen to Marius Neset, Phronesis and Emil Brandqvist Trio and always, again and again Weather Report, Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny.

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

MB: – Life is magic.

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

MB: – There have been times and places where artists across borders have met and talked about art and life. Paris at the end of the 19th century is such a place. I read a long time ago a book about the painter at the Moulin Rouge, Tolouse Lautrec. Along with him in Paris, we had Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Claude Debussy, Èmile Zola and you name it by celebrities. The misery was probably total but still.

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

MB: – Can you describe the essence of our music? I would also like to emphasize the importance of relationships. Many artists are good at being with themselves and working for long periods of time. But there is nothing without other people’s involvement. When you ask me questions we are connected.

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers…

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

MB: – We are excited about our new album and hope to meet new fans worldwide. Especially curious about the reaction from jazz diggers at JazzBluesNews. I am also very happy to be developed together with the musicians in MB4, Inge Petersson Lindbäck, Mattias Hjorth and Johan Ohlsson. Amazing musicians who take the music to new heights.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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