Saturday, 28 March 2015

Magnus Öström Interview Before His Ankara Concert on November 2014

We could create a little time with Magnus Öström to make an interview just before his band's unforgettable Ankara Concert in last November in Nordic Music Festival. The drummer was on the same stage that he played on 9 years ago with Esbjörn Svensson Trio and he was so excited to be there again at that night.

Fatih: Hi Magnus, welcome to Ankara.

Magnus: Thank you.

Fatih: I think the first time was in 2005 with Esbjörn Svensson Trio with an amazing concert. For most of the jazz listeners here, it was certainly a memorable concert. After Esbjörn's passing away you have recorded two albums with your quartet. We all can guess that life is changed a lot for you and (Berglund) after Esbjörn but here I want to ask you this: What has changed in your musical style? Can you compare E.S.T. albums with Thread of Life and Searching for Jupiter considering musical styles and the sound?

Magnus: I was one third of the trio. I think I still brought my sound and my playing to my own band. So that part of the trio is still with me. I think you can hear some connections with the trio and my music but though, it's much more electrified and maybe more in jazz-rock or something. The trio was more -maybe- jazz and it was more acoustic as well. 

Fatih: What is new and different in Searching for Jupiter compared to the first album?

Magnus: One thing is the keyboard player. Gustaf Karlof was a little bit more into the keyboards and synthesizers and he worked in those kind of things. Daniel Karlsson is more focused on the piano, more of a real piano player. Of course he plays a little bit other stuff but his focus and playing are more jazzy. I think that changed the whole sound a bit. The compositions... I don't know if it's changed.

Fatih: More hopeful maybe?

Magnus: Yeah, a little bit lighter.

Fatih: As time passes...

Magnus: think so. Maybe that's the difference.

Fatih: Besides your own band, you are playing in different projects and some albums: E.S.T. Symphony is one of these. You have given many concerts in 2013 and 2014. How did it feel like going back to the compositions with the symphonic arrangements?

Magnus: First it was of course strange. The thought of playing that music again was a little bit... I don't know - it was a mixed feeling. But how the music has been interpreted for the symphony orchestra and how Hans Ek has arranged the music... I think he has done a fantastic job with it. This is one of the only ways to let this music live on. Becasue it is very hard to play this music ever in a trio setting. It will be many years I think (to do this). Ok it's already many years, but it's still too close. I think it's a beautiful way...

Fatih: Maybe -in other words- this is the best way to keep on playing E.S.T. 

Magnus: Yeah, I think so. Especially for the moment... But, there is also many positive thoughts coming up when you play this music. You played it so much before and you remember all the good things. You are already very thankful for the travel with the trio but it is even more when you revisit them. It's been amazing to do it.

Fatih: Will you continue giving other E.S.T. Symphony concerts in future?

Magnus: Yes.

Fatih: Will any of these concerts be recorded for the album?

Magnus: We'll see. We have been discussing it but we haven't really found the right setting and the right solution yet.

Fatih: Can we say that any previous concerts will not be recorded for the album - which means you are waiting for a future concert to record? 

Magnus: We don't have any really good recording yet. I think we need to find another one. 

Fatih: We are familiar with live recorded albums of E.S.T. Are you planning a live album with your own band?

Magnus: I've been thinking about it but I think it's good for the band to make at least one more studio album to build the song list. 

Fatih: You have worked with Lars Danielsson and Tigran Hamasyan in Lars' last albums Liberetto and Liberetto II. How was it playing with them?

Magnus: think it's amazing. I think it's reallly really fun. It is also great to be a sideman because it's putting you in another position - you don't have all the responsibilities. In a way sometimes you can relax in another way. Coming there and playing his music is very very nice. I think Lars is an amazing bass and cello player and compositions are very very nice - very lyrical, nearly romantic. Tigran is another universe, he is so free rhythmically and he is in another dimension.

Fatih: Especially in Liberetto II, I have heard nice trio performances which excited my mind to think about a new trio including you. Lately I also saw that you played in Jan Lundgren Trio. 

Magnus: Yeah, it was just a concert.

Fatih: Is it any possible that we will see you in a new trio format as the main project?

Magnus: don't know - it might happen because I love the setting. No doubt about that. Piano, bass and drums... Very organic, very easy to work... It is very fast changing the development musically. If you are getting four, five and six, it is hard to turn the ship fast. I love the space. It might happen, it might not.

Fatih: I think many European jazz followers agree on it if I say E.S.T. changed the way jazz is following in Europe. In my humble opinion, there were not so many jazz trios sounding like you when you were on the scene. However, after 2008 we started to see many bands which are compared to E.S.T. and most of the time they are defined by a new term called E.S.T. sound. What do you think was this E.S.T. sound? How can you define it?

Magnus: Wow - that's a tough question. I think it was like a mix of our different backgrounds and our different preferences about music. One of those things that happen sometimes is when you get certain amount of people and sum, the total energy mass gets bigger than each seperate. I think it was the mixture of Esbjörn's fantastic compositions that is kind of jazz but still a lot of pop hits - they are easily accesible for anyone - you don't have to be a jazz nerd. Dan comes from a rock background. I think the combination of the energy of us three together was something special. It's really really hard to explain when you had been there. It's sometimes easier for people outside. But now after few years, you can hear "yeah we got something unique together - the sound" somehow. Also a very important thing is that especially during the late years, everybody really could open up and take their place - you know everyone got space.

Fatih: Maybe it is not something to be defined but something to be listened. If you can tell in words you won't play music maybe?

Magnus: Maybe, maybe... It's always hard to put words on music.

Fatih: Could you please give some names that you find successful and promising on European Jazz Scene? Especially among the trios...

Magnus: Problem with me is that I don't really follow. I have never been that kind of a guy that really checking out stuff all the time. It is hard to tell. I am trying to find any names but... For me, of course Tigran was one thing that strike me when I heard it first time. Tigran is kind of a big name but he is still very young. I think it is very interesting what he has been doing and his projects.

Fatih: You are giving a name from East not from Europe. Interesting?

Magnus: No, but he is kind of mixed. He is coming from Armenia but he has been living in LA for many years. Then he has been staying in France. I think the music is getting more and more like that - it is like a music from world - global. 

Fatih: Progressive rock was always an implicit part of E.S.T. music I think. In my opinion, in your new albums these progressive rock influences are much more than before. Have you listened to progressive rock bands a lot? 

Magnus: No I haven't, not really actually. My background is when I went from pop or something -when I was 12,13 years old - the first thing I heard... There was Billy Cobham. I was very deep into jazz rock for a long time when I was between thirteen to sixteen.

Fatih: Between 70's and 80's?

Magnus: This was from 1978 to 1981.

Fatih: When rock jazz and fusion was very dominant... 

Magnus: For me what is important is jazz-rock not fusion because fusion is even more sleek for me. Jazz-rock has some kind of rough edges. That's my background actually before I went into play in more acoustic and traditional jazz. So it's a mix from that. The only progressive rock band I listened a little bit is Meshuggah - Swedish progressive metal band. I think there is a lot of interesting things happening in metal.

Fatih: What do you currently listen at home when you find time?

Magnus: For me it is sometimes hard to really concentrate and listen. Just the other day, I found this beautiful beautiful record with Stan Getz and Strings. It is called Cool Velvet - maybe from 60's or something. Really really beautiful music - very soft and gentle. He also had this great album called Focus that I listened a lot to when I was like in my twenties. The last really big thing was Laura Mvula from Birmingham I think - an English girl. She sings, writes and arranges.

Fatih: How do you compose? I mean besides the drum-set are you using any other instruments while composing?

Magnus: Yes I compose by the piano. I am not a piano player at all but know enough to compose.

Fatih: Can you compare jazz made in Europe with the jazz made in United States nowadays? 

Magnus: As I said before, I am not familiar really with what is happening both on the Europe scene and the scene in States but I think, of course you have this long long tradition in States. It's actually in a way music coming from blues and all the traditions. They really see the big names before them in the tradition they are carrying and they are still carrying that tradition. That's very important. Maybe you sometimes have more music from the States that are in the vein of the traditional jazz but still you have a lot of other things happening over there as well. But in Europe you might have a more free attitude toward jazz. 

Fatih: No pressure?

Magnus: Maybe a little bit less pressure. But we are also standing on the shoulders of giants. You have to understand.

Fatih: You have to know the alphabet, then you can produce the words?

Magnus: In a way, but I think it's openning up everywhere, it is coming very experimental and very open stuff also from States and Europe. Also the free format and avant-garde style is very big nowadays. Both in Sweden, in States and in Canada. That has a revival recently. 

Fatih: Do you know any Turkish jazz musicians?

Magnus: Of course I know Okay Temiz because he was in Sweden and I know Oriental Wind. İlhan Erşahin. Sarp Maden after EST Symphony in İstanbul and Mehmet İkiz - Swedish/Turkish drummer.

Fatih: Well with all your experiences how do you see the future of jazz and music in general?

Magnus: If you are talking about the business, I don't know where it goes. It is very very difficult times for people in it. There are more people than ever playing music and wanting to be musician but the scene is not growing as much. Also recording side is of course very problematic because people think that music is free nowadays - you can use spotify and whatever.

Fatih: And you are caring about album sales?

Magnus: It might never been that important for jazz musicians. You never sell millions for most part but still you have to get money to do the recording at least because it costs money to do a good recording. Even though you can do a lot more at home nowadays but it is not the same as to work with really professionals in a studio. That's gonna be problem in music industry and it will also hit film industry. 

Fatih: Yeah, it's a general problem. People can be careless about art.

Magnus: The money needs to come from somewhere. It's very easy to just to think that "Ah I can get this for free." Then it starts to be a rule and it is hard to go back. 

Fatih: Do you like to teach playing drums to students? Are you planning to open a school or join a conservatory to give lectures on that in future?

Magnus: Actually I've been to conservatory for a year now. There is a guy who was away from the school and I am asked to get his job for a while. I have five-six students. I think it is interesting.

Fatih: Will you continue?

Magnus: We'll see. It's interesting though it also takes a lot of energy and also a lot of planning - you know we have just twenty four hours per day. My focus is on playing and trying to compose more music. But it is very interesting to meet young students. They have the energy.

Fatih: Like Curly Camel maybe - you are the producer for them. I donated for them, for the album.

Magnus: appreciate that. The older you get the more interesting it is to work with young people. When you are younger you have a certain amount of energy. 

Fatih: Are you planning to release a new album with the band?

Magnus: Hopefully, I will release a new album next year. Probably not before Autumn.

Fatih: I am looking forward to listening to it. Thank you Magnus, it happened to be a great interview. It is great to see you here at last. 

Magnus: Thank you I am glad to be here. 

Nils Petter Molvaer & Eivind Aarset & Jan Bang - Ankara Concert, March 26th 2015

Three prominent musicians of Norwegian contemporary scene, trumpet player Nils Petter Molvaer, guitarist Eivind Aarset and live sampler Jan Bang gave the first concert of first Ankara World Music Festival in Ankara Palace on last Thursday. Actually, the members of this trio have played together for many live performances as well as many pieces of some albums in Nils Petter Molvaer's discography but this trio configuration was something new especially for Turkish followers.  

The performance consisted of two sets: The first one was the main body with 65-70 minutes and the second one was the closing song of about 10 minutes. Although the main themes were based on Molvaer's previous compositions from albums such as Hamada and Er, the musicians were mostly improvising - sometimes individually, sometimes collaboratively. The level of complexity in these improvisations was so high that just a 10 seconds of concentration lose may cause a listener to be detached from the performance's impressive atmosphere. It was a stimulating concert not only both with the energetic rhythms mostly carried by Jan Bang and the mystic tone of Molvaer's trumpet but also with the special light show. Adding Eivind Aarset's minimal touches and extraordinary sound from electric guitar to these, the overall performance was like spending a night on the limits of jazz, avant-garde, new age, contemporary and even trance music. The impressive vocal sounds created by Molvaer with the microphone of the trumpet and the surprising shifts in tension achieved by Jan Bang are highlights of the performance. The sound design and acoustic conditions were nice too but I think some bass portions of the performance were too heavy for the palace, shaking the ceiling.

In my humble opinion, musical performance may sometimes be for musicians themselves or -let me say- for some qualified listeners who have the necessary patience and open-minded musical ideas. For me, such performances are special ones in which you -as a listener- have a chance to put yourself into the position of the performer. In that case, you are not a mere listener caught by the well known melodies and forms. Instead, you become the one who is responsible to get the idea and if you can make it you leave the venue as someone more experienced instead of a someone entartained. I left the venue as a more qualified listener thanks to three free, creative and innovative musicians last Thursday. If you like to get such an experience catch them for their next performance.