Carmen; I was raised in Amsterdam. My parents where true music lovers. They had a big and very diverse record collection. Somehow I was allowed to manage the record player from a very early age and put on records as I pleased...
Since I was little, my favorite singers where Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Ray Charles and I had a 60 minutes tape that I made consisting of my favorite songs from the Sings the Blues albums of Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Memphis Slim….(don't forget Memphis Slim! He was a big influence) and with Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish Boy’ filling out the last 3 minutes. The tape eventually broke and got eaten by the machine, that's how much I played it.
I am studying the Catarine Sadolin’s Complete Vocal Technique with a teacher, Anne Marie Hilbrands, here in Amsterdam. One thing I practise for rhythm is singing a Bebop head like Oleo or Bloomdido, with a metronome only on the 1st beat then only the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. And occasionally I transcribe a solo of one of the masters and then put words to it.
I think it has more to do with what I have been and am listening to. Free jazz has never really been my thing, although I have learned from practioneers as Arnold Dooyeweerd and Misha Mengelberg and played in the band of Eric Vloeimans, somehow the harmonic language of the ‘50 feels better to me….and I love Stan Getz…
I don’t try to stay pure to any idea or style, I just go for what I feel like, so I don’t worry about it.
What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
Impossible question…hmm.... I like music that really moves me but also music that tickles my intellect. I finally made a recording of Summertime for the one mic recording session. With the help of pianist Cajan Witmer, we went back and investigated the original harmony that Gershwin made, the melody is very simple but Gershwin's harmony is very sophisticated, not the 5 chords that you can hear musicians use on jam sessions, I guess that’s a good answer to that question; Summertime with the original harmony.
There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
When an audience is present, a synergy occurs.The audience becomes part of the music making, somehow it all becomes one,... we play what we want, but we oftentimes change the set list on the spot...but is that because we want to do that or is it the audience that somehow makes us do that? I don’t know.
Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Recording ‘Carmen Sings the Blues’ for the Sound Liaison label, live in front of a studio audience was a very special experience. We recorded live to a 2 track Studer tape recorder as well as straight into a DXD recorder (I believe that is 8x CD quality). Recording live means you only have one shot at recording the music, but somehow that pressure made us all play at our very best. We have to live with the small mistakes that were made but that also makes the music, so much more real.
And another very special experience was recording our newest project using only one microphone. Again no possibility of repairing mistakes, but the sound and the realness is incredible. We were standing very close to each other while recording, just like in a small club.
How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
Let them hear the music! Let them learn to play an instrument and they will discover the past masters.
John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
Pheew...you sure ask difficult questions…. love and to give is the meaning of live. Music is my way of giving.’
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Make it tax free to have live music. In cafes, theaters, festivals. Stimulate LIVE music!.
Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
I keep having phases where one artist tends to be all I’m listening to. At the moment it is Jim Hall, but recent phases has been: Brad Mehldau, Esbjorn Svenson’s EST, Ibrahim Maalouf, the Bad Plus, Marcin Wasilewski, Bill Evans, Tord Gustavson, Louis Armstrong….
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, where would go?
New York City 1943: Minton’s Playhouse, watching Bird play with Monk, Dizzy , Klook….and Billie Holiday sittin’ in.
How are you able to keep going on being a musician in these difficult times?
It’s life, live it! And like Dexter Gordon said; "to be in this business you gotta have heart".
I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
How do you come up with these difficult questions ...