Jazzitalia - Free [the] Jazz: Interview with Ellery Eskelin
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Free [the] Jazz
Interview with Ellery Eskelin
by Stefano Ferrian

Every artist has got his own weapons to express his art, so why did you choose the Saxophone as your fave instrument? In what way you push yourself through this great horn?

I chose the saxophone because of the sound. When I was young my mother had some jazz records and I really loved the sound of the tenor saxophone, especially the R & B sound that was popular in the '50s and '60s. This sound really spoke to me. I practiced hard on getting a good tone. I quickly began to feel that playing the saxophone "spoke" for me much better that words.
Even today I still practice for sound.

William Baziotes argued that "...looseness of execution [is] no virtue in itself...." Do you agree with this statement? How it works playing Free Jazz and Experimental Music? What's the difference between looseness of execution and freedom of execution?

To me, freedom means being able to play anything that you hear in your mind. This takes skill on the instrument and many years of practice until playing the saxophone becomes as natural as speaking. I am still trying to attain total freedom by increasing my skills and musical accuracy every day. It makes no difference to me if I am playing song forms or doing complete improvisation. In both cases the musician must be able to play what is in their imagination.

In the past Free Music usually referred to music that did not utilize traditional notions of form, harmony and melody. For me in 2009, Free Music means creating whatever I want out of all of the musical elements available to the musician. It also ties very much into improvisation where spontaneous choices can change the direction of the music at any time.

Free Jazz in the 60' was a genre full of Socio-Political meanings, musicians like Ornette Coleman and Sam Rivers was the Vector of his own way of thinking. John Coltranejoin the free movement with album like "Interstellar Space" just few month before his death, but before that he pushed the limit of Jazz forward. What a Free Jazz musician could represent today? What could be a musicians' purpose in the Free Jazz scene nowadays?

In the past Free Music often excluded certain elements that were considered traditional. For me, Free Music is more about inclusion of ideas, not exclusion. We are free to draw our inspiration from anywhere, including the mixing of traditional and non-traditional elements. Social-politically I think it's more difficult to put a Free Jazz musician in a specific category. Personally I do not feel that I represent any specific socio-political position except that of making some kind of sense out of the world around me. I no longer think of Free Music as a music separate from the rest of music. In fact, I really do not think of myself as a "Free Musician". In consider myself an improvisor.

Ellery Eskelin en concert au Triton (Les Lilas-France), 24 January 2007 - by Christophe AlaryI know that you dedicate a big part of your time teaching. What's your aim as a teacher?

As a musician, I feel that I owe a large debt to the musicians who gave me inspiration, knowledge and encouragement to do what I do. But I realize that it is not really possible to pay them back directly. As life has it, the elder generation passes away with time. So my responsibility to the older generation requires that I pass the information they gave me along to the younger generations. And that younger generation passes this knowledge to the next younger generation. This is a very important process not only to the musicians but to the world. Beyond that idea, my aim as a teacher is to teach the student how to ask questions and eventually become their own teacher.

Are you fascinated by other kind of arts or you're completely absorbed by your music?

I am very interested in all arts. Often, by taking inspiration from another art form it becomes possible to create something more original in music.

What do you think about the USA situation? Do you really feel that Pres. Obama will change the States or you believe that the Power will always be in the Lobby and the Central Bank hands?

The fundamental way that the world works will not suddenly change under any president or leader. But I think that President Obama provides a much needed reassurance to the world that the US is changing course in some positive ways. The people are ready and I think that the president can improve the world situation simply by being a thoughtful, reasonable and intelligent leader.

Dave Liebman/Ellery Eskelin Quartet - BIMhuis - Amsterdam - 4 mei 2007 (http://www.govertdriessen.com)I really love you as musician and you're actually in my best Sax Player list with people like Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson and Evan Parker! What do you think about them and what are your fave artist right now?

I can always find something in any saxophonist's playing that I find interesting or intriguing. These days I am taking a lot of inspiration from Wayne Shorter. Every sound he makes is complete. His total musical DNA is present in every note or musical gesture.

I read in your Bio that one of your teacher was David Liebman! It should be a great teacher too 'cause you're simply amazing! The fact is that you've got really you're original voice on the instrument, I can recognize you through thousands...so, is David Liebman responsable of that or someone else?

My own musical voice is the result of everything I have been exposed to in life. Certain people I may feel closer to or farther away from, but everything I hear has some effect. So really it becomes more about my own thoughts and ideas as expressed through music. Everyone has their own individual personality but not every musician allows themselves to really develop that for themselves. For me it has always been very important to be myself and not be required to be something that I am not.

The last usual question! Future projects? I know that you'll play in Europe soon, the tour will include Italy in your schedule?

I am always active with a variety of groups. My website is always updates with he coming schedule. At the moment I don't think there is anything scheduled for Italy, but perhaps in the fall. We'll see...

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Publishing Date: 26/04/2009

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