Franz Koglmann: Viewing Jazz through Other Arts
FK: For some years I heard some of his records, Winter Song, Intents and Purposes, the quartet with Archie Shepp. From all the free jazz trumpeters he was the most interesting to me, a little more than Don Cherry, maybe because of his lyrical sound and his way of composition as on Winter Song. I asked him to come to Vienna, and we recorded and played in Vienna. We never played together again, but we have met a lot in his workshops in the Wiener Musik Galerie, and he was very influential on young musicians in Vienna.
AAJ: Was Dixon's sound influential on your sound?
FK: Yes, of course, but not only Dixon. There are four or five players that I like the most. I like the sound of Chet Baker, Jack Sheldon, Tony Fruscella. I heard Art Farmer very often, because he married and lived in Vienna, so I heard him every week, but he played strictly, never experimenting, but in very good way, high quality.
I rented a nice apartment for Dixon, the first that he came to Vienna. He came to the apartment, took his trumpet out and played few notes and it was completely another world for me. His natural sound has nothing to do with his records. This was the first time that I heard his real sound and it was incredible.
AAJ: The sound of sax and clarinetist Tony Coe is almost integral in your recordings and it seems that he is complimenting your sound.
FK: He played on most of my recordings. He played on Henry Mancini soundtracks and was on the Pink Panther, but that's not the reason that I like him. The first jazz concert that I played in Vienna with the played the Francis Boland-Kenny Clarke Big Band including Tony in the reed section. I immediately loved his incredibly smooth lines. The first time we played together was with the Derek Bailey's Company in 1983, ten years after I heard Coe for the first time. Bailey and Coe recorded a record for Bailey's Incus label, Time (1979), and it sounded as if Alban Berg would have played the clarinet with Anton von Webern on the guitar. We asked Derek to take Coe, and he said OK. Coe is a great arranger and conceptualist. I know him very well, and exactly what to write for him. I think that I gave him a good context.
Disillusionment with American Jazz and Celebration of Viennese Cool
In 1983 Koglmann founded the Pipetet, his main musical (along with the Monoblue quartet) unit with a lineup that varies from octet to ensembles of more than twenty musicians, and began to synthesize his European influences and his jazz influences. Through the years the Pipetet featured guest soloists such as Lacy, Paul Bley, Misha Mengelberg and Ran Blake.
"This was part of my process to break away from 'normal' jazz. Mainly from the conservative jazz of the eighties, that was establishing jazz as a museum, Wynton Marsalis etc. It was not interesting for me from the point of view of art. Think that in the visual arts they would say that the last important step is Paul Cezan, and now we are copying Cezannnefor ever, ad infinitum. It's terrible."
Koglmann's most bold statement about his alienation from the Afro-American jazz was conceived during his recording A White Line (HatHut, 1989), which Koglmann dedicated to white jazz composers such as Bix Beiderbecke, Lennie Tristiano, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. Koglmann wrote in his liner notes: "'Do Best White Bands Copy Negroes?' as the headline of a DownBeat title page from the '30s.
"The specific something that fascinates most jazz lovers has to do with swing, soul, and heated expressivity. Since all pertinent standards were set by black musicians, white musicians accepting these categories as supreme criteria naturally have to look for guidance to their black colleagues.
"My categories are different, however. With due respect to the achievements of African-American jazz, I prefer a rational/ geometric lucidity to emotional immediacy. I have a greater affinity for the expressions of a melancholy decadence than the spontaneous joy of improvising. I cannot see swing as the one and only saving criterion."
Koglmann added in later interviews: "my non-jazzy attitude is due the fact that my ancestors were not cotton pickers from Mississippi. It would be disingenuous to exhibit my 'groove' in a finger-snapping manner."
AAJ: What led you to the recording of A White Line?
FK: Werner Uehlinger (HatHut impresario) asked what my next project was, and I said that I would be interested to find out if there exists a white line in the history of jazz. He said, The White Line, this could be a good title. I said that people will say that we are racists. Next day he said, let's call it, A White Line. We did the record and the next day I was the jazz Nazi, but I have to say that if this record had another title no one would have realized that it has to do with a white line. Anthony Braxton first had a problem with the idea, but after we discussed it he understood what I meant. Bill Dixon had never a problem with it.
AAJ: Do you regret that title?