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Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: Free Jazz, Ukraine Style

By Published: January 14, 2009
AAJ: And you are composing only for jazz?

MT: Well, yes. Also we have one project here in Lviv. It is more like spiritual music but based on improvised music. It's got nothing to do with jazz ... absolutely different aesthetics.

AAJ: Klaus, how about you? When in your career did you come to free jazz?

KK: I wouldn't call my music free jazz. That's free music in which everything is possible. When I started... many-many years ago [laughs] I played Dixieland, blues, rock, big-band and all the styles...

AAJ: And what was your inspiration? Maybe any particular favorite drummer?

KK: Not really one favorite. But what every drummer would say. If I would have to make a choice I would say Tony Williams especially Miles' quintet with Herbie Hancock. As a drummer he's absolutely fantastic. And Elvin Jones also. And you know I play with musicians from New York who also play with Rashied Ali. Roy Campbell or Charles Gayle, who has two trios: one with William Parker and Rashied Ali, and one with Hilliard Greene and me. I play with those musicians in this context with people like Roy Campbell, Jemeel Moondoc, Karl Berger, Perry Robinson, Louie Belogenis, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Sabir Mateen, and others.

AAJ: And besides those you play with German musicians also?

KK: Yes, of course I play in Germany with people like Michel Pilz, Gerd Dudek, Dieter Manderscheid and Reiner Winterschladen (I think he's the best trumpet player in Germany if not in Europe), and also Stefan Heidtmann, Theo Jorgensmann, Albrecht Maurer, Claudio Puntin and some others.

AAJ: Klaus, how do you find an audience in the Ukraine? Is there a difference between audiences here and audiences in Europe or America?

KK: The biggest difference is that many more people attend here. There is much more interest. In the USA they don't even have a culture ministry.

AAJ: I guess our culture ministry doesn't help much...

KK: At least you have a culture ministry [laughs]. But the audience in New York is used to a high level and listens to everything. There are even whole festivals dedicated to this music, for example the Vision Festival in NYC where I played in 2006 and 2007.

AAJ: You have a lot of different groups? Do you have any particular favorite partner?

KK: For twenty years now it has been Petras Vysniauskas. That's for sure. He's my main partner. And for ten years I've played with Genelin. I played with Michel Pilz, the bass clarinetist, for more than twenty years. He's not so well known here except for those who know the old Manfred Schoof Quintet.

AAJ: Did you record any album under your own leadership?

KK: No. It's difficult because I already play in several formations with my favorite musicians. I have an idea for one maybe in the future, and I need two or three more compositions.

AAJ: So you write your own material?

KK: Yes. With the Stefan Heidtmann Project we did one or two of my tunes. Yeah, I have some [laughs]. I did an album with Windsleepers, a German-French group La Fiancee Du Pirate (Shaa-Music, 2006) that includes three of my compositions. I write from time to time. You know it's very open music, and musicians have a freedom. They need one head or two. So I don't want to tell people what they have to do. I would not come up like, "Okay we'll do a CD now. You play a solo here, and you do that," so I can put my name on it. On most of the projects it's just a collective. Our last concert here with Petras and Mark was free music. Nobody can say that's my band. There are three personalities on stage and then something happens...

AAJ: It was full improvisation?

KK: 100%, absolutely. Maybe the people didn't hear that. With the Ganelin Trio it's the same. We go on stage and do not talk about what we will play. It just happens.

Klaus kugel / Ganelin TrioAAJ: Did you have any plan on your concert with Charles Gayle?

KK: Yes, but not very deliberate. We knew how we would start more or less. And Charles sometimes, not often, has an idea and gives a sign or two but it was very open.

AAJ: Mark, do you often perform with Yuriy Yaremchuck?

MT: Not often. I have something like ten projects. They are on my site ( I did a CD with Waclaw Zimpel, Tim Daisy, Waclaw Zimpel and Dave Rempis called Four Walls, (Multikulti Project, 2008). And we will have a tour with this quartet with two Americans, Dave Rempis and Tim Daisy. We also play with them in Ken Vandermark's Resonance project that also came out recently on vinyl (Not Two, 2008). We have a quartet with Mikolaj Trzaska also with two Americans, pianist Lee Sloen and drummer Rick Hollander. And so it goes.

AAJ: It's too bad you don't play many live concerts here in the Ukraine.

MT: Yeah. We don't have many places to play our music. The thing is that we haven't had much access to this type of music. And many people are afraid of it. More traditional musicians are not open for something different. There are exceptions, of course.

AAJ: Why you are not performing at more Ukrainian jazz festivals?

MT: It depends on the musical taste of the festivals' producers. If they are not open to this type of music they don't invite us. There's nothing strange here. But I think than in the Ukraine the interest for open, free, improvising music is increasing and in the future there will be a lot more opportunities.

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