Take Five With Tor E Bekken
Born 1964 in Norway. Played piano since childhood. Professional musician since the late 1980s. Works with blues-based material, as well as free form solo piano improvisation and Norwegian folk music. Played with New Orleans artists such as Marva Wright, Benny Turner, Big Al Carson and the late Eddie Bo. Lives in Trondheim, Norway. Has released seven CDs; the latest, Songs from a Forest, is a duet with harmonica player Richard Gjems.
Teachers and/or influences? Eddie Bo, James Booker, George Winston, Don Pullen, Charles Gayle (his piano playing), Jelly Roll Morton, Meade Lux Lewis, Call Cobbs, Jr., Jan Johansson and many, many others...
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I first heard blues on Norwegian radio when I was home sick from school as a small child.
Your sound and approach to music: I want to use all my influences to create something which is unique and identifiable as my own music.
Your dream band:
I don't have a dream band, but I would very much like to work with musicians who are comfortable with their own expression but still willing to challenge themselves and stretch their own boundaries. Hopefully, I am that kind of musician myself.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Among my own recordings, Songs from a Forest (Blue Mood/Grappa, 2009) is my favourite. The music moves back and forth between jazz, blues and old Norwegian traditional songs. The recording is a duet with Richard Gjems (harmonica), and I feel we have created a special sounda sort of "Norwegian approach to the blues," if something like that exists...
The first Jazz album I bought was: A Jelly Roll Morton LP, in the early seventies.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I hope my music can inspire curiosity. I also feel that music brings people together in a profound way. People from all over the world can enjoy the same music. I hope to contribute to a sense of unity and fellowship through music.
How would you describe the state of jazz today? Healthy. I like the fact that there seems to be a global approach to the music.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Good venues, good funding, good worldwide distribution of recordings.
What is in the near future? Planning to tour and record more with Richard Gjems.
I teach piano at the Trondheim School of Culture, run by the city.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: a writer or journalist.