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Interviews

Matthias Bublath: Getting Organized

By Published: October 6, 2009

AAJ: So how did it come to be that you had an instrument at home, did you ask for a piano?

MB: No, my father is a scientist and he was fascinated by the mechanics of a piano, so he bought an old piano, so that's why we had one at home. It was open and he liked pressing the keys and watching the hammers move and the whole mechanical aspect of it.

AAJ: With respect to the piano, who were some of your musical heroes and influences?

MB: Very early I would say Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis
b.1935
piano
and a blues record I listened to a lot was by Blind John Davis
Blind John Davis
Blind John Davis
1913 - 1985
piano
, he's not well known, but you can see a few YouTube clips, he was from New Orleans.

AAJ: So you were into Professor Longhair

Professor Longhair
Professor Longhair
1918 - 1980
piano
and those kinds of guys?

MB: He wasn't too well known in Germany. I was very familiar with Dr. John

Dr. John
Dr. John
b.1940
piano
and then got into Professor Longhair after that.

Then, of course, Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
, that was kind of my introduction into jazz. Then Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Art Tatum
1909 - 1956
piano
, and of course, the big three—Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, and Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett
b.1945
piano
. And actually Erroll Garner
Erroll Garner
Erroll Garner
1921 - 1977
piano
was someone I listened to a lot.

AAJ: How about the Hammond?

Matthias BublathMB: Let me think, I knew a little bit about Jimmy Smith when I started, but not too much. But I always learned more by playing with people, so I wasn't too big on listening to records. I learned a lot by going to concerts. I started with the Hammond when I was at Berklee College in Boston, so I played sessions with all kinds of players when I was there. Later, I would say a big influence was Dr. Dr. Lonnie Smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith
Dr. Lonnie Smith
b.1942
organ, Hammond B3
, who I mostly saw live. Guys like Larry Goldings
Larry Goldings
Larry Goldings
b.1968
keyboard
. And I like Sam Yahel
Sam Yahel
Sam Yahel

keyboard
a lot. He's not so well know, but I think he really develops the instrument a lot with all his different sounds. People don't use all the potential for sound that the Hammond has to offer.

AAJ: Hauling a B3 around to gigs is quite a chore, but a B3 and a piano — you don't really travel around with both do you?

MB: No, not really. You know, over here in Germany they usually rent an organ for me. In the States, there are lots of clubs that have organs. Like up in Harlem, they have that tradition so there are clubs that have a Hammond and it's great because you don't have to bring anything.

In Europe, they often have a great piano. And for emergencies I always have a Hammond type keyboard so I can have some security, just in case everything fails.

AAJ: You have real talent for composition, four CDs in four years, with about 40 compositions—very strong material. Your music is often complex, but always very melodic. One of the rare compositions from someone else was Antonio Carlos Jobim

Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
—he's very prolific and melodic, so I was wondering if you are you a fan of his work in particular and Brazilian music in general?

MB: Oh yes, I'm a big fan of Brazilian music and I've played with a lot of Brazilian bands. Actually, I lived with Brazilians when I was studying in Boston. So my Brazilian roommates were a big influence on me, and, yes, especially Jobim. I like a lot of his tunes and I learned a lot of his songs.

AAJ: How about Djavan?

MB: Yeah, big time—and Elis Regina

Elis Regina
Elis Regina
b.1945
vocalist
, too. And Joao Bosco.

AAJ: Did you ever listen to that record with Toots Thielemans

Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
b.1922
harmonica
and Elis Regina?

MB: Yeah, that's great. And maybe my favorite record is that one with Elis and "Tom" Jobim [Elis & Tom (Polygram, 1974)] that's kind of like my Bible.

AAJ: The one with the "Waters of March"? Oh yeah, that's just fantastic.

MB: That's a great record, one of my all time favorites, but it's not too usual to play Brazilian music with organ.

AAJ: I remember way back there was a great album with Astrud Gilberto

Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
b.1940
vocalist
and Walter Wanderley, but it was a different sound from the typical organ today.

MB: Oh that's right, I do think I remember hearing that.

AAJ: In terms of composers, who were some of your other influences?

Matthias Bublath

MB: Now I'm checking out a lot of classical stuff, so again I would think of Chopin and Beethoven. Not so much for my music, but kind of from the point of logical development and ideas. Also Franz Schubert, I've been playing his works a lot lately.

AAJ: Could you talk a bit about your approach to composing?

MB: In New York I forced myself to write a lot. I try to write a song every day. And then I try it on my friends when we do a session and I get input from everybody. That's my approach, just doing it, then playing it live, and then the compositions grow.

AAJ: I noticed you guys go into the studio and knock out 10 cuts in a day.

MB: Yes, we're pretty fast and I have a lot more tunes. I bind my music into books and I think I have five of them now. So my friends kid me about the "Matthias books." I've got a lot of material left so I can be pretty selective in what I record.

AAJ: I understand you didn't learn to read music until you were about 20. Are you a good sight reader now?

MB: Now, I think I'm OK. Initially, I was self taught, so I didn't need to read. I'm kind of doing it backwards: you know, guitarists usually start playing rock and roll music, and then they go into jazz. Pianists usually start with classical and then they go into jazz. So, I'm more like a guitarist on piano.

Now I'm doing the classical stuff that most people do when they are young.



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