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Matthias Bublath: Getting Organized

By Published: October 6, 2009

AAJ: When you compose, do you find it useful to use software or MIDI technology to generate sheet music?

MB: I do use it to make charts for other musicians, but to compose I prefer the old way, using pencil and paper. I think if you compose on the computer it forces you into a certain direction. If you record something, and then you feel like you have to copy and paste something, to me it feels like music out of a box. Using a pencil with an eraser makes me feel more flexible. If it's in the computer it looks so good you don't want to erase it (laughs.)

AAJ: You studied in Linz, Austria and in Boston. Could you compare and contrast the differences in your musical education in Austria and America?

Matthias Bublath

MB: I also studied in New York at the Manhattan School of Music, so I had six years of study.

In Linz, it was very loose. It was just a bunch of jazz musicians, it was really like hanging out and playing a lot. Because at the time they didn't really have a director for the jazz program, so things were very loose. For me, it was great because it was a creative environment. We tried out lots of things and many of my fellow students are successful in Germany right now, even though we didn't have very strong leadership in the program at the time.

When I came to Berklee everything was very organized. You had your lessons once a week, you had homework, and it was good because I developed my skills like arranging and harmony. You learned concrete skills, so I would say it was more effective. In Austria, it was also a free jazz scene, very different from Berklee.

AAJ: How important to your musical career was your decision to live in New York?

MB: I think it was very important because if I had stayed in Europe I wouldn't have met so many great musicians like you do in New York. Plus, you don't play as much and you don't gain as much experience. You know, by the time I was finishing up in Austria I was already one of the top players in Southern Germany. But in New York I was suddenly a nobody, and that's sometimes very healthy. The best musicians from everywhere come to New York, so there's a lot of competition, but there's also lots of opportunities to learn from your colleagues.

AAJ: Tim Collins

Tim Collins
Tim Collins
(vibes) has played on all of your CDs; he's got tremendous skills. How did you guys meet?

MB: I met him in New York through the Manhattan School, he's a little older than I am, so we didn't meet studying. It was somehow through the Manhattan School network. We were also neighbors in Astoria Queens, so we hung out and played a lot together in various bands. He's of course a great friend, too.

AAJ: Takuya Kuroda (trumpet) is another gifted musician who has played on most of your CDs. How long have you known each other?

MB: Yeah I played with him on my very first gig in New York, and he brought me to Japan twice, and I've brought him to Germany three times now. It's great to have people like this who know all your tunes. These two guys already know most of my tunes by heart. And we have very stable units, you know with the three of us, and we can add different rhythm sections to it and try different flavors.

AAJ: The two of them give you a very identifiable sound with trumpet and vibes. I'm guessing when you compose you are often thinking of Tim and Takuya.

MB: That's true because with them I often try my tunes out. So, for me they are part of the process of composing songs.

AAJ: On your new CD Voices, you have quite a mix of styles with you on piano, Rhodes, and Hammond B3, this time with Ezra Brown (t.s.), Zach Danziger (dr), Tim Lefebvre (bass), Anne Drummondi (flute), along with Tim and Takuya. This was quite a group, that's got to be a real kick for you to have players like this interpreting your music?

MB: It is, for me it's a dream come true, especially playing with Zach and Tim, because I grew up listening to their recordings. I finally met them in New York and we played a few gigs, so I asked them to be on my CD.

AAJ: Ezra Brown was also a great addition to your last CD.

Matthias BublathMB: Yes, he's just incredible. He's from Mississippi and he's got that R&B feel and a lot of soul in his playing. And he's got a great ear for music, he hears everything.

AAJ: It's interesting, you came from a blues background, but you haven't had a guitarist on any of your CDs. Was that a conscious decision?

MB: Yeah, you know there are so many organ trios with guitar, so especially for my organ CD Second Angle, I didn't want to have a guitar because I wanted to try a new instrumentation. So I choose to use the vibes as a chordal instrument. And just being a pianist, you play lots of chords, so I wanted to do the chordal stuff on my records.

But I do play with guitarists, and maybe in the future, but with the music I've recorded so far I just didn't hear a guitar in my mind.

AAJ: I noticed you guested on a recording with the young Bavarian pop phenomenon Claudia Koreck. How did that come about?

MB: I still know a lot of people in Munich, so sometimes I get calls for stuff. That's actually why I'm in Germany right now because we just did a CD release at the Zircus Krone in Munich last Friday.

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