Yuri Goloubev: Of Chocolate Cake & Other Simple Metaphors
AAJ: How much chocolate do you put in a chocolate cake?
YG: [laughs] Yeah, you can even put some salt.
AAJ: Other than Gwilym, whom you've already talked about, have you played with the other musicians on Metafore SempliciKlaus Gesing and Giovanni Falzonefor a long time?
YG: I was a member of Giovanni's Open Quartet which unfortunately doesn't exist anymore; I think that was from '05 to '07, and I've played with him in some other bands; for example, there's a very creative, very interesting drummer from Milan called Ferdinando Faraò and we recorded an album of his. Then with Klaus I first played in December '04 and since then I have played in his quartet. Lately he did some gigs with Gwilym's trio and the choir project of Gwilym's composition, "I Prefer the Gorgeous Freedom." We'll still do some concerts with Klaus both with Gwilym's trio and with my "Metafore Semplici" group. Then a new trio might shortly be born with Klaus and a very gifted vibes player from Italy, Francesco Pinetti.
AAJ: You've talked about your approach to harmony and listening to your own music melody seems to be central to your compositions, and that's maybe true of Italian music regardless of genre.
YG: First of all, when I write jazz tunes normally I would think of soprano saxophone; for example Klaus is a marvelous musician and a killing saxophonist so I love involving him, though some of the tunes on Metafore Semplici like "Garde de Lyon" and "Joey Hitchhiker" were written well before I got to know his playing.
AAJ: It's interesting that you compose with a soprano saxophone in mind; many musicians, regardless of their primary instrument often tend to compose from the piano, yet you, who are also a pianist choose to compose from a soprano saxophone. Why is that?
YG: There are three ways to compose music; one is writing with a computer which is something I never do. The two main ways are firstly, you are sitting at a table and you have a pencil and a manuscript paper, or you are sitting at an instrument, piano, bass or trumpet, whatever, and you compose with the instrument. I use both ways though mostly I write at the table.
I prefer it like this because I think you have a purer perception of the outcome of what you are doing; the instrument dictates what you can do, not only by sound but by your technical abilities to play. You have no aural references and hear only what is in your mind.
AAJ: One of the characteristics of Metafore Semplici which impresses is the growling, animalistic sounds which come from Giovanni Falzone's trumpet and I was reminded quite a lot of Duke Ellington whose compositions were usually very melodic but punctuated by growling jungle sounds. You recorded a duo album of Ellington's music with pianist Glauco Venier and I wondered how important an influence Ellington was on you as a composer.
YG: I never thought about that. The idea was Glauco's; it wasn't my project. When I was much younger I listened to quite a bit of Ellington but I'm not sure that his writing or his playing has influenced me. I find this observation very interesting because I have never thought about it. You might not be so wrong; sometimes we musicians have things in the back of our minds which we are not aware of. You never know.
AAJ: Although Asaf Sirkis drummed on a few of the tracks, Hommage a Duke (Caligola, 2007) was essentially a duo album; what were the challenges of that project?
YG: Glauco is a very unusual musician and very creative. He has his own musical world inside of himself, so whatever material he takes he brings it to a different world, so it was very interesting to work on some Ellington tunes. With him it wasn't like one two, one two three four...it was about finding some unexpected colors, maybe using few notes or a lot of sustain, a few notes on the piano, a few notes on the bass and trying not to fall into the usual patterns; once again it's chocolate cake. It was quite a challenge and you just have to stay alert: you never know what's going to be born; his playing depends on what I do and my playing depends on what he does.
YG: Actually I did not listen to either of them. I heard some after, but not before. This may seem strange or you might think I was ill prepared, but on the other hand maybe it brought some freshness to the way we approached it.
AAJ: Ellington referred to the music he made simply as American music; when you listen to Ellington's music to what extent do you hear a classical influence?
YG: Lately I don't really classify music like this, whether I listen to Ellington or whoever else; it's music. Do you know what I consider real jazz? Wayne Shorter's recordings of the '60s, which I love a lot! It's a purely personal perception. On the other hand, there's an older generation pianist in Italy who says: "I don't play music, I play jazz." I was quite shocked to hear this from a seasoned artist; no comment really!