Take Five With Jerry Senfluk
Teachers and/or influences? Karel Dlouha (then the Clarinet Concert Master of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra). Influences too numerous to list all: from Edmund Hall to Benny Goodman to Coleman Hawkins to Earl Hines, Sidney Bechet to Django Reinhardt, as well as countless sources from various folklores of the West European Mediterranean, Alpine, Latin American, Caribbean, Pacific and West African regions. And above all, of course, Louis Armstrong, W. A. Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, J. S. Bach and others.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... When I was very young and stupid and realized that I couldn't do anything else.
Your sound and approach to music: To judge my sound is down to others. My approach is to make it as beautiful and near to perfection as possible, and avoid superfluousness, knowing at the same time that if I had 400 years, I still could not reach my own goals and ideals.
Your teaching approach: Apart from teaching the rudimentary technicalities like how to hold and operate the instrument, how to breathe and which mistakes to avoid, I never did any teaching. The students have to teach themselves. I only show them how to do this.
Your dream band:
I've already reached that, with my own quintet. It's the best thing which ever happened to me, in both musical and human terms.
a) Harbour Yard, Chelsea Harbour, London; sensational acoustics, a wonderful Steinway baby grand (always immaculately tuned), excellent treatment (by deliciously cooked Cantonese meals and fine wines), regular Sunday lunchtimes. I was actually us who introduced live jazz into this venue. Alas, after a couple of years, rather unidentifiable decision makers in the distance of dozens or perhaps hundreds of miles away got the idea that it would be wiser to save the money and spend it probably in advertising or such like.
b) Sala Carrera, Marchena (in Andalucía). Actually only one of six venues in and around Seville we played during the Festival de Jazz en la Provincia. We were supported by an excellent technical crew with a sound engineer who certainly knew exactly what he was doing and our pianist played the same Yamaha grand of immaculate condition every night (yes, the instrument was carted around with us). I only picked up the Sala Carrera because we received a flamenco applause from the audiences.
c) Salle des Fates, Munster (in Alsace); large venue in a small idyllic town set in gorgeous landscape. Could take my own quintet unfortunately only once to their Jazz Festival but most gladly returned twice with other ensembles. An 800-seat venue filled with 1200 absolutely enthusiastic audiences, with most generously dimensioned stage fitted with flawless technology.
The first Jazz album I bought was: Graeme Bell (recorded in 1947 in Czechoslovakia, banned a year later after the communist coup d'etat and re-released on an EP (those little 45 r.p.m. things) in the wake of de-Stalinization ten years later).
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Choosing my repertoire, I look for beautiful melodies. It's also beautiful melodies which I attempt to create during improvised choruses. In other words, beautiful melodies are my ultimate goal, for that's exactly what I want my audiences to hear. They have to endure more than enough ugliness in their daily lives and are exposed to it more than enough by all sorts of media. So, they most certainly don't need even more ugliness from me.
How would you describe the state of jazz today? Most unsatisfactory, to say the least, and getting worse. That's nothing to do with the quality of the musicians which, on the contrary, is rising. Scores of brilliant youngsters appear on the scene, new faces every year, and one better than the other. Which is, actually, how things should be, in music and in any other field of human activity. Alas, these brilliant youngsters face dwindling numbers of venues, festivals and other possibilities to perform for a half decent fee, just like the rest of us.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Jazz programs on radio and television should be relocated back from 1 a.m. or 2.30 a.m. to an evening or day time when school kids, youngsters and members of professions other than of night security have chance to listen to them, Also, educational jazz concerts (as well as symphonic concerts, by the way) should be staged for schools, free of charge for the kids, of course (or at least for those from poor families of which we have a vast and growing number and which would be otherwise excluded by their poverty).