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Barry Guy: Striving For Absolute Spontaneity

By Published: May 31, 2011
AAJ: What do you think about jazz in XXI? Is jazz "dead"?

BG: 21st century jazz? Many of the old guard are still active, and there are musicians out in the world that possess great technique and imagination. We can hope (I say this word again) that there is a continuity of ambition and realization to keep the momentum going. It is for sure that the popular media will not help in disseminating the music. Many times the "jazz is dead" mantra has been pronounced. We uttered the same words many years ago, and it will be reiterated many more times. It's a kind of protection to justify a new direction. It is in one way correct but in another way not so. The diversity of improvised music will be the key to the future, but it may not fall under the classification of "jazz." But then again, some music will.

AAJ: Can we expect great developments in modern classical music?

BG: I am not really in a position to comment upon this, since my knowledge is limited as to the latest manifestations in modern music. I read of names that occupy journalists' and critics' faculties, but maybe my own busy musical life has kept me a little distant from the latest trends. I am sure, however, that there are exciting things happening out there.

AAJ: How did you meet Mats Gustafsson?

BG: That was solo in '92 in Stockholm. I think that's the answer you need, and the rest is history.

Barry Guy and Mats Gustafsson
From left: Mats Gustafsson, Barry Guy

AAJ: Your musical backgrounds and personalities seem very different, but you achieve perfect harmony and understanding. How does it work? How does a spontaneous acquaintance develop into a long-term work relationship?

BG: We both love good music in general and performing in particular. We seem to possess the same energy levels, which feeds our curiosity and excitement of creating a musical dialogue.

AAJ: Please tell us about your collaboration with Lithuanian musicians.

BG: It is always interesting to meet a new group of musicians. On the occasion of my meeting with Lithuanian musicians, it was pleasurable to note that the language of improvisation resides powerfully in many parts of the world. Our collaboration had all of the attributes of informed and creative musicians. Listening to the recording of our collaboration reaffirms why we so enjoy being part of this world music.

AAJ: Did you have any expectations coming to play in Vilnius, and were they met?

BG: Mats Gustafsson informed me prior to my visit that I would enjoy the project. He was correct, and needless to say, the hospitality and support was impressive. The Lithuanian musicians were friendly, aware and creative—a really fine combination.

AAJ: What are your plans for the near future, and do they include creating more orchestral music and further experiments in this direction?

BG: Plans are many and cover a wide area of music. Currently I am rewriting "Radio Rondo" for the Barry Guy New Orchestra—the piece, of course, was composed for Irene Schweizer
Irene Schweizer
Irene Schweizer
and the LJCO. Also for the BGNO, I will write a piece that features Maya Hamburger with the guys: a tricky balancing act matching the fragile baroque violin with heavyweight saxophones, brass and percussion—fascinating, nonetheless.

For our duo, I will compose a series of seven pieces that will be generated out of the work of New York artist Elana Gutmann, with the first performance slated for February 2010. We will then record a new duo album. Also in 2010, there will be two unusual projects—one for the Vancouver Festival, a collaboration with animator Michel Gagné, and improvising musicians will be premiered. Also I have been commissioned to provide a set of musical interventions into the opera "Dido and Aeneas" by Henry Purcell, using improvising and baroque musicians. That's quite a lot to be getting on with.

Selected Discography

Diatribes and Barry Guy, Multitude (Cave12, 2010)

Savina Yannatou/Barry Guy, Attikos (Maya Recordings, 2010)

Ken Vandermark/Barry Guy/Mark Sanders, Fox Fire (Maya Recordings, 2009)

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson, Sinners, Rather Than Saints (NoBusiness Records, 2009)

Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irène Schweizer, Radio Rondo/Schaffhausen Concert (Intakt Records, 2009)

Agustí Fernández/Barry Guy, Some Other Place (Maya Recordings, 2009)

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton, Phases Of The Night (Intakt Records, 2008)

Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra with Barry Guy, Falkirk (FMR Records, 2007)

Evan Parker/George Lewis/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton, Hook, Drift & Shuffle (PSI (UK), 2007)

Jacques Demierre/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli, Brainforest (Intakt Records, 2006)

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton/Philipp Wachsmann/Joel Ryan, Free Zone Appleby 2004 (PSI (UK), 2005)

Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Study II/Stringer (Intakt Records, 2005)

Maya Homburger/Barry Guy/Pierre Favre, Dakryon (Maya Recordings, 2005)

Barry Guy/Marilyn Crispell/Paul Lytton, Ithaca (Intakt Records, 2004)

Barry Guy/Evan Parker, Birds And Blades (Intakt Records, 2003)

Tri-Dim + Jim O'Rourke and Barry Guy, 2 of 2 (Sofa 2002)

Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Three Pieces (Intakt Records, 1997)

Mats Gustafsson/Barry Guy, Frogging (Maya Recordings, 1997)

Barry Guy/Paul Plimley, Sensology (Maya Recordings, 1997)

Evan Parker/Paul Dunmall/Barry Guy/Tony Levin, Birmingham Concert (Rare Music, 1996)

Mats Gustafsson/Barry Guy/Paul Lovens, Mouth Eating Trees And Related Activities (Okka Disk, 1996)

Marilyn Crispell/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway, Cascades (Music And Arts Programs Of America, Inc. 1995)

Evan Parker/Barry Guy, Obliquities (Maya Recordings, 1995)

Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Portraits (Intakt Records, 1994)

Barry Guy And the Now Orchestra, Study, Witch Gong Game (Maya Recordings, 1994)

Barry Guy solo, Fizzles (Maya Recordings, 1993)

Barry Guy & London Jazz Composers Orchestra with Irène Schweizer, Theoria (Intakt Records, 1992)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Courtesy of Barry Guy
Barry Guy
Barry Guy

Page 2: "Nasca Lines," excerpt by Alan Jones

All Other Photos: Dmitrij Matvejev

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