Take Five With Philip Baumgarten
I started out as a bass guitarist, and played salsa in the seventies. My band, Bapao, was successful in The Netherlands, and I played in every important venue. Later on, I switched to double-bass and jazz became my main thing. I've been playing jazz now for many years with many musicians, with whom I recorded a number of CDs. I now have my own jazz trio, the Philip Baumgarten Trio, that has just released its first CD, The Arrival.
Teachers and/or influences?
No teachers. I don't think that I'm influenced by one musician in particular, but I do feel more attracted to the way of playing of John Patitucci, compared to Charlie Haden.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
When I saw Stanley Clarke perform with Chick Corea. This was a long time ago, in the seventies, when they had just recorded Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy' (I really love that seventies title), I thought Stanley was like a God.
Your sound and approach to music:
What is most important to me concerning my sound, is that it is very clear and low enough to provide the music with a nice bass (or basses). I believe the bass can also be a beautiful solo instrument, and I would like to make a significant contribution to the bass as solo instrument.
Your teaching approach:
I only give one double-bass jazz workshop a year. I'm very happy if I can make one thing clear to the students, from which they benefit for the rest of their career. I'm not telling them only one thing (that would make the workshop very, very short) but I do concentrate on one subject and try not to overload them with information, which I did when I gave a workshop for the first time. I don't feel teaching is my vocation and I bought off my feelings of guilt about the little I teach by writing bass lessons for my website.
Your dream band:
I'm very happy about my trio. And, yes, there are a number of musicians I would love to work with: Ahmad Jamal, Richard Galliano, Gilad Hekselman. Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Eric Alexander, Gary Burton. Who wouldn't?
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
With my first band Bapao, I once played in a show where there were a lot of bands in the Rai, which is an enormous venue. We had three minutes to get ready onstage, so I was busy plugging in and finding my place on the stage. Then I looked up and saw thousands of people in front of me, waiting for the band to start I was paralyzed. I remember desperately trying to move my fingers while playing, but the felt like they weighed a ton.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Ah, that is my latest, The Arrival, by the Philip Baumgarten Trio. This is what I was trying to express from the beginning, so I'm very happy this was finally recorded. Of the ten originals on that CD, I wrote all ten, so what you hear is my idea of jazz. Also, I recorded it myself, so the sound is also as I like it. I chose musicians that play with the sparkling energy I love. We were totally inspired the day of the recording. No wonder this is my favorite recording!
The first Jazz album I bought was:
That must be Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy, by Return to Forever, though maybe that is not really a jazz album, but a fusion album. The first real jazz album must have been one by Charlie Parker. I've forgotten which one.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
That would be the furthering of the double-bass as a solo instrument.
Did you know...
Reviewers have written that they loved my woody sound on the double-bass. I think this is funny, because I play on a carbon double-bass. I also own a wooden double-bass, even one by a famous Italian luthier, Giuseppe Pedrazzini. But I prefer my Cosi carbon bass, with its beautiful "woody" sound.
CDs you are listening to now:
The New Gary Burton Quartet, Common Ground (Mack Avenue);
Gilad Hekselman, Words Unspoken (LateSet Records);
Ahmad Jamal, Live in Paris '92 (Polydor/Polygram);
Eric Alexander, Revival of the Fittest (HighNote Records);
Pat La Barbera, From The Heart (Justin Time).
Desert Island picks:
The new Gary Burton Quartet, Common Ground (Mack Avenue);
NHOP Trio, Friends Forever (Milestone);
John Coltrane, Plays for Lovers (Universal);
Joshua Redman, Passage of Time (Warner Bros. );
Renaud Garcia-Fons and Jean-Louis Matinier, Fuera (Enja).
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I'm very enthusiastic about the way jazz musicians develop. Thirty years ago, there were maybe ten or twenty proper jazz musicians in The Netherlands. Now there are hundreds (if not thousands) of them. Also, jazz is developing all the time all over the world. Jazz will be a very important art movement forever.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
The love and enthusiasm of the artists that play this music, because let's be clear about this: we jazz musicians don't play jazz for the money; we do it because we feel an inner need to contribute to this beautiful art form. An art form that deserves wider recognition, by the way.
What is in the near future?
Although I've just finished the first recording of the Philip Baumgarten Trio, I've already composed the music for our next CD. Which is a good thing, because now we get to play this music extensively during concerts well before recording our second album.
Together with my wife I run a publishing company that publishes self-help books.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
I would also be an artist, a painter.
Photo Courtesy of Philip Baumgarten