Lars Danielsson: Love is the Message
LD: I would say that we definitely have a more European sound. It could be because of the classical music element in the music I write, or my background in classical music, or that our market seems to be more European so we tend to play a more European sound. I don't know. We don't make it to the U.S. very often, but I do get a lot of letters from fans in the States, saying how much they like the music. I also play with a lot of musicians from the U.S.
AAJ: Many AAJ readers will already be familiar with your quartet with Dave Liebman, Bobo Stenson and Jon Christensen. All those players have recorded for the ECM label at one time or another, which is interesting because someone listening to your music blindfolded might guess it were an ECM recording. It seems to possess much of the elegance and classical elements one often associates with that label.
LD: I can see that. I've listened to artists on that label all my life, and I've even played with many of them. While I wouldn't say the ECM label directly influenced me musically, I do think a lot of the artists they record come from the same place I do, which is classical music. A lot of what I play features melodies with a classical music sound. Not only that, but ECM produces albums with a really rich, well-recorded sound, which is something that I try to do as well.
AAJ: You recorded Liberetto in the summer (June 13- 17, 2011) at Tia Dia Studios in the small town of Mölnlycke in Sweden. You also live in that area, so did you choose the studio for its proximity?
LD: Yes, you could say that. The studio is in my house! In fact, the whole house is the studio. We were there for five days, and then I mixed the recording in September, so we worked pretty fast. I wrote the majority of the music before the musicians arrived, and made sure I left a lot of room for improvisation.
AAJ: How do you approach writing music? Do you pick up your bass directly or do you sit down at a piano to compose all the different parts?
LD: Most of the songs were written on the piano. I sometimes write music on the guitar, but this time I just used the piano. I've played the piano and the guitar since I was a kid, as we had a piano at home. My mother got a guitar for her birthday when I was really little, but I grabbed it, and she never got to use it. I went on to study cello at the Music Conservatory in Gothenburg before picking up the bass and getting into jazz.
AAJ: Given your background in classical music, do you feel as comfortable playing with classical musicians as you do with jazz musicians?
LD: Yes, absolutely. I come from a classical background, but I have played jazz most of my career, so I feel just as comfortable playing jazz as classical music, with players from either type of music. I also like the combination of the two styles.
AAJ: So you could never see yourself solely playing bebop?
LD: I like bebop a lot, but it has already been done so well by so many people. I have played a lot of bebop in my career, but the way I play now is a lot freer and much more personal. That's why I could never play with an orchestra, for example, as there would be no room for improvisation and expressing my own personality. Improvising and composing in the moment is an essential aspect of my playing. Of course, it's an important aspect of any jazz musician's playing.
AAJ: As composer, bandleader and producer, do you have very clear ideas in your mind how an album should turn out, even before the other musicians arrive? Did you let the musicians on Liberetto get to know the music before they arrived?
AAJ: Tigran (Hamasyan) was born in Armenia in 1987. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 2006 for his reworking of traditional Armenian folk music and poetry with a jazz flavor. Tell us a little about Tigran and why you chose him to join your quartet.
LD: Tigran was 23 or 24 years old when I met him. He's a real monster on the piano. He's just unbelievable. What often happens is that when musicians are as technically advanced as he is, they can have a lot of energy and play too much, which can be stressful to listen to, in my opinion. That's not the case with Tigran. I had never experienced playing with anyone like him before, especially being so young. He's very advanced in his musical way of thinking. He's just fantastic.
AAJ: Tigran counts among his early jazz influences Miles Davis's fusion period and the classic jazz songbook, as introduced to him by a teacher who had studied with Barry Harris.
LD: I can see that. Tigran sees my music exactly the way I do, and he composes music the way I do.
, the pianist, was the most important new collaboration on this recording, so we rehearsed together before he came to record. In fact, he invited me to come and play on his own project two weeks before the recording so we got the chance to get to know each other musically.