Trilok Gurtu: Where East Meets West
AAJ: Not long ago you recorded a song with Italian singer Adriano Celentano; how did that go?
TG: Italy is one of my favorite places: I like the people; I have many friends there; I even speak Italian. I like the food and the wine there. The recording with Adriano was fantastic. He is a great artist. It was fun to do that: the way he would explain what he wanted, and the way he kept forgetting my name. Just like Frank Zappa, who used to call me "Trislog" [laughs].
AAJ: Would you call yourself a jazz musician?
TG: What is jazz? If you say that jazz is American I am not going to answer this question. Indian music was the first music that was improvised. What is left of jazz if we take African or classical music out? Or even Apache music? Do you know how much trumpeter Don Ellis took from Bulgaria, for example? I am not a hardcore jazz musician. I like [pianist] Thelonious Monk and all that, but I think that the term has become too restrictive. The term jazz has become discriminative because it is too narrow. You cannot put music in a box and start fighting about it instead of letting it be and develop. Let the great voice talk and not the small insects who talk about it. Let the great power in us talk. For that you have to give credit.
AAJ: Where is jazz going?
TG: To be honest, I don't really care. I am not a theoretician. I am not really interested in what it is called and what they are doing. There are fantastic gospel musicians who are really good. I like to hear it sometimes, but that's not what I play. I'm not sure if people understand that. Too much knowledge presented at the wrong time can go completely wrong.
AAJ: If you would give jazz a name what would that name be?
TG: I don't know what that name would be. Maybe world music. Call it what you want.
AAJ: What are you listening to these days?
TG: I listen to Bach, Brahms, a lot of African and Indian music. I listen to Don [Cherry], to [saxophonist] Ornette Coleman. I also listen to the new stuff. I like the Norwegians a lot, and I also listen to some young American musicians. They are good for what they are.
AAJ: Are you still practicing?
TG: I do. I like to play, so I get together with my instrument as often as possible.
AAJ: Are you still nervous before a performance?
TG: If I am not sure of myself, yes. But now I am not unsure anymore. Once I became initiated by my spiritual master, Ranjit Maharaj, all weakness and fear was gone. I am a lucky man.
AAJ: What are you working on right now?
TG: I am working on a new album. We'll finish it in December and it will come out early next year. It is called Trumpets, and I play on it with Paolo Fresu, Nils Petter Molvær, Ibrahim Maalouf and a very good classical German trumpet player named Matthias Hof. The music is already done. It is about Miles Davis and about Don Cherry, and one tune is about Dizzy Gillespie. I have two tunes of Miles; I have rearranged "All Blues" and "Black Satin," and from Don I've also got two tunes. The rest are compositions dedicated to them.
Trilok Gurtu/Simon Phillips/NDR Big Band, 21 Spices (Art of Groove, 2011)
Trilok Gurtu, Massical (BHM Productions, 2009)
Joe Zawinul, My People (Escapade, 1996)
Trilok Gurtu, Crazy Saints (CMP, 1993)
John McLaughlin Trio, Que Alegria (Verve, 1992)
Oregon, Always, Never and Forever (Intuition, 1991)