Take Five With Thomas Winther Andersen
Originally from Norway, Thomas Winther Andersen now lives in Amsterdam. At 13, he began playing electric bass, and after a few years his love for jazz became so strong that he decided to switch instruments and learn to play upright bass. Thomas studied music at the Amsterdam Conservatory from 1988 to 1993 and then added a Master's degree a year later from the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. In 1995, he received a grant from a Dutch foundation, The Performing Arts Fund (Fonds voor de podiumkunsten), to study in New York with Sal Mosca. Among the musicians Thomas has worked with are Lee Konitz, Robert Rook, Sheila Jordan, Michiel Borstlap, Jasper Blom, Jimmy Halperin and Hakon Storm.
Thomas has composed many pieces for various jazz ensembles, music for large ensembles, and chamber music. His compositions have been recorded for Norwegian and Dutch radio and many of them are available on CD.
Teachers and/or influences?
Influences: Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, George Mraz, Gary Peacock, Eddie Gomez, Jaco Pastorius. Teachers: Torgrim Sollid, Rob Waring, Arnold Dooyeweerd, Misha Mengelberg, and Sal Mosca.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
At age 13 I bought my first electric bass and started playing in a local school band. Earlier, I had played cello and at home there was lots of classical music in the air. It wasn't until I experienced playing in a band that I got the inspiration and personal drive to pursue music. I decided to spend my life in music and become a musician. The ability to spend hours practicing, playing, learning tunes, and instrumental skills came naturally from then on. In the beginning I was particularly impressed by bass players who were both bandleaders and composers. Virtuosity also had a big impact on me at the time. The sounds that sparked the most inspiration were electric styles such as funk, fusion, and rock. Both my teachers and friends introduced me to various musical styles, different approaches, ideas about music, as well as significant jazz artists.
Playing for a big audience was never a strong motivation for my musical ambitions. I just wanted to be able to do certain things in music. I didn't think at all about how that would find its way to an audience. Now I do sometimes, but I still do it in the order of first making the music and then looking for people who might enjoy it.
Your sound and approach to music:
Through the years I've discovered that I prefer music with a high degree of improvisation. I like to play jazz tunes as well as open structures with soundscapes and vamps with good rhythms. When I play I try to be present in the moment. Concentration, flow, communication, and expression are words that describe good quality in music regardless of style.
Your teaching approach:
At the moment, I am rewriting a teaching method I wrote for my final exam at the conservatory in 1992. At the time, I wrote down some ideas I believed were the best for developing musicianship and I still relate to them. This is a little tidbit from my introduction: "As a teacher I hope to inspire students to get as involved as possible in their own learning process. I try to teach good practice routines, planning, and development over time. A majority of the exercises I use focus on common elements in developing musical knowledge, regardless of which instruments the students play. As a bassist, I also devise exercises and describe various topics related to the bass in particular. I believe in the importance of combining listening, playing ,and theory into a unified whole to achieve a broader basis for making creative musical decisions."
A bass method I often recommend is The Improviser's Bass Method, by Chuck Sher.
Your dream band:
Qualities I look for in musicians are flow, sound, and an ability to play with conviction and personality while adapting to the group's ideas. It's also important to have the discipline to dig in to a tune or a concept and be sharp and prepared for what the band is doing.
A great drummer I admire and wish I could play with is Jack DeJohnette. I also like younger drummers such as Bill Stewart and Brian Blade. Billy Hart is a longtime hero of mine too, and I hope to play with him some day. In the current music business and club scene it seems to be more difficult to get work than to put a good band together.
In the past few years I have composed quite a bit of music for big band. I would love to hear it played by an orchestra like the Village Vanguard Orchestra, the WDR Big Band, maybe the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, or another big band.
Road story: Your best or worst experience: