This is something that came naturally from my soul. I had an idea of how I would like to play and I just worked
at improving and getting my abilities to a level so that I could play what I have in my mind.
In many ways Barbara Dennerlein is a study in contrasts. From a North American perspective she is an insider's tip, a superlative Hammond B3 player known to hardcore jazz fans, admired by fellow B3 players, and respected by her musical peers. We can contrast that with how she is known in the German speaking countries of central Europe.
In those European Countries she has achieved a level of recognition unusual among jazz musicians. She has performed on prime time national television scores of times, she's done talk shows, morning shows, and in depth interviews. A film crew followed her around for a television documentary entitled Life Lines. She had her own late night radio show where she introduced new jazz and blues releases once a month. She was the very first person honored as Germany's Ambassador of Jazz. On the week of her fortieth birthday German television did a retrospective and rebroadcast several concerts she had done over the years. And just this summer she was invited to be the sole studio guest on a special "Best of" show with Harold Schmidt [Germany's David Letterman.] She played two numbers with the house band and spoke about her newest CD, Change of Pace (Bebab, 2007).
The contrasts are also evident in her recordings. Her last two recordings have been live performances, one a classical crossover with an eighty piece orchestra, the other a funky concert as a duo with organ and drums. Similarly this extends to her personality. She's well aware of her talent and good looks and isn't given to false modesty, but she also seems utterly unaffected by it. Rather than humility, one might say she projects gentle nobility, radiating poise and self confidence without the slightest hint of arrogance. Off stage she's the same charming, witty and unaffected person she is on stage.
As a musician she is generous in sharing the stage with fellow musicians, but she is uncompromising when it comes to her music. Despite her gentle easy going exterior, she readily admits to being a perfectionist and displays a dogged determination when pursuing her goals. She is quite cognizant of her musical legacy and the reputation she's established over the past twenty seven years, but again the contrast, she's also open to challenges outside of jazz as you'll discover in her comments about classical music, Bach, church organs, and the blues.
If you know her primarily through her recordings, you know that she has a clean precise touch that doesn't prevent her from getting funky. If you have not seen her live there are two outstanding qualities worthy of special mention. One is her pedal bass playing which, like a Buddy Rich drum solo, is something one needs to see to truly appreciate.
The other quality which many of her American fans might not be aware of is her stage presencewhich is again a contrast. She displays almost no showmanship when playing, no "fanning" her smoking right hand with her left hand as she solos, no gimmicky exploitation of the Hammond sound to woo the audience, and no clowning around. As a rule she's deeply immersed in the musicyou might see a knowing smile or a nod of the head when someone does something interesting, or after a fellow musician has finished an impressive solo she might extend her left arm to signal to the audience that applause is appropriatethat's about the extent of it. But between numbers, she is polished, charming, witty, and natural when engaging the audience.
For example, on her live duo CD, It's Magic (Bebab, 2005) she announces [a rough English translation,], "Unfortunately we're gradually approaching our last number for this evening." She then jokes with the audience, "Let's do that over, when I say this is going to be our last number, you're supposed to moan, "Ohhhhhhh.'" She repeats and they respond this time. She then says this is going to be the audience participation part of the evening, and someone gets a good laugh by moaning, "Ohhhhhhhhh"even Barbara laughs and says, "That was a good one!" She says this won't be a difficult time signature like the last numberno 11/8 or 13/8again another, "Ohhhhhh" and so it goes... she is fun on stage, but totally absorbed when she's playing.
Finally, there is the contrast of her relationships with two iconic figures of organ jazz, Wild Bill Davis and Jimmy Smith. One was a supportive and nurturing relationship, and a glorious memory she gladly recounts. The other was a one-time friendship that ended in a tense scene shortly before a joint television appearance. In the interview she speaks candidly about both.
This interview was conducted on July 25th 2007 in Barbara Dennerlein's home near Munich, two days prior to her departure for America.
Learning to Play
All About Jazz. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about you as a musician is that you have such extraordinary coordination with ten fingers and two feet. You must be really grateful that your father picked the one instrument that allows you to take full advantage of your unique gifts, imagine if you had gotten a guitar or a saxophone for Christmas...
Barbara Dennerlein. [Laughs] Or a flute...
AAJ: Instead of an organ, your life might have been quite different?
BD: This is a very difficult question because I immediately was taken with the sound of the Hammond organ when I first heard it. The sound of the old Hammond B3 was immediately my dream, I felt so drawn to that sound, I didn't think of anything elseI have no idea what would have happened if a saxophone had been under the Christmas tree. I think maybe drums would have been interesting because I could work with my hand and feet.
For me the organ is such a great thing because I can do so many things: I can comp myself, do solos, improvise, play bass lines with my feet, play solo concerts, and play church [pipe organ] concerts. The organ has such a power and a diversity of sound, it can be like a philharmonic orchestra, and in my opinion the organ sound fits very well with any other sound. It's always interesting to combine the Hammond organ sound with other instruments. I've had really unusual setups like playing with a harp, tuba or whatever, everything works well. And even as you saw in this clip [Barbara on B3 playing a duet with a pipe organist,] it works well with a church organ, it's a sound that's always interesting and makes music lively.
AAJ: I was wondering, do you remember the very first record you bought with your own money?
BD: Oh [laughs] my very first one, oh gosh, well in the beginning I had Charlie Parker records, I really had a lot of them because I loved that, I bought some Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Groove Holmes records and as far as I remember something like Santanait was quite widespread, but the very first one, I'm sorry I don't remember [laughs] it's too long ago.
AAJ: Once you achieved a level of proficiency on the organ, did you also practice in the beginning by putting on a Charlie Parker LP and playing along with it?
BD: Well you know I started from zero, this was my first instrument and I had no idea about music. I had a teacher for one and a half years and I really started from the very beginning so I had to start with songs like nursery rhymes, very simple songs just to learn it. I developed very quickly, I learned extremely fast. My father recorded everything from the beginning, and it's very interesting if you go back and listen to how quickly I developed, it astonishes me when I listen to early recordings and listen to how well I played alreadyso sometimes I wonder, what do I do now, I made these huge steps in the beginning. It's often like that, to go from zero to 80% is quite easy, but then from 80% to 100% is much more work in a way.
I learned very quickly and my teacher at that time liked jazz musicAmerican songbooks and standardshe had a big archive of written music and I developed the ability very quickly to play jazz standards without knowing them, just by having the melody and chord symbols and they sounded right. Even when I didn't know them, I just had this feeling for them, so he gave me a nickname, he said [in German], "You are the 'Notenkiller.' I took everything I got from him and made photo copies, of course that's not allowed but I did it, and I played from written music.
So when I reached that point, I was around thirteen or fourteen, I remember that you could get these play-along records. I basically had two play-along records, one was the music of Duke Ellington and the other was with the music of Charlie Parker. I remember this allowed me to make a huge step in my development because I tried to play along with that, you know these are recordings where one instrument is missing, so that's basically how I learned.
AAJ: Concerning the art of soloing, when you started out you turned to horn players for inspiration and style, did you try to systematically understand what was going on, like transcribing solos, or was it simply a matter of listening and absorbing?
BD: Exactly, I never modeled my playing after other organ players, of course I knew Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith and that excited me, but as I said, I had a big passion for bebop and Charlie Parker, and he was the horn player I most admired, and I listened to him very much. I'm not someone who is analyzing much, like students who write down solos note by note, I did that too, but not much, I just listened and got inspired. I'm absorbing many things, I internalize them, and sometimes you find it somehow in my music as an inspiration, but I didn't write down the solos too much. And I think it was very important not to, because I ended up developing my own very personal style, and it's different from all the other organ players.
This is something that came naturally from my soul. I had an idea of how I would like to play and I just worked at improving and getting my abilities to a level so that I could play what I have in my mind. I always had an idea of how it should sound and what I wanted to be able to play. And I didn't want to concentrate on just one style. My dream was not just to play bebop and swing, my dream was to be able to play everything even bossa nova and Latin stuffand this was a big challenge, because it is much easier to specialize in, let's say bebop, but to be good in a lot of styles is much more difficult. You have to open your mind and be able to let it sink in to be authentic.
And then I started playing some funky music. I remember the first funky song I composed was "Wow," I composed it because I was invited to play Ohne Filter [German TV], one of the few live shows where you could play live music and jazz. It doesn't exist anymore, but at that time it was a big deal for me to be invited there, a big audience and a lot of publicity. So I thought okay, I need to play something funky, so I composed "Wow," which was a big success there, but my regular audience at that time was more used to hearing me play swing or bebopmore traditional things. And I remember when I first played "Wow" in my concerts people didn't like it [laughs] because it was an older audience at first, but you know that I don't give up easily.
So I thought, I want people to like this, and I want to play more stuff like this, and increase the range of my repertoire, so I tried to educate my audience. I would play a swing tune, then "Wow," and then maybe "Satin Doll," because then I could open the people up, if they liked my swing stuff they would listen to some funky stuff, and they started to like it, and my audience started to expand too.
AAJ: Did you notice a jump in your career after Ohne Filter, because this was a young audience, they had bands like Santana and the Allman Brothers, so many great bands, that audience didn't want to hear "Satin Doll," they liked "Wow." Did you notice that they started coming to your concerts?
BD: Yes, not especially because I played on Ohne Filter, but because I added more variety and started to play more funky stuff, so the audience got bigger and bigger and more young people came. So what I've achieved nowadays is that I have a big variety of people who come to my concerts and, in a way, I can play anything I want and they like it, and this is great. It's a challenge for me and this has always been a challenge, not to try to play what the audience wants to hear, but to play what you really feel and what is inside of you and try to bring it near to the people and make them feel what you want to express. This is always what I thought I had to do. So I'm happy that I reached this status now where I am able to really play my music, and there are not many musicians who are successful playing their own compositions.
AAJ: One more thing about soloing, it is interesting that you turned to horn players. Dizzy Gillespie credited his knowledge of the piano with making him a better soloist because he understood chord structure, and he encouraged other horn players to learn piano.
BD: Right, it's the other way around for me. Because I understand chord structure, I can concentrate on horn players and how they play their lines.
AAJ: I've noticed that on the rare occasions when you play with a bassist, you turn your pedals off, but often play them anyway.
BD: [Laughs] Right.
AAJ: From watching you play, I get the impression that your bass lines are part of your DNA...
AAJ: ...they seem to simply flow once you begin playing. So when you write a melody and chords, do you have to tell your feet what to dohow do your bass lines come about?
BD: First I'll tell you a story about the basssometimes I play with a big band or I want to have something I can't play, like a slap bass, and especially on my Verve records I sometimes used a bassist...
AAJ: Like Lonnie Plaxico.
BD: Right. Or James Genus, who's really a genius [laughs]. On "Bloody Mary" we had this back and forth with the two basses, but what I wanted to say is I had a recording session in Switzerland, and a really great bassist, Max Wending, played. And I remember we played some of my songs and Max didn't exactly know what was going on. So he stood there and I was playing my bass without the sound on, and he watched and was able to play [laughs] it was really funny.
Another time I was in a studio production with ten tenor players or so and Dusko Goykovich, the trumpet player, was there. And on one song I played bass with my foot pedals and Dusko didn't know that, and when he listened to the playback he said to the bassist who was also there, "Man you played some great bass lines." And he said, "That's not me, it was Barbara's foot." There are a lot of funny stories like that, and mostly the bass players are very nice, and of course they can appreciate my bass lines.
And now, coming to your question, for me I learned this from the beginning and I think it is very important, because otherwise you won't get that independency if you start later. This is the reason why many piano players who switch to the organ later can't learn it because you really have to start out with the pedals. For me it is something that is like dancing, a feeling from the bodyit's the swing I have or the groove, it's nothing you can think about, you have to feel it. I have my special interaction, for example left hand and [pedal] bass line, when I'm not playing my bass I'm missing something, it's like if you take one leg away from a dancer, something is missing, that's why I'm always playing, even when I switch the sound off, I need to make the movement.
When I compose a song I try to challenge myself, there are of course many different ways to compose a song, but very often with more complicated stuff I compose for a bassist. And I just think of what I would like to hear, and if I can't play it, I sit down and start to practice until I can play it. This is a process, in the beginning you have to maybe think about what you do rhythmically, and I might have to practice at a slow pace and repeat, and eventually I get into a zone, it's a feeling of the body and then there is the point where I don't have to think anymore, I just feel it and then it really starts to be a grooveand then it's right. But if you have to think about it, rhythmically it's impossible.
And about the tone, that comes later. At first the rhythm is the most important thing, that's my advice, because people often ask me how they can I learn it. I tell them to start by understanding the rhythm, the feeling, and then if you have a good feeling for it, then start to concentrate on what you play. That was the same thing my teacher taught me, he said, "Play lottery bass." Later I modified a lot of what he taught me about the bass and developed things on my own and moved beyond it, but I got great basics from him. And it was very important that he understood that I wanted to play jazz and that he was enthusiastic about it, he really helped me.
First Jazz Club Gig and Career Decisions
AAJ: I want to focus on your very first gig in a Munich jazz club when you were fifteen. You sort of answered this before, but I want to make sure. Did you basically have the same "sound" that you have now, in other words, would we recognize the basic sound and style of that time as being Barbara Dennerlein? Like the way you had your stops and your Leslie.
BD: Yeah, more or less. I mean the sound changed through the years when I got another Leslie or another setup, but the way I tried to play, everything was there already, over the years you refine your approach, but the basic approach was there. I think every musician goes through this process, when you are young you have a lot of energy and you take a lot of risks, you're itching to express yourself, and then you start to refine your stylein the beginning you have more edges, and then you start to get smoother and more precise. For example, my solo CD In a Silent Mood (Bebab, 2004), I don't think I could have done that twenty years ago, because I did not have the inner quietness, or the courage to have pauses and let the music breathe, I played, you know, with a lot of energy.
AAJ: Too much bebop and not enough Miles?
BD: I wouldn't say too much because it's a charm you know, but when you develop in your life as a person, your music follows you in a way. I think it's interesting to listen to the different sides of Barbara Dennerlein, and I think there will be interesting developments in the future, I hope so, because it never stops, and you have to develop all the time.
AAJ: The story goes that the crowd reaction was pretty amazing. How well do you remember that night, and did that reaction help to convince you that you would have a career in music?
BD: Yes, I was fifteen the first time, but I played there as long as this club existed. It was a big sensation, and then many musicians came by and there were jams sessions going on till 2:00 AMwe played four sets. The funny thing is I rememberI'm amused about it when I think back, for my first concert I made a menu "music for people hungry for jazz." And I put it on every table and it was a list of every song I played, and people could then make requests.
To the other question, this is a very interesting because I have never thought about it, it was just there, it was a given. I knew a lot of people my age at the time and they were thinking, "What am I going to be later, which profession would I like, and what will my future life be like?" I never had that thought, for me it was just natural, like growing up; I played music, that's it, no thinking about anything. After I finished my Abitur [German High School], my friends went on holiday, I immediately went on tour. My first gig was when I was thriteen, anyway, I went on tour and that's what I'm still doing today! [laughs] There was never a break.
Meeting Jimmy Smith
AAJ: You also met Jimmy Smith for the first time when you were fifteen.
BD: It was an organ competition, and actually I was a little bit angry, because the other organ players didn't play very well, but they played commercial music and that's what the people liked, and I played jazz music. So I came in second place. At the end everyone had to play one song again. And my father told me this because I had forgotten it, but I had asked Jimmy Smith if he would play with me, and understandably he said no. The first place player did the same song again, "Oh Carol," and I sat down and played something different, "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and suddenly I noticed someone came from behind me and he took my hair, I had very long hair, much longer than now, and he put it to the side, and then he sat down and he played with me. [laughs] So really, it was great.
AAJ: And you weren't expecting it at all?
BD: No, it was incredible of course, wonderful. And then people were so shocked about their decisionhe played with me, the second place finalist. The third place finalist didn't even play again after that! [laughs] It was really funny, and afterwards we stayed in contact. And it was really nice, until he started to see me as a competitor.
AAJ: But you did stay in touch, when he was in Germany he called?
BD: We met up from time to time and I came when he played. When he was in Munich my Mom would drive us around. I remember once he was hungry and we stopped at a restaurant to eat, and he says, "Hello, I'm the famous Jimmy Smith, the world's greatest organ player, and I want my food very quickly!" Or it was something like that.
AAJ: [Laughs] And do you do that now in Germany?
BD: No, I'm a different personality type. [laughs]
AAJ: When you were twenty-two  you recorded an outstanding LP with a big band entitled Tribute to Charlie [Parker] (Koala, 1987), and less than two years after that you were booked on Jazz Club [a popular German television program at the time] with Jimmy Smith. Suddenly the young girl he sat next to on the bench was appearing with him on the same show before a national audience.
You played Dizzy's "Night in Tunisia" with some really hot pedal work, a song Jimmy Smith had also recorded. I'm curious how things went backstageFor example, did he see you playing during the sound check, and did you talk?
BD: Yeah, I mean I didn't see him, but I'm sure he did. The story is, we were supposed to play together. I remember that very well, it was in Leonberg, fine weather, it was very niceand he didn't talk to me. And I thought, well, we're playing in two hours, we should talk about what we are going to play. And then I met him in the hallway, and I said, "Hello! We're supposed to play together, should we talk about what we're going to play?" I said that to him and I've never seen someone getting such an angry face. And he was shivering [enraged] and says "What, you and me playing together, never. They don't pay me enough!" Really, those were his words, really angry.
So I'm thinking, "Whoops what's going on here," so then I went to the director and I said, "I just talked to Jimmy Smith and he's not going to play with me, maybe you should clear up the situation. I just tried to ask him what we are going to playwhatever," later he [the director] came and said, "Well if he would do it now would you still play with him?" And I said, "Well, you know of course I'm not happy about it, because I know from this reaction that we won't be playing with each other, this will be a playing against each other, a competition," and that's one thing I hate. I really hate to be on stage with people in that situation, trying to one-up each other, everyone tries to play quicker and louder to get the audience's attention, I hate that, I want to make music. But I said, "Okay, I mean, if you want me to do it, I will, but I'm not happy about it." And later he [the director] came and told me he wouldn't do it anyway.
And then, the thing is originally, Jimmy Smith was there with his quartet, and the show wanted to have me there solo, they thought I should play with Jimmy Smith's musicians. And I said in advance of that concert, I think this isn't a fair situation, because this is the band Jimmy Smith is playing with and they know each other and know the music, and you want me to play on the same show with musicians I don't know. At least I think I should have my drummer who knows my songs.
And in the end I was able to bring my drummer, and this was something which saved me you know, because then Jimmy Smith didn't allow his musicians to talk to me or to play with me. I remember sitting outside with his musicians and they were very, very nice and we were talking and we had fun, and then Jimmy Smith came out in the garden where we were sitting and immediately, you know, they stopped talking.
AAJ: It's strange, before that, the last time you saw each other you were friendly?
BD: Yeah, I don't know, I remember one concert where I played in Munich and he [Jimmy Smith] told my father he should not tell me that he was there. And he stood behind a column. And he was very nice. And then suddenly at that ZDF Jazz Cluband I think he really heard me play that night, and maybe in a way that caused the shift. I was disappointed of course, but on the other hand I thought maybe I can understand him a little bit.
I try to see the other person's side. I think that because generations of organ players have copied Jimmy Smith, maybe this affects someone's thinking, you know what I mean, because it's a fact, almost all organ players copy Jimmy Smith. A few, like Larry Young, had their own style, but for the most part, it's alwaysJimmy Smith is the greatest and I want to play like Jimmy Smith. Now don't get me wrong, of course he is fantastic, but why should everyone play like Jimmy Smith, that's boring.
AAJ: It's like if everyone tried to play sax like Charlie Parker...
BD: Yeah, or trumpet like Miles, whatever...
AAJ: Anything else you remember about him pre-Jazz Club?
BD: Sure, it was fun to be with him, he was a funny person in a positive sense. He had a great sense of humor and we laughed a lot. I mean I really liked that. But there's no particular story, I mean the problem is I've forgotten a lot, you know in my life so many things happen, and you can't remember it all.
AAJ: Help me to understand. From looking at videos it appears that on slow numbers Jimmy Smith played the bass on pedals, but on up tempo numbers he used his left hand and hit occasional notes on the pedals for emphasis. Is that basically true?
BD: That's exactly the point, and many of the older organ players played left-handed bass and they just hit the pedal bass, not for the note, but for the attack, the accent you know, but the notes were played with the left hand and the pedals were more of a rhythmic thing, you know like, "tuk tuk," maybe on slow songs he hit the note longer to emphasize the tone, but actually he didn't really play pedals.
AAJ: In terms of complex lines?
BD: Yes. So no, not really. Anyway, there are very few people who really play bass lines with their feet. On the other hand, it's really astonishing I think, because if you think of the classical organ, no classical organist would have any chance of success if he or she couldn't play the bass pedals. But in pop music, or jazz music, or rock music, people cut the organ to pieces and they just use the keyboard.
AAJ: It is kind of strange, you don't sound like Jimmy, and your technique is quite different, yet you still get the well-meaning compliment, "You sound just like Jimmy Smith!" You and Rhoda Scott are friends, do you know if she gets that comment too?
BD: I've never asked her, but I think yes. You know, the situation has improved over the years, especially compared to when I started playing in my young years, the reason is because back then the Hammond organ wasn't well known, so for most people, if they knew something about Hammond organ, chances are they knew something about Jimmy Smith, it's the only name they connect with the Hammond organ. So automatically if they hear you play Hammond organ, they hear that sound and it doesn't have to do with a particular style Jimmy Smith played, but they make the connection when they hear the sound and say, "Ah, you sound just like Jimmy Smith."
There's a story about how I met Rhoda Scott. People would come to me and tell me about other organ players and say, "You sound just like..." or, "You play exactly like..." and one day someone came and said, "You play exactly like Rhoda Scott," then he asked if I modeled my playing after her, and I told him I'm sorry I don't know Rhoda Scott, and then I bought a record by Rhoda to hear how she sounds.
And many years later I played in France, in Paris, at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in the Meridian Hotel for ten days. And one evening Rhoda came, I didn't know her yet personally, so I was very happy she came, because you know for me she's one of the legendary names from the soul jazz tradition. I was excited and afterwards I went to her table and said hello and told her it was great that she was there. She was so kind, she said, "You know, I listened to your blues and I had tears in my eyes." She said that to me, and that was such a great compliment from her. Yeah, I've never forgotten that.
AAJ: Now when you two are on stage together you can really tell that you admire and respect each other.
BD: Yeah, that's how it should be you know, she's got her own thing she's doing, and it's different from my kind of playing, but you feel the soul and it's great and it's fun to play with such a person.
Wild Bill DavisA Great Man
AAJ: It's also interesting that when you were a young girl you also got to meet Wild Bill Davis, the guy who really started it all...
BD: Exactly, he was a great man...
AAJ: ...but not only that, he played with Duke Ellington and Count Basie, two of your heroes...
BD: Yeah and he was before Jimmy Smith, he was after Fats Waller, but he was one of the first guys, and his block chord technique is unique. He was playing in Zurich, so a friend and I, an organ player from Austria, decided to go there and listenand he sometimes lent his organ to Wild Bill Davis, so he knew him. And we went there, and he was such a gentleman, a great, great man, really nice and so kind. And he was so pleased by my playing that he invited me to play a set at his gig, and I played instead of Wild Bill Davis! [Laughs] [Note: T.C. Pfeiler recounted to me that she was in such haste to get to Zurich that she grabbed her mother's passport by mistake and they almost didn't get across the border.]
AAJ: And he sat and watched!?
BD: Yeah. Incredible!
AAJ: What kind of feedback did he give you?
BD: Great, he was so pleased, he was so nice, he was a musician who was really happy to see another organ player playing well. There was no jealousy or anything else, he was just happy, he was just great.
AAJ: Did you ask him any questions about Duke Ellington or organ playing?
BD: Oh, it's too long ago, I don't remember what we talked about, I was so young at that time, and it was so exciting for me. We stayed in contact, but we didn't see each other again before he died, and I regret that very much.
New York, New York
AAJ: You know the Frank Sinatra line about New York, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere"when you signed with Verve you recorded in New York and got to invite some of the biggest names in jazz to play on your CD. Being in Manhattan for the first time is a bit surreal even for a tourist. I'm wondering, do you remember the feeling you had on the streets on your way to the studio for the first time, it seems like you would have had to pinch yourself to make sure you weren't dreaming?
BD: [Laughs] Well my first contact with America was actually through Enja records. After Tribute to Charlie (Koala, 1987) I got the attention of Matthias Winckelmann. He called and said I think you are now ready to play with American musicians. And he said, now you can show if you can really make it, or something like that. And then I got in touch with Ray Anderson, Ronny Burrage, and Mitch Watkins and that was my first contact...