Barbara Dennerlein: A Study in Contrasts

Alan Bryson By

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YouTube and Beyond

AAJ: Yeah, that's the thing, when it gets too refined and smooth, it loses the edge that is the blues, but I also wanted to ask you about current developments. For decades MTV totally dominated music videos, but now thanks to YouTube, MySpace and other video sites, people can decide what they watch. They can listen to Internet radio based on their own tastes, stay informed about jazz on sites like All About Jazz, and then buy their music online. It seems like jazz is really enjoying a renaissance, I don't know if it is making its way into people's pocketbooks, but it seems to be happening because people finally have some freedom of choice. What's your perception of what's happening?

BD: Yes, I mean this is also one of the hopes I have, that it's going that way, because the whole scene is changing, so many things have changed in the past years. One is the technical side, the world is connected in a way, which is fantastic, I mean, it would not have been possible years ago that I communicate with my fans in Canada, the States, Japan and all over, and you have easy access to any kind of music, and you can contact people who have the same interests worldwide, and the people are connected and this makes it easier to exchange information about music.

So normal radio is losing its influence and impact, and in a way that is good because the radio, let's talk about Germany for an example, isn't doing much for jazz music. So if there are other ways and channels that people can get in touch with it, that's positive. For example, when you look at YouTube where everyone has their favorite clips, or blogs where you can share what you like, so people find clips on YouTube that they otherwise would have never found and think, "Oh wow, that's great!"

This is a big chance for jazz and also the CD industry is changing, on the one hand sales are decreasing, but on the other there is a big chance for unconventional musicians to find an audience for their music, because they can distribute it without have a big label behind them.

AAJ: It was impossible before.

BD: It was impossible, but of course it is still the best if you are with a big label because they do advertising. I think regular people are starting to concentrate more on the internet. Everyone looks things up in the internet, so there will be a new way of dealing with music. So far I think there is still a big part of the jazz audience who wants to have a real CD in their hands. But maybe through the years I think the jazz audience will change because they will become used to the internet and will start downloading their favorite songs and all that, but I don't know the effect of not having a cover and all the information.

Of course when you go with iTunes you can download the booklets and all that, but I don't know how people will change, if they want to have the actual paper in their hands. We'll have to see how society is changing over the years, like you know you can have your own radio station nowadays on the internet, so there are many new possibilities for musicians to distribute their music and find a bigger audience, and I think this is very positive for jazz music.

AAJ: And for a musician like you, in the past people in the States might know you from your CDs, but now they've seen you. Are you surprised by the feedback you've gotten from YouTube clips?

BD: I've been surprised by the intensity and the amount of feedback I've gotten, I mean by how many people who have written me that they knew me before, but had never seen me live, and they were so fascinated by seeing how I play the pedals. I think this is great.

l:r: TC Pfeiler, Dennerlein, Wild Bill Davis

AAJ: Young people watching Miles and Coltrane, it's great.

BD: Yeah, and I saw these clips of black churches in America with the Hammond organ playing, I loved that! I'd never seen that before. There are just so many possibilities.

AAJ: I'm pretty excited about Matt Roger's film project Hammond Heroes, are you involved in that?

BD: Yes, we're in contact, and I think this is a great project and I really hope he gets enough money to finish that film. I invited him to do some filming when I'm in the States, and he wants to, so I hope that works out. The problem still is, if you want to make a film you need a lot of money. It's a pity, there are so many great Hammond lovers around and they want to do really great things, so let's hope they can manage that. Whatever I can do to support him I will.

AAJ: There really are some great people out there supporting the Hammond, like Matt and Pete...

BD: Fallico, he's amazing.

AAJ: Don't you wish we could get his radio program here in Germany?

BD: Yeah, The Doodlin' Lounge, it would be great.

AAJ: Is it true you did a gig up near the North Pole?

BD: [Laughs] North Pole? Well, I did play in the Northern part of Norway, that's the farthest North I've played. It was fantastic, it was last year, I played a church organ concert at the Ice Sea Cathedral, and they have a fantastic pipe organ there, and you have this amazing view, it's all this glass and you can see the sea as you are playing. And if you've ever been to Norway, it's fantastic, the air is so clear and you can see so far, it's a special kind of sky, and you have the Northern Lights. I saw a little bit of it. The only thing you have to get used to is that it is dark so much of the time, but in summer it is almost always daylight. I really enjoyed it and the people are very nice.

AAJ: Now to the last question. Barbara when was the last time you were on vacation with no composing, no playing, no emailing?

BD: [Laughs] The last time was...let me see... nineteen.

AAJ: In the last century!

BD: [Laughs] Yes the last century! It was '93, I think, for two weeks.


Barbara Dennerlein with Philharmonic Orchestra, Change Of Pace (Bebab, 2007)
Barbara Dennerlein, The Best Of Barbara Dennerlein (Verve, 2006)
Barbara Dennerlein, It's Magic (Bebab, 2005)
Barbara Dennerlein, In A Silent Mood (Bebab, 2004)
Barbara Dennerlein, Spiritual Movement No.1 (Bebab, 2002)
Barbara Dennerlein, Love Letters (Bebab, 2001)
Barbara Dennerlein, Outhipped (Verve, 1999)
Barbara Dennerlein, Junkanoo (Verve, 1997)
Barbara Dennerlein, Take Off! (Verve, 1995)
Barbara Dennerlein, That's Me (Enja, 1992)
Barbara Dennerlein, Solo (Bebab, 1992)
Barbara Dennerlein, Hot Stuff (Enja, 1990)
Barbara Dennerlein, Live On Tour (Bebab, 1989)
Barbara Dennerlein, Straight Ahead! (Enja, 1988)
Barbara Dennerlein, Tribute To Charlie (Koala, 1987)

Photo Credits Bottom Photo: TC Pfelier
Photo from Summer Organ Festival 2007: Robert Harrington
All Other Photos: Alan Byrson, courtesy of Barbara Dennerlein


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