Jonathan Kreisberg: From Shadowless to One

Marta Ramon By

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Jonathan Kreisberg has filled a gap in the international jazz scene. This New York-based guitarist started with both rock and classical music, but from the beginning he paid attention to his father's great jazz music collection. For Kreisberg, jazz is a pure music based on feelings. He says that he first experienced the creative part of music by ear until J.B Dyas, his teacher in the New World School of the Arts, showed him how jazz worked.

His charismatic sound and his open conceptualization of music led him to take his place, as sideman or band leader, with musicians like saxophonist Lee Konitz, vibraphonist Joe Locke, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, drummers Lenny White, Donald Edwards, Ari Hoenig and Bill Stewart, bassist Larry Grenadier, and many others.

During its current European tour, his new quartet-saxophonist Will Vinson, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Colin Stranahan- opened the famous Jimmy Glass International Jazz Festival in Valencia, Spain. Kreisberg presented his last CD, Shadowless (New For Now, 2011), but the public also got a taster of his upcoming album, One, which is due to be released in December. Kreisberg weaved a rich concert where different languages met through meaningful improvisations. And as he plays, he talks: Kreisberg is open and eclectic. Because, like when he improvises on a stage, he forgets everything when he sits down to reveal himself in a conversation, with a beer on the table.

All About Jazz: When did you realize that you wanted to express yourself through jazz?

Jonathan Kreisberg: I discovered very young that my string was being creative and being, maybe, possessed by the music. So even though I was learning scales and things about music, I was already making up songs, being creative, writing pieces or just playing freely. I just played music. So I think the tendency to improvise came very early.

AAJ: What does your wide musical experience give to you as a jazz artist?

JK: Because of my background, maybe I have a different way of expressing myself through jazz. Many guitar players start learning jazz and immediately they learn the music of Wes Montgomery or Charlie Christian, but I wasn't originally attracted to it. Now, of course, I believe those two guys are geniuses, but at the beginning my favorite music was listening to [saxophonist] John Coltrane and [trumpeter] Miles Davis, but then listening to Eddie van Halen and blues and rock players. Very different ways of expression. And then, Jimi Hendrix, John Scofield, Pat Metheny and George Benson. Then I realized there was a reason: Coltrane influenced all the others, there was a connection. They gave me a different way to think about the guitar.

AAJ: So do you think you're developing a different voice in the jazz scene?

JK: [Smiles] You have to answer that question. You can tell me...

AAJ: It is difficult to set guitar players apart from the rest because there is a lot of competence, and you have done it. Now you can tell me about it.

JK: [Smiles] You have to listen to music to answer that, I just play...

AAJ: Don't be modest!

JK: [Laughs] No, I mean for me the way we play is always a series of many, many, little choices, small choices, and usually for players that have their own voice every choice is always influenced what they love and also because they are looking for something different. And doing this over the years many times you develop your own voice.

AAJ: Talking about choices, from the beginning of your career you have chosen your bands and with whom to play. You have always decided what you wanted to play, being faithful to your thoughts when many other musicians do different kind of gigs to survive. Is that position a life philosophy, like you prefer to be happy rather than to fill your wallet?

JK: That's a good question. I built my life on this idea: for many, many years the choices that I made were that I really wanted to do, even when I was a small kid and my mum said to me "Jonathan, come to dinner with the family" and I said "No, mama, I wanna play music right now," and I skipped dinner because I just wanted to play. These are choices. The idea for me was to build my life, to have a life full of music that I love. So I have said no to things, because I always choose. When I moved to New York I got calls for money gigs and I didn't go, because I said to myself that I was in New York to play jazz. And when I did that it was very hard and sometimes I thought I should do it to get the money while I was eating from a can, but then I thought it was ok because things were going to happen. And something happened.

AAJ: Your European tour is approaching its end; what did you get from it?

JK: For me, every tour is an adventure. This time it was different because it is the first time I'm playing with Rick Rosato, and he brings another kind of energy to the band. For the most part my life is many gigs rolling, so it's a process. I take this tours like a developing as a musician. For me it is a great experience to travel and to play for new people. I just expected to keep finding new music.


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