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Meet Saxhophonist/Clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann

Glenn Astarita By

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AAJ: How do you view the music today that you have recorded in the past? Is there something which you today think should have been done differently?

GE: No, everything had its proper place and was an important part of my development (although if certain projects were undertaken today they would sound very different). For me, the most important aspects are how previous projects have contributed to my current music and that I see a clear development, even though I would not record certain projects today the way I did. It all moves forward.

AAJ: What is your philosophy towards standards and mainstream? Will you do something in this direction in the future? There are many who came form Bop and successfully developed a modern style. It seems not always to work the other way.

GE: I recorded the CD Per Dee Doo in 1989 (the name was the program) and performed many concerts with this quartet into the early nineties. Since then I have repeatedly included "standards" in my repertoire (but in my opinion "standards" don't necessarily have to come from Broadway nor do they have to arise from within the jazz tradition). With this notion, I have recently turned towards European composers, for instance Nino Rota or Kurt Weill.

However, I have enough music inside me and also have the feeling that within the jazz area too many CDs in the way of XY plays the music of ... are being produced. I do not want to go into a specific CD but do think that the principal reason for a lot of those "concept" albums is more situated in marketing and less in music. Additionally I think that a musician's own music would often be more intense - or - some may at this present time not hear it in themselves, maybe not have the strong concept or simply have released too rapidly too many CDs.

AAJ: I do not believe the problem are the composers, but the fact that the musicians play the old compositions out a fake book , because it is simple to do, because they are used to it, because they are not talented enough to build a career in classical music and try their luck in jazz but have no conception of jazz. If Braxton and M.R. Abrams play Miss Ann in "Duets '76" it is ingenious, but played from a fake book it is ridiculous. Do you agree?

GE: Naturally ingenious and thus necessary new interpretations will always occur. I only meant to say that there has recently been a rising tide of such recordings, which perhaps arise more from the idea of a producer than from the genuine need of the musicians. Sometimes however - and of course - ingenious music will develop from these situations. However it presupposes an equal balance between a musician's need and accompanying deeper understanding of the material in addition to a personal insight. In each case the intensity should be at least as high as to their own musical language and something should be added which has not been said beforehand. I would not like to cite specific examples and to leave it as my general impression. I also think everybody knows what I am talking about.

AAJ: What appeals to you in the music of Nino Rota? Did you see the films of Fellini?

GE: I was always a film fan and also listened in depth to a lot of music that has been composed for the actual movies. Nino Rota is a composer whom I always admired in this regard very much. I love his melodies, which he at the same time already abstracted every now and then within the composition or put different levels beneath them. And naturally I saw the movies of Fellini many times.

AAJ: Do you have the feeling that your colleagues record too much, without always having the highest inspiration for their work or can it be said that routine plays a large role?

GE: I cannot speak for colleagues particularly since the differences are enormous. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that not everything that is being released on CD today absolutely had to be out there. A substantial problem seems to be that it is getting increasingly difficult to find the really interesting music partly because the possibilities to get information in the print media or radio are vanishing more and more. Myself I always try to follow up new ideas and very often have many different ongoing musical projects, which while I develop them often operate in parallel. Mostly up to one point, at which they become complete and at which I then begin something new.

AAJ: Is there a producer with whom you prefer to collaborate? Why?

GE: I have in the course of the time learned to produce my music and have an exact conception of how it should sound, which is why I have operated for a long time without producers.

AAJ: Joachim Kuhn recorded with Ornette, if it was possible would you do it also? Would you say that an interesting and creative co-operation maybe difficult because of big names?

GE: I had the opportunity to work with some of the big ones and every time found it very inspiring. To name two: Paul Bley and Enrico Rava. However, sometimes it is difficult to develop an ongoing co-operation - e.g. because of organizational problems- plus reviewers often only notice the "star" and not the music behind it. Since I would not like to be eternally considered as a "young talent" and since it is essential to me to work on a continuous musical development in my recordings I would rather avoid such a co-operation at this time.

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