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Gunter Hampel Interview
“Bulletins from the Frontline of Jazz" by Axel Jost — Gunter Hampel in an interview portrait on his 75th birthday
Gunter Hampel at the concert in St. Goarshausen, November 2011 (1 + 2)
I didn't think about his age for a second during the musical performance which I had just attended. A local artist initiative from the area around the small town of Sankt Go-arshausen in the Middle Rhine region had won a German international jazz star for their perhaps somewhat over-ambitious music project called "El-Gat-Ur", who is still and always in the USA, for example is again celebrated as a musical innovator and great visionary. He was now on the stage of the "Alte Stadtmühle" with the mighty, proud amateur musicians and neither showed his legendary status nor his age: A skinny giant slut, dressed in jeans, a leather jacket and a baseball cap turned back, changed as nimble, easy-going and casual as you would expect from a thirty-year-old, back and forth between his instruments bass clarinet and vibraphone, in order to use them precisely. Most of the time, however, he cautiously integrated himself into the musical group events. Or he listened intently what the other band members were doing. But when he started his solos, at the latest then you noticed the man's world class, but not his age: every note, even the weird one, was right, there were sometimes extremely fast runs on the vibraphone and breathtakingly unheard-of sequences on the huge clarinet, which he let out screaming one or the other time. And it sounded like he was playing all the notes for May Day. Almost more than the manageable audience, his - sometimes very talented - fellow musicians were amazed at the improvisational qualities of their famous and yet so modest guest Gunter Hampel. After the performance I finally dared to ask him if he might be available for an interview for the "listening experience" at some point in the near future. "You'd better hurry up with the interview," he replied with a smile, "because I won't be able to do this for ages. I'm 74 now." I was completely perplexed. Because he still appeared to me as a man without age, timeless - somehow like his music. his musical ability and his ability to work in a team. So I did the research. While you would otherwise do well to search at least 40 or 50 pages found on Google for information. A single one is actually sufficient here, namely the home page of Gunter Hampel himself. I have never had so much useful and important information about an artist in one place.
On the same page as found on www.gunterhampelmusic.de: If you want to, you can find out everything about your music, your philosophy, your history, his future plans and how his contemporaries and musicians saw and see him. So why this interview portrait when you can actually find everything on the Internet? Well: It is not enough that it is on the Internet; as a music lover you have to be made aware of it. Therefore now this contribution in this "listening experience" on the upcoming 75th birthday of the jazz and music innovator. Gunter Hampel - the name should have been familiar to many older friends of contemporary music for a long time. Me too, that's why I finally wanted to experience him live after he and his music had shadowed me and my musical taste for decades: While I developed from Beatles to jazz rock fan and back again, you always heard again from Gunter Hampel and his music - and his first comrades-in-arms: Manfred Schoof, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Buschi Niebergall: those were names that inspired awe and great, perhaps too great, respect. These were men who made first-class modern jazz music, but unfortunately I didn't understand. Because in the end I had too little idea about music for that, it was too unconventional for me, too detached, too atonal. The same applied to Hampel's later "Galaxie Dream-band". Popular in any case; but to simple minds like me, who needed catchy riffs and rhythms to bob along with and simple melodies to sing along, unfortunately not accessible. A (after all really ghostly) concert visit to the Willem Breuker Kollektief in the "Börse" in Wuppertal, a double LP by Anthony Braxton in the closet - that was what my excursions into free jazz were limited to. But maybe I should have just listened more carefully. Do it now, dear reader, if you think or should have thought similarly: Listen to Gunter Hampel and his twin brother in spirit, the colored US saxophonist Marion Brown, on YouTube, for example, about the piece "Horizon" by the cosmic jazz musician
music (3 + 4)
After breaking off his architecture studies due to the many musical engagements, he became a professional musician in 1958 and performed in the jazz clubs of the large (and also smaller) cities. The first engagements outside of Germany followed: Rotterdam, Vienna, Zurich, Madrid. Hampel plays the whole range of jazz standards and has contracts for 30 appearances in a month in a club. His bands are becoming more illustrious and international: Long John Baldry, Jacki Liebezeit and Udo Lindenberg play in it. Then in 1964 the first breakthrough: "Heartplants" was born, the first genuine European free jazz record, recorded with v. Schlippenbach, Schoof, Niebergall and Pierre Courbois - a record made in the American Gunter Hampel with current band and dancers US trade magazine Downbeat receives an unimaginable 5 stars (highest rating). As a result, the Gunter Hampel Quintet played all the major European jazz festivals, and Hampel was voted the best vibraphonist in Europe. At the international level he meets all leading jazz musicians and can give concerts with several of them. Worldwide tours follow, for example on behalf of the Goethe Institute. Benny Goodman introduces him to US television viewers. A record for the American market is released ("Music From Europe"), it receives excellent four stars from "Downbeat". In 1967 he meets the colored American jazz singer Jeanne Lee, who later becomes his wife and also supports him musically. A year later the long cooperation with the US saxophonist Marion Brown. There are also collaborations with Han Bennink, Pharaoh Sanders, John McLaughlin, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, among others. In 1969 there was another musical breakthrough: With 4.5 stars, Downbeat celebrated the first equal transatlantic cooperation with three European and three American free jazz musicians: "The 8th of July 1969" with Hampel, Jeanne Lee, Anthony Braxton, Steve McCall, Arjen Gorter and Willem Breuker. This record is still considered to be a groundbreaking milestone in newer jazz music. It also marks the birth of Hampel's own label "Birth" and bears the order number 001. For the major critic Nat Hentoff was the record "a further dimension in time and spare". The solo LP "Dances" followed in the same year. Finally, in 1969, Hampel moved to the USA; he kept his hometown Göttingen as the starting point. He started a tremendous career in the USA, which continues uninterrupted to this day, where he is also considered a musical bridge builder between Europe and the USA and founded in 1972 the "Galaxie Dream Band," which has accompanied him through the world for 25 years with changing line-ups. In Europe at this time he was working with the serious music composers Hans-Werner Henze and Christoph Penderecki. In 1978 he named him Downbeat for "No. 1 New Star Jazz Vibraphonist". The "French L'Aca-dernie du Jazz" describes him as one of the most important contemporary jazz musicians worldwide. In 1983, Albert Mangelsdorff and Manfred Schoof again participated in the "Gunter Hampel All Stars." In the nineties, Hampel integrated a dancer into the Appearances by his band, which is again considered sensational. The television broadcasts live; Hampel is interviewed about his life's work and a documentary is made. Gunter Hampel records with the popular fusion band "Jazzkantine" and sells 100,000 CDs. He can be seen on MTV and VIVA. Gunter Hampel's children with Jeanne Lee are slowly growing up, and he is increasingly integrating them into his musical formations: first his son Ruomi, and then his daughter Cavana (she was also there in St. Goarshausen, by the way). The touring band "Gunter Hampel & Next Generation" is born. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in 1997, Gunter Hampel is mentioned in the same breath as all the great innovators in contemporary music. He records the album "Legendary" with the original "Heartplants" cast. He gets prizes and awards. Hampel also plays a "Cologne Concert" namely with his "Next Generation" featuring Smudo from the Fantastic Four. Later on, the awards that Hampel received for his work became even more valuable: After the German jazz prize in 2007 for his life's work, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit in 2009 and the "Lower Saxony Music Innovation Prize" in 2010. Hampel developed one as early as 1972 Didactic concept on behalf of the German federal government to interest children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in high-quality contemporary music. Since then, Hampel has worked on perfecting this concept and continues to do so on his own initiative. It is available in detail in written form; unfortunately, its size wouldn’t quite be beyond the scope of this anyway
short post. From the very beginning it has been important to Hampel to introduce children and young people to creative processes and thus also to get them excited about jazz. Hampel and his musicians often give multi-day workshops for problem children to make them musically active, creative and able to work in a team. That is of course a good, yes a great thing. But I still find it unbelievable that such a highly respected musician descends so far into the lowlands of active youth work for precisely this good cause. Also and especially for that he deserves a prize! During his performance in St. Goarshausen, students from the local high school played bass and guitar - and, you could see their faces and reactions, they were amazed and enthusiastic about their own musical contributions, which they worked together with Gunter Hampel. On this evening, Hampel also willingly explained to younger music students the functionality of his impressive bass clarity "from musician to musician." In his 75th year of life, one of the very big goes to the very little ones to introduce them to real and lively music. This is perhaps the most important message that Gunter Hampel from the "Frontline of Jazz" has ever sent to the world.
AJ: You are always seen as one of the most important German representatives of so-called "free jazz". What is it for you and how did you get into this kind of music? (5 + 6) After the concert in St. Goarshausen, Gunter Hampel explains the bass clarinet to a young music student
come? Is this improvising form of jazz a European invention? And if so, how did it come about?
GH: I guess I am as a person, composer, band leader, multi-instrumentalist or as an expressive artist in my own personal development and development. The word "Free Jazz" is just one heading for an era in which the individual was set free in the creative process of improvised music, which jazz is. Like all other styles of jazz, this term is a generic term, invented by journalists, not by us creators. I have been playing music since I was 4 years old, that was in 1941 and now, in 2012, I am still in a development whose path is determined by my life and not by what I plan to do. Jazz itself is not an invention, but that
Mirror of this global development, which reflects body and soul, body and soul and the communicative understanding of people. People from all continents on earth are involved. All cultures on earth that come together because they want to exchange encounter, development, fun and energy with one another. Jazz is mainly a coming together of Afro-American culture with European culture: Afro-American music, rhythms and dance - that is pentatonic in accordance with the European harmony of our classical music, which knows twelve tones in the octave and not only the five of the Africans. That means from the beginning of "jazz music" there were the European harmonics and then in Europe developed musical instruments that had anchored these twelve tones in the construction of the instruments, with a theory of harmony that included the well-tempered piano, from medieval and religious worship to our time into the founding of this intercontinental music, which for some unknown reason was given the name JAZZ. And the African Americans and the white Europeans in the United States were responsible for this coming together. The historical background is unfortunately a cruel testimony to dehumanization, slavery and kidnapping, which I do not want to go into here; this is part of a colonization of our forefathers who, like today's slave owners, always seem to be omnipresent. Ying and yang. With my LP-CD- "The 8th of July 1969" I only brought this coming together of the two continents Europe and Afro-America up to date and since then I have done one with each of my newly founded bands advanced own development. I composed, that is, developed spaces and ways of playing or spontaneously came up with these while composing and improvising - I just gave my talent free space to design. Improvising is nothing more than composing, but off the cuff. Whether I write it down or let it flow out of me directly, lively, spontaneously through my talent - that's what I call lively composing. Every composition by J.S. Bach, for example, was actually nothing else
only complete if the improvisations that arise from the written parts are also documented. This is then our material that we bring into the world like our own children. So I write pieces for improvising musicians. If you play one of my compositions, you just have to keep playing. My ideas help you to continue the improvisation process yourself. You have to practice and internalize my pieces. Don't just play from sight, but learn, understand, internalize and concentrate like a Bach or Hans-Werner-Henze score - and just keep playing.
AJ: How did you come to choose your musical instruments?
GH: Why a musician chooses this and another musical instrument and not others has to do with personality, sound concept, or physique and of course also with the possibilities of expression that one finds or even develops in an instrument. It's like love. I've seen a lot of people die in my life, but the bass clarinet, flute, vibraphone, piano and saxophones are still my companions in life. There are instruments that are looking for you so that you can play them and let them sound. We jazz musicians are people who choose certain instruments based on our personality, because we like the sound of a certain instrument more than the sound of other instruments.
AJ: Have these instruments influenced you in your musical style? GH: Of course. It's like colors rolled into one
(9 + 10)
Painting: The harmony, the personal equilibrium of the sounds of different-sounding instruments resulting from intuition or work, are also the decisive design variation in the collective.
AJ: Many people will not understand that even a "free" form of jazz has a clear entertainment character. How would you describe it?
GH: As I said, it is creative music, and what can be more exciting than music whose development and message are not known beforehand, but rather emerges at the moment of making out of the human capacity of design and creation - create out? Unfortunately, most people just always want to hear the same thing, what they already know. But my music is exciting because we ourselves do not yet know the outcome, i.e. the form and the statement before it. The element of swing, and loud and soft, short and long and high and low, you can bring in anything.
AJ: Many people initially reacted aggressively to this new form of jazz music. How did you deal with it, and how is it today?
GH: Because they are confused with themselves, full of uncertainty and fear and full of fear.
AJ: In the seventies you gave up the traditional formations like Terzett, Quar-tett etc. or put them aside and founded the "Galaxie Dreamband". Why?
GH: As a composer, I've always accepted any form of group. That also depends on the finances and the orders, or in finding suitable people
players who are always a kind of family with me, so they also complement each other emotionally. When you are often with the same people for up to 35 years, as in my case, on stage, while traveling, you basically live together for decades, personal relationships develop, and you have to understand each other, be able to endure each other . This creates friendships that go beyond the conventional level of human relationships, since making music is also a spiritual matter in which the individual is a part of the whole. This can only be understood by those who know how to give real love in their life.
AJ: You also worked with the Dutchman Willem Breuker, who has since passed away, who always made for a lot of fun on stage with his "Kollektief". He has addressed many listeners from the rock and pop area. In your opinion, was that a legitimate way of making free jazz more popular?
GH: Willem joined my band in 1966 when he was just 20 or so. We fit together like a fist on the eye. He was a real joker, for him it was his purpose in life to have fun and to spread it. For me he was the best European saxophonist at the time. For eleven years now, for example, Johannes Schleiermacher has been playing with me, he is also such a talent. ,
AJ: You got close to popular music when you performed with the "Jazzkantine", which was very famous at the time. What memories do you associate with it? ,
GH: It was a hip-hop band - and hip-hop and breakdance are children of jazz. You never have that here in Germany
understood, the poor narrow-minded jazz musicians. The jazz canteen wanted me because I can improvise so well. And I've brought millions of kids to jazz music.
turned on, I was allowed to do that. I think I did a lot back then to spread jazz music to the public.
AJ: You once said that with the introduction of the CD, the market for jazz recordings collapsed. Could you explain this a little more for our readers?
GH: I don't even know that I should have said that; but if I think about it, everything can be copied through digitization, and of course everyone is given the opportunity to copy the original quality from the CD. We have suffered considerable losses because everyone who has bought a CD has then copied it for himself and his friends. There are things about me on the internet, from my concerts, that someone has recorded. A colleague in New York told me the other day, and he said it sarcastically, that he no longer needs to make CDs because they can already be downloaded from the net. As a result, we lost a lot of money, of course, and many existences in jazz, especially musicians, collapsed.
AJ: How did this slump affect jazz music as a whole?
GH: I think the biggest mistake that has been made in jazz in the last few decades was that although they did take care of the next generation of musicians through their training at the jazz colleges - but completely forgot to educate, inform and introduce the audience to jazz. And since the TV stopped bringing jazz, this music no longer exists in general life. Early Gunter Hampel and Thelonius Monk
(11 + 12)
ago there were individual people in every town who opened clubs, organized record lectures and put on concerts. Today it costs so much money in taxes and GEMA that you can only hold large-scale events, which are then organized by commerce. There is no longer any creative jazz, but the superstars of the rock scene, which is also a child of jazz, but no longer creative human music. It's the same with classic music, by the way. Our political systems that now rule believe that man lives on bread and entertainment alone. But that creates a separation, especially among young people, because they don't feel respected enough and turn away. Nowadays, my workshops for children and young people provide the only access to collective artistic discovery of one's own strengths and talents and are therefore essential to life.
AJ: In the US you are still seen as the leading representative at the top of a progressive music movement; in Germany you are often seen as a moderator of children and youth music workshops. Isn't that a contradiction?
GH: Oh that's the same in Europe.
When you compare music, for example, and you notice that my music has these inner values that you can only get if you are consciously aware of creative music. I am a living contemporary and maybe also "timeless". Like with my new band, the "European Quintet" or the "Music + Dance Improvisation Company," I look for young, promising talents and develop new, previously never realizable music in a collective. In the workshops for children and adolescents, I am not a moderator, but, as you have so correctly observed in your report from our concert in St. Goarshausen, I position myself in the collective, as a fellow player and leader. I show the children from 5-12, the adolescents between 12-18 and the adults from 18, how to improvise. I convey this to them with the help of a basketball and percussion instruments. It takes 15 minutes, then they are enthusiastic and fully involved. And when we do a final concert after three days, they are like real jazz musicians listening to each other, playing dialogues with each other or dancing. You have been a connoisseur of improvisation in jazz all your life. I've been doing this for 40 years. I have prepared at least 40,000 children as new jazz audiences. They thank me today for this experience. If we don't all take care of a new jazz audience soon, there will soon be no more jazz audiences! We probably also need more presence on TV, otherwise people won't even notice it. When I have taught the children the basic elements, they have fun and they are interested, like in football, in the big games and players, and learn from them how to learn something new.
This is my plan and I don't care if I am of any use. The preoccupation with jazz and European classical music is our cultural heritage. If we let this part wither, then we will become the "artificial species" that we have almost become.
AJ: You have played with countless other musicians in your long musical life. Please give us some examples
Django Reinhardt was. There were tours with Cecil Taylor, a really great "cockfight" with tenor saxophonist Frank Wright and me on the bass clarinet in a New York loft - I think we fought like two warriors with sounds for two hours ... There was a concert with the trombonist JC Higginbottom, who played free music with us and then said if you call that free music, I've played that my whole life; he was a contemporary of Louis Armstrong. Every duo that I have played with Albert Mangelsdorff, we have been on tour together with the Goethe Institute in South America and in the Middle and Middle East for many months. And of course my appearance in New York in 1969, after I had sold the "8th of July 1969" to Bob Thiele for US sales; the many sessions, sometimes I had 45 people who all wanted to play with me at the same time in the Theater of the New City in New York. And of course every concert and every minute that I have experienced and still experience with my wife and children, because now that Jeanne has left us, I also play with my "Family Trio", my daughter Cavana and my son Ruomi. Every concert that I have been allowed to play with my band with Johannes Schleiermacher, Bernd Oezsevim and Andreas Lang for eleven years. We are a tight-knit community and have made the records that the New York press called "Bulletins from the frontline of Jazz". Every concert and every minute that I spend with Marion Brown
Gunter Hampel and wife Jeanne Lee on stage in East Berlin in 1980
(13 + 14)
and Steve McCall making music or talking. Sessions I had with Kenny Clarke and Milt Jackson at the Blue Note in Paris. Or when Dizzy Gillespie said to me after a concert with Jeanne Lee in East Berlin: "You continue our music beyond our horizon." Or Max Roach or Duke Jordan. Or when Archie Shepp and Cal Massey came to me in New York and hired me as a dispute-mediator because there were insurmountable problems between a group of black and white musicians at a festival.
AJ: You have also made records with some representatives of the "modern classic", for example with Hans Werner Henze or Christoph Penderecki. How - to use a typical buzzword - were these collaborations "sustainable" from today's perspective?
GH: Henze learned a lot from me and I from him! He then gave me more and more space in our collaboration after I had asked him about the syntax what he wanted us to embody in these places. The symphonic musicians came to our charts every day thinking that Henze had turned the charts upside down.
wrote overnight. When we told them we improvised every time, they got a lot of respect for us. Henze spoke in an interview about how trend-setting the work of my bands is and that many musicians should give up their official attitudes. And from then on, many composers of classical modernism talked about playing their charts like improvisation - lively!
AJ: In your band there were also various people who - mostly afterwards - made it to fame and reputation as pop musicians. I just say Udo Lindenberg, Jacki Liebezeit, John McLaughlin and Smudo . . . .
GH: ... who were all in a good mood when they played with me and are also really good musicians. Smudo can rhyme really meaningful words to the beat off the cuff.
AJ: In one of your current formations, the "Gunter Hampel Music and Dance Improvisation Company," dancers are also involved. What is the gain for you?
GH: They don't just participate, but those who dance with me, for example the phenomenal, breakdancing Prince Alegs from Tajikistan, can do something that only a few musicians can: We have dialogues, that is, he reacts to my music and I react to his dance. We have even created a novelty that has never been seen before in the world. Many composers have also composed for ballets. The usual thing was always like this: a dancer, for example Rudolf Nureyev, with whom I also worked in the 60s, always needed pre-made music and then had their steps built on and fixed on it. The Prince Alegs has the gift of responding to my improvisations in dialogue, and I have the gift of responding to his dance improvisations. Some critics wrote that we have revolutionized the relationship between music and dance. We just enjoy doing something like that.
AJ: In May 2012 you are going on tour with your current "European Quintet." Who is playing and what music will you be performing?
GH: I have already mentioned Johannes Schleiermacher, tenor saxophone, Bernd Oezsevim, drums and Andreas Lang, bass. My daughter Cavana is still there as a singer
it can heal, it can stimulate, it can tell, it can show films in your head, it leads to clarity in your head. She makes a different part of you sing every time you listen. And as long as my music has this power, I document it and make it accessible to everyone. That's why we are musicians and share our results with people from all over the world. That's why I also like Facebook, by the way. I didn't know before that there were people in Indonesia, Japan or anywhere else in the world who would listen to my music and get edification from it. If it weren't for that, I would have missed my task of serving people with my music.
AJ: You will be 75 years old in August. May one ask: How will you celebrate this birthday (and the time around it) musically?
GH: We are currently offering the GUNTER HAMPEL ALLSTARS 2012. Let's see who wants us. (laughs)
AJ: "Birth Records" also has some absolute classics and rarities in its range that are sold to collectors. Can you give our readers a few examples?
GH: We are happy to send everyone a complete list by e-mail to, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. At the moment LPs are in demand again, for example I will release my last double CD as an LP.
AJ: If it is a compilation of "Gunter Hampels Greatest Hits" would work, which pieces would be on it and why? (15 + 16) GH: I have written around 3500 titles, some are really catchy tunes, people often sing them after my concerts. It is something for everyone.
AJ: In your musical life you have received many prizes and honors, for example the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon in 2009. What significance do these awards have for you?
GH: The Federal Cross of Merit is awarded to those who have rendered services to our state. I provide people with a deep and spiritual creative music that can help solve many life problems; which especially in the educational system give suggestions that promote creativity and give strength for the struggle for survival. A lot of people tell me that they can really solve problems and clear your head, and that you get a better perspective.
AJ: What are the further plans of Gunter Hampel and his various music formations?
GH: Basically, it's about gaining a new audience for jazz so that there are more performance seats for this great music. We call on everyone to create such venues and to introduce young people to jazz music. We like to come and do our workshops for three days for young and old and for a better and more alert society.
Photos St. Goarshausen: Dr. Eleonore Jost All other photos: Archive Gunter Hampel
GUNTER HAMPEL EUROPEAN-NEW YORK QUINTET CAVANA LEE HAMPELvoc-JOHANNES SCHLEIERMACHER ts ANDREAS LANG bass-BERND OEZSEVIM dm
NTER HAMPEL europe, perceptions at 227. hamburg-
"A few months earlier, it was Gunter Hampel, the pioneer of free jazz, who at the Jazzlines Festival and his ensemble of very young musicians created those breathtaking moments of collective improvisational power that are called" pulses "in music theory for lack of explanatory models. süddeutsche zeitung 2o12 “Well over 5o drive ago, the German jazz legend Gunter Hampel was given the golden key to the sacred spiritual jazz grail (through an encounter with Louis Armstrong) and it has been in constant motion and development ever since: its long, ever-advancing one , living, jazz history creating, further development of modern jazz and its label, is documented from 1964-2o12 on his musician label Birth Records, on more than 170 CDs-LPs-DVDs with other jazz greats. (gentle joy his latest double CD): each of the dozen compositions features a varied variety of fascinating challenges for this superb septet. Gunter's fantastic, great EUROPEAN QUINTET grows and grows qualitatively and gets better and better, because he constantly writes demanding and diverse compositions for his band, which draw their roots from his long creative development history, combined with the history of modern jazz. After 2 hours of concentrated listening, I was completely positively exhausted but still smiling happily and full of admiration for the immense visions and the colossal music that Gunter Hampel consistently brings us. Bravo! Bravo! "Bruce L.Gallanter. Downtown Music Gallery.New York oct 2o11 GUNTER HAMPEL CONTINUES TO BE ACTIVE AT JAZZ-LEADING EDGE all about jazz new York! EACH NEW CD + DVD OF GUNTER HAMPEL ARE BULLETINS FROM THE FRONTLINE OF JAll 2o12 all about jazz new York! next gigs. (bold not in original) </blockquote>
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