Since my chemo I have been listening to a lot of music again. I hadn't listened to music intensively for a couple of years. During the chemo I (re-)discovered the music of Coltrane, also as a player, Jürg Frey, Charlie Haden/Hank Jones, Philip Glass, Paul Simon, John Dowland and as always Johann Sebastian Bach.
I am going through a strange time. Still. My body is slowly recuperating. And my mind seems to be tired quicker, but also more focused. Things seem to be more clear.
The last two months I have read about and listened to a lot of Coltrane. I tend to get obsessed sometimes. This obsession can be anything, 'Breaking Bad', current events or an artist. In this case It was John Coltrane.
Coltrane has had several periods. And I seem to be most interested in the period after 'Giant Steps', first to modal-like music, then more free, even going to the most avant-garde free-jazz. I even play ‘Trane’’s ‘Transition’ with my buddy Rembrandt Frerichs. This is also the period that I am most attracted to as a listener. I listened to his music for a couple of weeks straight. I couldn’t listen to other music. Every other jazz player seemed to be self-indulging compared to Coltrane.
I haven’t written a blog in some time now. No inspiration. But today I turned on Spotify and decided to go for Bach’s Sonatas for Viola da Gamba by Patxi Montero and Daniele Boccaccio. I didn’t know these artists. Montero’s styles is without compromise. No vibrato whatsoever. But the music hit me. The music of Coltrane is genius. But it made me unrestful lately. I kept listening to Coltrane, but it didn’t reach me as much as before. Bach did. After a couple of notes I noticed that I calmed down and that I could listen to the music without pushing myself to do so.
I have always had a relation with Bach. Even after my chemo I keep coming back to his music periodically. His music seems to be a sort of bench mark. All other music comes from his music. Like Coltrane, Bach seemed to in direct contact with some kind of higher force that put the music in his fingers. I am an atheist, but this notion is a really nice metaphor.
Although I am a classically trained musician, labels seem to have less and less meaning to me. I have always listened to a lot of jazz music. But in an early stage I decided to specialize in the classical idiom. In the final stage of my studies I decided to study with cellist Anner Bylsma. He set me free as a player. He showed my that music could also speak, instead of only sing. He wanted me to play with a broken reed to focus less on sound and more on pronunciation. As a saxophonist there is a danger that we focus so much on sound and playing ‘lines’, in stead of delivering the message.
To play Bach on saxophone is one of the most dangerous things you can do. There’s so much critique to be given. A couple of years ago the organizers of a saxophone festival at my school in Tilburg even decided to not put my rendition of the first Cello Suite by Bach on a collection album of the festival. The recording did not meet their expectations. Listening back to it I do understand what they mean. Some things go wrong, and the acoustics do not help at all. But it was how I played it. Focussing on agogic and pronunciation. Listening back to the whole CD, I realized that the reason for putting the other performances (which also have a definite live feeling to them as well) on it, is that the music is so much less personal. In Bach we can all recognize something. It is music that goes ‘Straight to the Heart’. If things are not like we expect them, it hits us personally. Besides, the general consensus about playing Bach a wind instruments is to play ‘beautiful’, my performance was definitely not an esthetic one.
That is the same reason Branford Marsalis got so much critique when he played and recorded ‘A Love Supreme’. Probably Coltrane’s most important album. A tribute to God and Love. Coltrane hit so many people with this album, and he still does. When Marsalis played this album it initially felt like blasphemy.
In my most recent project with Rembrandt Frerichs I decided to combine those two artists in one program and go beyond all (self-imposed?) taboos.