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Rare Interview with Zbigniew Seifert

Zbigniew Seifert is in my opinion unsurpassed in playing post Coltrane jazz on the violin. He started playing the saxophone while studying Classical violin at the Academy of Music in Cracow. He got noticed playing around Europe in the early 70ies. For more biographical information see Scott Yanow's article on www.allmusic.com . Seifert refers to the recording Man of the Light on MPS and the self titled Zbigniew Seifert on Capitol in the interview. His last recording, Passion,  was for Capitol and featured John Scofield, Richard Beirach, Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette and Nana Vasconcelos. Seifert died of cancer February 15th, 1979, at the age of 32. 

This interview was translated by Michał Markiewicz and corrected by Grzegorz Tusiewicz. Many thanks! Thanks also to Mr. Tusiewicz for obtaining permission from the interviewer Mr.Antoni Krupa of the Polish Radio Krakow for publication on my website. The interview is taken from side four of a live recording on PolJazz (PSJ-101 & PSJ-102) by Seifert called Kilimanjaro. All of the recordings mentioned are featured on my online radio station.

 

PART ONE

Zbigniew Seifert: Recently I worked less than 3-4 years ago. Simply, I focused on working on two records. One of them I recorded in the U.S. for CAPITOL and right after the second one for MPS in Germany. I needed a lot of concentration while preparing this material, discussing it with producers, etc. Right now, I played pretty similar repertoire to one I recorded but there was some problem. Namely, it is hard to reproduce this repertoire with different musicians you made records with. I want to say that these people are not worse but less experienced. Also it was hard to play it live because I felt it was not so entertaining comparing to recordings in studio. These were minor problems but made me stop playing so often.
Interviewer (Antoni Krupa): From what you said, I understand you got your own band because all these recordings were made with musicians you had chosen exclusively for it?
ZS: Unfortunately it happened that way. I tried to go on tour in fall with guys I made record for MPS: Billy Hart (percussion), Cecil McBee (bass), and Joachim Kuehn (piano). We had to call it off for many reasons. We did not manage to play on Jazz Jamboree in Warsaw and on Zaduszki in Cracow. We did not make it but I believe that it is possible to organize at least one tour per year in Europe with such musicians I talked about. Iím aware that it canít be a regular band because for instance these musicians played with stars like Stan Getz, etc. They are pretty busy considering that music is the only thing they do for living. Apart from that, I have one 'changeable' group that works for almost three years and it is called Various Spheres.
INT: What does it mean?
ZS: It means crazy spheres or something. We invented the name ourselves.
INT: You working with these people? Who is playing in that band?
ZS: There was Janusz Stefa
ński, Hans Hartmann -Swiss bassist and Belgian pianist Michel Heer. In the second 'lineup' there was Adelhard Reudinger (bass), Lala Kovacev- percussionist from Max Greger`s Orchestra and also a great friend of mine. Right now, we are not playing at all therefore I cant say who is going to play next time.
INT: Is it changing?
ZS: Yes, each time it is different playing with different people and maybe it sounds ridiculous but each time I select musicians to the music I want to play.

PART TWO

INT: As far as I remember you were (even when in Cracow) fascinated by the music of John Coltrane. While reading reviews of your records and concerts I noticed that there is one major idea that you transposed Coltrane`s manner of playing and phrasing from his sax onto your violin. Can you say something about it?
ZS: It is true, I did it consciously. While playing violin I tried to have an impression of playing different instrument, I tried to get different sound from typical violin sound.
INT: With obtaining the major ideas of Coltrane`s playing?
ZS: Yes, phrasing and articulation. And first of all- the way of thinking. As a matter of fact it is the most important.
INT: While graduating the Academy of Music in Cracow, many professors considered you as a promising violinist. I remember also your hesitations of changing the instrument. That time you quit violin sacrificing your work for playing alt sax. This was your start in jazz and also fascination of sax. Right now back to violin?
ZS: At this moment you exposed me, because my beloved professor Tawroszewicz will hardly believe it while listening to it.
INT: You let him down?
ZS: Sort of
INT: But now youíre playing violin again and that is going to make him happy.
ZS: I believe he is not very anxious about it. I saw him just yesterday. It was casual meeting. As for violin, it was sudden decision. Many years ago when we were playing for he first time abroad with Stańko`s quintet, I started to dream about my sax. But when I bought it (it was Selmer, golden one) for lower price, from this moment I started to play sax less and less. It was some kind of a rule, you know, a crucial point.
INT: do you play sax yet?
ZS: I played less and less because no matter what kind of band I played in more interesting for me was to play violin. Simply, it was something different more original and rare. Also I had to overcome many unknown problems while playing jazz on violin. Therefore I did not have time to practice sax and in course of time I played it less ad less, and right about now Iím playing violin only. But sax is my honorary instrument.

PART THREE

INT: It is very fashionable to play music popularly called jazz-rock or something between light music and jazz. What do you think about it?
ZS: It is subjective but my opinion about that music is rather negative. As a mater of fact, I became a bit disaffected after and during recording for CAPITOL.
INT: Is this record in such a mood, such a style?
ZS: Sort of, but not so much because my playing has nothing to do with standard phrasing and style of this music. One way or another, in my opinion it is some kind of trend that was started by couple of superb musicians like Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, etc. And these musicians as usually are doing it great.
INT: Do you think theyíre doing it whole-heartedly or it is a whim?
ZS: Absolutely whole-heartedly. That is why they are great. They are doing it whole-heartedly and with absolute, unequalled perfection. Therefore they can let themselves play this way. There is also the other point- commercial aspect. It is pretty visible when you go to the U.S. and have something to say or record something or meet people to talk it over, from the very beginning there is a question: "What do you play?. Because we need something new but when you propose to play something new, something original it turns out that itís ok but you have to add another two guitars, synthesizer and strings for coloring the sound. Even Don Cherry had these kind of problems when I met him in studio in N.Y. I was completely upset during the recording because producers were fixing incidental music to my improvisation (of course all on the separate tracks). They were doing things about which I had no idea. I sat there sadder and sadder. I was only looking and listening to it. And later on, I met Don who said that he had the same problem and that the most important thing is to reach as many people as possible regardless some stylistic concessions. He tried to comfort me and I think himself as well.
INT: Yes, it looked that way. So right now the most creative people , the most creative environment comes from Europe. I mean, as far as some new searches and projects are concerned. Do you agree?

ZS: Yes, however a lot of music played in Europe is non-jazz. There is a lot of jazz-related music, that is improvised but without fundamental jazz feeling.

PART FOUR

INT: What do you think about records you made so far and which one satisfies you most?
ZS: It is the record made in Europe in Germany for MPS. It is simply the record on which I placed all my musical dreams and desires from recent time. Iím absolutely proud of this record.
INT: It is titled...
ZS: Man of the light
INT: Who is playing on it with you?
ZS: Billy Hart (percussion), Cecil McBee (bass), Joachim Kuehn (acoustic piano) Jasper van Hoef (Yamaha keyboard)
INT: Jasper Van Hoef is well-known for Polish audience because couple of times he played here. And even recently he was in Cracow with his band Toto Blanke Electrics. Unforgettable impressions from this concert that was played in 'Pod Jaszczurami' club. So , thank you for coming , thank you for this interview and I want to wish you not to have more problems with completing musicians to play along with. And I wish you to release as many records as possible. Also we would like to see you and your band playing concerts in Poland. I think it is possible...
ZS: As soon as there some good tournee with good musicians is coming, Iíll definitely come to Poland.
INT: Thank you

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