Home Masthead Gunter Hampel at 80: Still Ahead of Time

Gunter Hampel at 80: Still Ahead of Time


“Assemblage,” is a seven-part suite that is an energetic romp to the edges of composed music. Complete with a themed head, improvised section for all the instrumentalists and a resolution, the music is wonderfully wild and humorous. It pays oblique tribute to some Ducal music and features some wonderful fiery passages on saxophones, chillingly cool vibraphone and exquisite chromatically tuned percussion by Mr Courbois. “Heroicredolphysiognomystery,” a seemingly eccentric dedication to Mr Dolphy shows how completely the musicians have absorbed the legendary Africa-Brass Sessions of Coltrane (Impulse, 1961). And “Make Love Not War to Everybody” is simply an eccentric work of art; heard as a complete suite, though this could be the definitive modern third stream report from Europe.

Gunter Hampel turned 80 years of age on the 31st of August, 2017 and somehow the date-stamping of that iconic recording The 8th of July 1969 suggested a conversation with the iconoclast. Predictably he kept it real when we spoke, sometimes speaking as if he would be “playing” a long phrase on his bass clarinet. Needless to say, I could not; would not dare to interrupt. Here are excerpts:

JazzDaGama: Hello Gunter; let’s leap in like Lester shall we? Jazz or Improvised music? What do you call it and why?

Gunter Hampel: People and specially writers have been spending sooooo much time to define…JAZZ is just a funny word for a music, which finally arose out of the confrontation of thousands and thousands years of historic backgrounds and specially the confrontation of African and European music. To be a little technical here I would like to throw in some basic differences of African and European music. I was invited by the Columbia University’s Jazz Studies faculty in New York and was giving a lecture and informed the interested audience, that the main difference between the two are just a few basics, mostly overlooked.

First of all it is the tuning. The African tuning is, compared to our European tuning of 12 notes in an octave, basically that there are only 5 notes in an octave, and those vary from each area from the north to the south and east and the west and that African musicians, do not count off any rhythms they start playing until they all have found one or a multitude of rhythms which work together, whereas the European agreed on “A”, the tone A to be on a 440khz tuning. A very fixed tuning, which got raised because some composers thought so advisable, because the strings were sounding sharper, or whatever.

I was invited earlier this year by (my hometown) University of Göttingen, where I was born (1937) to lead a improvising workshops and give a lecture, which i published on my birth label (my own record label-birth records) in German language which should be translated into English because it is a very profound collection of what really happened to Africa during the last three centuries of (successive) European occupations, which is never talked about in any history books of and about and from JAZZ, because no one had cared about the Real Truth about the slavery and exploitation and robbery European countries have done to Africa and are still occupying it and continue doing it.


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