Home Masthead Gunter Hampel at 80: Still Ahead of Time

Gunter Hampel at 80: Still Ahead of Time


JdG: When you record the music that is not composed by you, what are the challenges to bringing your own voice to the music?

GH: It’s the same like in my music, to feel and understand the composition or the composer and add my voice to the rest of the band… (trails off)

JdG: What is in essence your approach to improvisation? Is it conceptual, mechanical, intuitive, intellectual… all of the above? What challenges you most among all of these?

GH: From my writings you should understand by now, that I do not have an all over all approach, each time you play or play in a group is a different occasion of celebrating and I only play with musicians singers and dancers which are flexible enough and know what they can and want to do…

JdG: As a composer and bandleader, what are the parameters that you use to establish for the framework of the improvisation?

GH: What is a parameter? A factor? The facts are our improvisations which came out his way today, might come out another way tomorrow.

JdG: With such an open approach (I am assuming it is open) how do you lead the band in the live performance of an improvised piece?

GH: The composition gives the essence, I lead with -playing-conducting, hand signs, talking, signs but with my groups also with my feelings and hand signs

JdG: Do you re-direct the music or is it free-spirited?

GH: There is not one over all concept. Each performance, is based on being another person each day, like Marion Brown and me did duo concerts on sax and vibraphone and bass clarinet when we played that in Europe, or we did a many duo concerts, (at Sweet Basil in New York) or in New England, and though we played the same compositions each time it was a complete different concert, like we human beings, we are not one kind of a character, we have all… ALL the characters of a human being in us… it is the day and the year and time of day, what food we have been eating, how long we had been driving, what people we have met, what landscapes we have seen, AND when we were talking, and we were talking all the time, Steve (McCall) and Jeanne (Lee) the same, we had sooooooooooooooooooooo much to talk about, because, you are asking me all the time about saying and thinking and playing but the most precious quality as a musicians is to LISTEN, not just out of respect, but you LIKE to listen what Jeanne or Marion or Steve, or all of my other players, my lifelong associates HAVE TO SAY. You have to have LOVE in your playing in your listening and have to GIVE space to each other; the worst is, when you play with someone who does not LISTEN to you, when you play. That is the secret of improvised music LISTEN and GIVE space. There is a lot off music, especially in the so-called Free Jazz scene where the one who can play the loudest is the winner the leader, I think that is a terrible misunderstanding of being FREE when you overplay someone else. Communication is the TEAMWORK, functioning…

JdG: Have you had any long-standing groups that have not been led by you? What’s been your experience with such an ensemble – Anthony Braxton’s, Perry Robinson’s Willem Breuker’s for instance?

GH: No.


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