German jazz pianist Thilo Wolf, who will be playing at the NCPA Jazz Festival in Mumbai on November 27, has a body of music that speaks of a sophisticated approach to arranging and presenting jazz. The band will include Johanna Iser, the only vocalist at the festival.
The financialexpress.com’s Eshita Bhargava reached out to Wolf with a few questions to help audiences acquaint themselves with his music, journey, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
How has your journey been so far and what was the one spark that brought you so close to jazz?
My father’s jazz records were the first real inspiration for me to start thinking about jazz. The American big bands, from Count Basie to Glenn Miller, were being played almost throughout the day. That’s how my love for Big Band began, and it was only natural for me to want to start my own big band at some point. When we come to the Mumbai Jazz Festival, I’ll have my jazz quartet with me, which is made up of the big band’s rhythm section and is very well-rehearsed.
Jazz is such heartfelt music. How did musical works like “Late Summernight” and “Looking at the World” come about?
As jazz musicians, the music we make always comes from deep within us. We compose highly romantic compositions or very rhythmic and driving works depending on the emotional state. Jazz is an expression of our soul. Even if we play the same song every night, our interpretation will always be unique.
What inspires you most to create such haunting pieces of music?
Inspirations come to us on a daily basis. It could be a loved one or a hilarious incident we witness on the street. The important thing is that we can abstract and translate inspiration into music. This provides us with an almost limitless number of creative ideas and inspiration.
What do you think about jazz music in India?
I must admit that I am not familiar with jazz music in India, but now that we are guests in this lovely country, I plan to learn more about it.
What is the one instrument you particularly appreciate and own?
My primary instruments are the piano and drums, but I’ve also learned the double bass. With them, I play rhythm section instruments, and my arrangements, whether for a jazz quartet or big band, are usually very rhythm-oriented. My music is more gut-driven and aimed at the feet.
Do you think that jazz is breaking through all the walls these days?
Jazz, like music in general, is a world language that is understood everywhere. That is why it is critical that we expose music to young people in particular because there is no better method to foster international understanding. Jazz will also break down any barriers in this regard.
What do you think about performing at the NCPA in Mumbai this year?
We are definitely looking forward to our performance in Mumbai, and we are already enthusiastic because we feel that the audience is looking forward. The organizers are extremely kind, and we are looking forward to meeting Mr. Hirji Nagarwala, a big admirer who suggested we play at the event; there is no better prerequisite. We’re also looking forward to getting to know Mumbai a little better.
What message would you like to give to young jazz lovers?
I’d like to encourage them to be open to music and to develop new listening habits. Jazz’s stylistic diversity is so extensive that there is certain to be something for everyone. For instance, there are musicians who want to cross borders and merge mainstream music with jazz music so there is a lot to discover.
Would you like to work with Bollywood? Do you have a favourite singer from India? In this regard too, I must say that I know far too little about Bollywood and its personalities. So, I have some catching up to do here as well. But why not collaborate with Bollywood? I’d be delighted.