Interview Gabor Winand.

Hungarian singer Gabor Winand will soon be in Charleville for an exceptional concert, together with his fellow Hungarian Gabor Gado's quartet.
These remarkable musicians have created in four album a deeply original universe of their own. "Opera Budapest », their last recording, can't be linked to any existing style, even if it sometimes evokes memories of « cross-over » music.
To meet this musician , who is not very well-known in France yet despite very positive criticism, we have asked him a few questions.
Mail exchanges, translation from French to English and then to Hungarian didn't help make things easy. The result is probably not perfect, but let's hope it will make you feel like discovering Gabor Winand on stage, on January 29th 2008
. more info

photo Itsvan Huszit.

Gabor Winand, we have the great pleasure to invite you next season in Charleville-Mézières, with the Gabor Gado Quartet, with the “Opera Budapest” program, which is the title of your last cd. Could you give more information about this album?

This last CD of mine, Opera Budapest, relased September 2006 was a real challenge for me being anything but a mainstream jazz album, going even more in the direction of contemporary music as all of my previous releases.

This is not only a jazz project. While listening to it, I felt some connections with some English (and European) “progressive “pop music. Have you ever ( and Gabor Gado too) had any interest for that kind of music ?

I think it’s only pure coincidence as neither Gadó nor me have sources from this kind of music.

Opera Budapest music is very personal and original, with a great importance given to the lyrics. It sometimes reminds me of the work of Carla Bley ( Escalator over the Hill ), Michaël Mantler, and English composer Mike Westbrook ( this one created at the beginning of the 1980th “The Orchestra”, including his own Brassband, avantgardist pop band Henri Cow -Fred Frith on the guitar -, and folk singer Frankie Armstrong). Have you ever heard these musicians?

I know and appreciate the abovementioned artists. Today’s artists have many influences as it is almost everything played already – but still an artist always creates something new and individual, even having all these influences. This is also the case at Opera Budapest.

For many years, Gabor Gado has been writing all the musics you have recorded excepted " Different Garden" which is a personal lecture of jazz tunes. What are the links between your two universes?

The link is of course Gadó, as the pieces on"Different garden" are arranged played and sung just as being Gadó – and Winand – originals.

Let's speak about "Different Garden".tExcepting "Body & Soul" and "In a sentimental mood", there are no standards on that record, but a choice of compositions by Freddy Hubbard, Bill Evans, Abbey Lincoln, Kenny Barron, and we could add Charlie Mingus whose "Weird Nightmare" is in "Corners of my mind ". Why that choice?

I tried to pick out pieces which are not so often played and which stay close to me. Of course "Body and soul" is played in a hundred of sensational versions, but I tried to do it also in an own way in which I think it was never performed. Regarding standards: jazz musicians learn jazz by standards so it is quite like a language for us in which we can easy communicate. In that way doing "Different garden" was really a pleasure for me.

All the lyrics of your own recordings are signed by poet Eszler Molnar, and sung in English. Who’s choosing these lyrics? Are they translated, or written directly in this language?

The lyrics are written in English. We talk about the theme of the songs together and from this moment on it is the writers freedom to create the final form of the lyrics.

Most of the lyrics ask some existential questions, and reveal a personal spiritual process. Do you share this process with Gabor Gado?

Of course we all three together share our emotions regarding the themes and lyrics for the music.

Now let's speak about your very unique way to improvise. I read that you wanted to be an opera singer when you were young. Could this explain the deepness of your voice?

No, I think it has nothing to do with this.

Before studying jazz singing at the conservatory, you first learn playing clarinet and saxophone. Does the practicing of these instruments influence your way of improvising?

An interesting question. It is true that I have started to learn music by playing the clarinet, but it was not jazz but classical music. Many people think that I use my voice “as an instrument” because I also play the saxophone, but it was the opposite way. My first motivation in jazz was singing – and weaht I can sing a try to adapt also to the saxophone. I think this is quite natural as the most natural way to express things coming from the heart and from the head is to sing them. Of course this isn’t easy but if you hear it inside you are able to sing it as well.

Through all your recordings, your voice have two functions linked together: The fist is to pass the texts , with a lot of deepness and emotion, and the second is to improvise like any music-instrument. How can you marry these two functions?

I’m a very sensitive person – sometimes maybe too sensitive. When I sing, the theme, mood and the atmosphere of the song is totally penetrating me. And I need to express my reactions not only by using the text but also by improvisation. This two things belong together for me.

You have an unique way of singing, which doesn’t remind any famous singer. But have you been influenced by some of them?

Thanks for thinking like this. Of course many singers had their influence on me – not only jazz but also folk and classical singers, and also instrumental musicians.

Gabor Gado’s musics are very rich and complexes, with various melodies, and strange harmonies . It’s a particular universe in which you seem to “move” very easily . Is this the result of a long work , or do you feel ‘at home’ in this universe?

We know each other with Gadó since a very long time. This musical and personal friendship didn’t start at the recordings of Corners of my mind but much earlier. We have played together already at the beginning of the nineties and we have realized already then that we can work very positively together. Not all musicians can fit each other but among us it worked from the beginning as it would be the most natural way.

Every music, even if it's very personal, creates some links with other existing music. There is a unity in the 4 recordings published under your name, and also an evolution. Personally, I can feel a little bluesy atmosphere in "Corners of my mind", "Different Garden" is more jazzy, "Agent Spirituel" sometimes evokes baroque music ( "Greetings from the angel" reminds me Purcell ). "Opera Budapest, as I told before", sometimes reminds me of a certain kind of "progressive" pop music. In all these recordings, we can feel a typical atmosphere from Central Europe, even if there is no borrowing from folk songs. It is a personal feeling. What do you think of these recordings?

You see this quite well. A sort of Central-European influence is there at all of our recordings. This couldn’t be else as we are people from Central-Europe. It wouldn’t make much sense to make recordings, trying to play American music. They wouldn’t have been as much individual as they became I hope. As told before, even Different garden is no typical standard music, though we play some standards there. It’s no copy of Ella Fitzgerald or Joe Pass. These giants left a heritage but we shouldn’t imitate them. And of course we just couldn’t - as we are different persons (we tried to hint at this with the title of the CD). Folk music was also a very important influence on me – and not only Central European but almost from every part of the world. I live to hear all sorts of folk music. Though I don’t play authentic folk music it is surely somehow present in the way I sing.

You also work with other bands, and with your wife, Cuban singer Elsa Valle, and I think I understand that you are sometimes working as a saxophonist in these different projects. Can you speak about your other activities?

The most beautiful thing in my life besides all the success was getting acquainted with my wife, Cuban singer Elsa Valle. I’m happy to belong to her and it is a special joy for me that through her I became familiar with the music of such people whom I have known only from far before. Since years I have the opportunity to contribute on the recordings of Elsa, by playing flute and saxophone on them and thus interpret her art in my own way. I think Elsa’s music is worth to know for everybody, and now it is not the husband speaking, as it is really new and special. As I have told earlier, a real artist always strives to create new things – and she belongs to these artists. It is a special pleasure for me that she even charged me with the arrangements of her new album coming out in September.

interview by Patrice Boyer

french interview here

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