Akbank Sanat hosts Chico Freeman on Jazz Day
Cenk Erdem - ISTANBULFamous US jazz saxophonist Chico Freeman and one of the world’s best counter bassists, Heiri Känzig of Switzerland, will share the same stage in Istanbul on April 30, International Jazz Day.
The duo will perform a repertoire from unforgettable songs from the world of jazz to new numbers on their recent joint album, “The Arrival.”
Before the concert at Akbank Sanat, Freeman talked to the Hürriyet Daily News about the concert and his adventure in jazz music.
You are a legendary jazz musician who is set to honor Istanbul on International Jazz Day on April 30. What will be your repertoire to celebrate the jazz?
In order to honor International Jazz Day on April 30, my repertoire will be exactly what I am performing now. Mr. Heiri Känzig and myself have a new CD entitled “The Arrival,” and since we’re doing the concert, much of the repertoire will come from that CD. It’s the most recent CD of the duo with Mr. Heiri Känzig, so a lot of the music will come from the CD. There are some other additional songs and original songs that I will be playing.
You have never limited yourself to any specific style in jazz, but what style in jazz represents you the most?
No, I have never limited myself to any specific style. I don’t really like labels. So I don’t like to label it. If anything, I would say that I play the music that is closest to my heart, which is from my heart. I think there is nothing more sincere than coming through honestly and searching for the truth of myself at any given moment. So I don’t really recognize styles. I see them and I hear people speak about them but they don’t concern me. I play what comes from my heart. And if it happens to fit into some label, so be it. But that’s not my job to label.
You have worked with so many international stars from Chaka Khan to Celia Cruz, but who inspired you most in live performances?
So many performers have inspired me in live performances. I was fortunate enough to see my father play with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but I was only 5 years old at the time. But the impact of that still stays with me. I’ve seen Sonny Rollins live, and seen some of the magical things that he could with his saxophone. That’s been inspirational. McCoy Tyner, before I had the opportunity to perform and play with him, was an inspiration to me – seeing him play, hearing him play and learning from him. There are so many. I can’t pick out any one, I have to say. Some of my own performances have been inspirational with some of the musicians that were involved with it. Like Don Pullen, for example.
When you look back, why do you think the notorious “Young Lions” project couldn’t go on?
When I look back, when you have a group of all-stars, the Young Lions project – which actually many people do not know about – but it was actually my idea. I was in Bruce Lundvall’s office. He was with Elektra/Musician at the time. He was the head of Elektra/Musician. He had just left CBS Records. And I was there with my manager, Mr. Victor Ogilvie, at the time. And while we were there, George Wein came in, and spoke about the upcoming jazz festival. And he said that Warner Brothers, which was Nasuhi Ertegün, wanted to do something for the festival. So I suggested that all of these and that there were so many young players that had come to New York at that time, and they were making a name for themselves and doing stuff. And I thought they would be the future stars. And I thought that [we could put] a concert together with many of these names, which we did, some notable names as you may know, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Kevin Eubanks, myself, and others. I thought that this would be an interesting project. And so, Bruce Lundvall and George Wein agreed. So as a result, we did this. And I produced this project, well, not the recording but the project, the performance. And I contacted the players and arranged the rehearsals and everything. So this was the Young Lions. But when you have so many stars and people moving in their own directions, it is difficult. In sheer numbers, there were so many numbers of players that it’s difficult to keep that kind of group together.
You performed in Istanbul in different events including the jazz festival. How would you describe the inspiration in Istanbul as a city?
Istanbul is and always has been an inspirational city. It’s an old city, it goes back… Even as a child, I remember reading stories of Arabian Nights and other things… I know that Istanbul …. One of my favorite films, a James Bond movie, “From Russia with Love,” featured Istanbul. So Istanbul has this mystique; it’s mysterious. Some great musicians have come from here, and the music is also very inspirational. I love the city, the artwork and everything about it.
Are you working on any recordings for any project at the moment?
Yes, I have some projects. Some I will have to keep secret because until they are manifested; I don’t want to give anyone the opportunity to take the idea from me. I have of course my Chico Freeman Plus+Tet, which features some incredible American musicians – Nasheet Waits on drums, Kenny Davis on bass, and exotic percussionist Reto Weber, who plays some interesting instruments, percussion instruments from different parts of the world. Right now I have a couple of pianists that are working on this project. Louis Perdomo and Luke Carlos O’Reilly. So that’s one project.
And of course, I have my Eurotet, which features some of the most extraordinary musicians living in Europe. That would be Antonio Faraò, Heiri Känzig, the bassist that you will be listening to in our duo project, and Michael Baker. So this project and with special guests from time to time, Reto Weber… So these are the projects I’m working on at the moment. And I am preparing for a new CD. I am writing music right now for some of these projects. That’s what I’m doing at the moment.
You are to perform in Istanbul together with Känzig, and you released the album “The Arrival” in 2015. How would you describe your collaboration as a duo?
My collaboration with Heiri Känzig in this duo is very rich and extremely rewarding. Heiri is one of my very favorite bassists of all time. He is a wonderful human being. Extraordinary musician. And he is a real music lover. He is very experimental, and takes chances. He and I have a connection. We’ve had a connection since the first day we met and we played together. And that was one of the reasons I started this duo project with him and offered the idea because we had such a connection. And we have a connection. It continues so I am extremely happy and thrilled to be working in this duo project with him.