This interview with the members of Kartet was conducted by email from January to March 2007.
Tony Reif: Kartet was formed I believe in 1990, and still has three of its original members – Chander joined in 1996 when the original drummer Benjamin Henocq left. I guess you guys were in your early 20s back then? What was it about that moment in each of your careers up to that point that brought the group together? And what has kept it together all this time?
Benoît Delbecq: Kartet was actually formed in November 1989, when Guillaume and I first met. I had a trio with Benjamin and bassist Titus Oppman who then left Kartet in April 1990, that’s when Hubert joined. Guillaume and Benjamin were 20, Titus and I were 23. Hubert was 32 in 1990.
Initially, there was this encounter with Guillaume. He was the only young player in Paris who was into Steve Coleman, Dave Holland’s quintet…just like me, I was into Ornette totally too. At this time jazz players were a bit skeptical about Steve Coleman, just as much as about Ornette for some of them! Well Guillaume and I went to Banff in the summer of 1990 to study with him. Everything went quite fast. Unfortunately Benjamin couldn’t make it with us to the Banff workshop even though he was selected too. That would have been almost the whole Kartet in Banff.
We started it all in November 1989 with Guillaume and Benjamin and Titus the week after Guillaume had played a jam session in a small club where we were playing a regular trio gig. At this time I was very much into mixing contemporary tools with jazz improv, free improv too. Soon after that I worked for a theatre show in Marseille, and was invited for a composer residency. In the end I persuaded the cultural guys there that we had to do it with Kartet, and it worked. By the next September, Hubert had joined in, we all moved to live in the same house near Marseille for 10 months, and rehearsed and practiced in an incredibly intense period which of course shaped our music to come.
Guillaume Orti: Benoît could have taken the opportunity for himself but he proposed the whole band for this résidence. That was really what united the band. By living together we could stay concentrated on developing our musical vocabulary: melodic and harmonic material, original rhythmic tools, etc.
Meeting the Kartet guys was actually a fantastic coincidence. We all were into developing some music with a band, we were all into searching, creating new combinations of forms. When I arrived in Paris (from Avignon) in September 1989 I had in mind to meet people who I would build something strong with. I was hanging out all the time, going to any jam session. So I met many people and started to be invited to some sessions. What made a big difference when I met Benoît and Benjamin was that we basically were talking about the same things: contemporary music, the Dave Holland quintet with Steve Coleman and “Smitty”, Ornette etc. It was the first time I could share with a jazz musician of my generation about Bartok, Ligeti, Stockhausen, the Aka pygmy music, etc. It was a natural process though, but so rare among young jazz stylists. It was clear from the first time we met that we would journey for some time together. After Titus Oppmann quit Hubert joined. We were lucky to meet him.
Hubert Dupont: I had moved to Paris a year before, I was studying with Jean-François Jenny-Clark – a master. I did so many afternoon sessions with so many new people, Paris is an exciting spot with many jazz players from everywhere, and many African musicians too. I was interested in this new M’Base stuff, but few people were; I did mostly straight ahead jazz gigs, but this was not what I moved to Paris for – I was expecting a serious meeting, strong musical connection, a group story, and it happened. We stayed together in the south of France, collectively developing our compositional tools, our improvising techniques – a major milestone, the sound and atmospheres of the band still are a result of this, as well as the trust of everyone of us when one of us brings a crazy, weird new song…
BD: At the age of 20 or 23 we didn’t have a career really, we were very involved in the Paris creative scene, but that was before Les Instants Chavirés’s jazz era. After the residency, back to Paris in the fall of 1991, we started to play at that club and were regularly invited to perform there with Kartet among numerous other projects. Festival people came to our gigs, our first disc Hask was out in 1992, Steve Lacy played with us, talked about the band to a lot of people, then we started to travel around outside of France.
GO: Back then, our first direct influence was Steve Coleman. He was director of the Jazz Workshop at the Banff Centre. He was always motivating everyone to search for their own way of improvising, composing. To define concepts that would govern a whole musical process. He was sharing the things he was dealing with. He was pushing us to be autonomous and self-confident, musically and business-wise. When we started the résidence in September 1990 we were full of motivation. The Banff experience first led to us soldering the band, then creating the Hask Collective three years later. Because in that summer in Banff we met many great musicians we kept in contact with throughout the years – trombonist Geoffroy de Masure, drummer Steve Argüelles, saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra, bassist Joe Carver, Andy Milne, Ethan Iverson, Tony Malaby, etc.
BD: What has kept us together is the fact that we share this feeling that we have to play and experiment a lot. Kartet is a wonderful lab, where each of us can bring the craziest ideas, and we often find a way to make them sound smooth. If not, we drop the tune – it has happened. There is a metaphor I like: it is like working on a special wine, it takes years and years of inventing your own tradition. In doing this we’ve developed very much our own sound, and as far as I’m concerned I can’t find it in any other band! There have been periods with more and fewer gigs, but we’ve kept moving forward through the years, never having the feeling of repeating ourselves. The pleasure of performance is our fuel.
TR: How has the music grown and changed? Who are the musical influences that have most affected each of you and the group as a whole? Have you been more influenced by innovations in European jazz, or by bringing more things from other music (contemporary classical, world, etc.) into Kartet’s purview, its stylistic domain? And have Chander’s studies of Carnatic (South Indian) music made their way into Kartet’s rhythmic thinking?
BD: The music has definitely grown. It has been enriched by all four players’ experiences, and we’re no longer 20-23 years old. We four have a significant background in different approaches to music and improvising. For my part I started to play with samplers in 1996, I also play solo piano, and I lead or co-lead a number of projects. Each project is feeding Kartet – that is a common point for us four. I navigate between electronic improv (Ambitronix, my duo with Steve Arguëlles) to solo performance, but also chamber music – improv (e.g. with François Houle), or my own bands (Phonetics, Pool Players). And contemporary written music is still a point of interest for me. Each of us knows what the focus is for the others, and I think that is helping to renew the pleasure a lot. For instance, having Chander and Guillaume in Octurn (led by Bo Van der Werf from Belgium) means a lot to Kartet. With Octurn they focus on complex forms and beats and Kartet is then fed by it, and vice-versa.
Before Chander joined in 1996 we had already been introduced to construction in Indian music, by tablaist Philippe Foch, who is a long-term partner of mine in Les Amants de Juliette. We were already developing forms in the vein of Steve Coleman’s works, and some using different kinds of proportions and increments. During this period Chander did a couple of tours with Steve, which is no coincidence as he learned playing drums with Steve’s patterns! After Benjamin left the group for more mainstream matters, we heard Chander play separately and realized were talking about the same guy. He’s not only a great jazz drummer but has an amazing control over forms and proportions. I think Kartet is an original blend of Carnatic, traditional/ethnic musics, jazz and free improvisation. And from my side, written poetry or cinema is as important as players or composers.
GO: The influences that affected the band are multicolored. Jazz, 20th century written music, African musics, Indian musics, etc…But also all the people and the groups we had the chance to meet and play with. Because we were thinking as a band from the start, we were influenced by groups or collectives who functioned as real bands. Let me cite the example of Aka Moon, the trio based in Brussels with Fabrizio Cassol, Michel Hatzigiorgiu and Stéphane Galland. When we first heard about them, Benoît and I, we were amazed to discover that we were searching in the same direction. They had just come back from their trip to Central Africa to visit the Aka pymies, and Benoît was often playing and analyzing the Aka pymies’ polyphony/polyrhythmics. So our European connection began. They invited Urban Mood (Gilles Coronado’s band I was in) to perform in a festival they organized in Brussels and that’s where I met Chander.
Working with Chander then was not a shift of direction but more an enrichment. What a great meeting: two ways of thinking the same thing – Benoît and all the rhythmic independence he had been developing on the piano, and Chander and all his Carnatic (or Cartesian) ways to conceive rhythm combined with such a smart touch on the drums. Both can deal with the same things – play different layers of rhythms, different speeds at the same time. The integration of Chander into the band has given great precision to the rhythmic orientation.
Chander Sardjoe: Joining Kartet proved to be a major personal outlet for my creative process and musical investigation/expansion, from hearing textures and forms, to purely technical research to be able to articulate and color with the necessary finesse. The music of Kartet has always pushed me as a musician to explore the boundaries of my playing and imagination, without losing touch with the traditions of the musical cultures that we have researched over the years. Whether it’s American jazz or music from other parts of the globe is less relevant than the depth to which the different idioms are digested, honored and quoted. We use these vernaculars as departure points for innovation. I would say that Bay Window is the latest conflux of the personal, stylistic, musical and artistic diversity among four musicians who take a “slow burn” approach to musical elaboration.
HD: My connections with Indian music also started before I met Chander (playing with Shyamal Maitra, Prabhu Edouard), and the science of tala – their rhythmic grammar – influences me a lot. Of course Chander has mastered this a lot more than we have, and it is great to play and work with him! Surprisingly, I did not work hard on Steve Coleman’s techniques, because I did not want to spend years and be trapped in another strong influence – for me it was too late, I was already trying to get rid of former influences (Coltrane, but also a lot of eclectic bullshit…) and it was important to build up my own stuff, even on a modest scale. As a musician I definitely want to be a lifelong student – taking influences here and there is ok, but mainly working further today on what I started yesterday. I recently discovered the sabar tradition of Senegal, it’s really amazing. I’ve always listened to a lot of African music – traditional, modern. I really love playing with Brice Wassy, the master drummer from Cameroon. But it is hard to transpose this into Kartet, it’s a really different concept. I just hope it is audible in the phrasing sometimes… African people playing and dancing together, which has nothing to do with “let’s make it sound really good….”
Some European players are really advanced and exciting in free improvised music, but I believe this is not a major influence. Still, the concept of improvising melodically without any harmonic hierarchy (like Ornette’s harmelodics) is essential, as well as the musical expression that comes out of melting strange noises together.
TR: It seems as if there’s a pretty distinctive tonality to a lot of the compositions. Perhaps you sometimes use tone-rows, but there’s still an underlying sense of tonality (even a bluesy feel occasionally – all those flatted notes). In more conventional tonal terms it doesn’t seem you ever play anything like a major scale, and there are quite a lot of wide intervallic leaps. All this contributes to the music’s lunar, trancey appeal, and for me also gives it a distinctively melancholy edge. And this isn’t unique to Kartet of course…But here’s my question: how do you think about tonality, jazz, and the music you all and Kartet make?
HD: Not even a dominant chord, you’re right…sometimes it is just instinctive playing with centers, but more often it is premeditated in the compositions. Sometimes it has to do with following two or three guidelines, each with independent time signatures and intervallic logic, but coordinated and written. Improvising on this kind of 3-D ground with collective consciousness and interplay is sometimes a funny headache at first, but sometimes it feels surprisingly easy. We’ve been playing together for so many years…
My harmonic/melodic language is changing, I hope it will be getting audible soon…I dig combinations of symmetrical pitch groups…I hear some stuff…I want to organize it and use it as my improvising system. Setting the rules of a game by oneself is a great way to be free. Of course, I never think “I invented this!” – that would be such a dumb, stupid mistake – it is just a matter of keeping my musical life passionate. This might sound a little bit cerebral, though – it is a funny game, and some kind of beauty comes out of it.
Guillaume does this kind of thing too, he is really advanced. His background and knowledge in written music and concepts – Olivier Messiaen’s modes, or more weird stuff – transposed into improvising techniques, is impressive.
GO: There’s no global concept about tonality in Kartet. Each of us is free to use any reminiscence of knowledge, influence, or to ‘invent’ some harmonic/rhythmic rule. Some are worth explaining when we rehearse a new composition, some cannot be explained. What’s for sure is that we develop our improvisations with the same material involved in the composition. It can be a melodic one or two note-axis, a group of intervals, an augmentation or diminution of intervals, a relationship between a mode and a speed, a tonal center that we outshine one moment and out-shadow the next, etc…What’s important is to interact freely, even intuitively while improvising. We often don’t have to say much to the others.
BD: I think each of us has a different approach. We tend towards thinking in common though about the idea of renovating our composing vocabularies. Each tune I write comes from a certain idea. I always have this way of writing: I sit down and try to imagine the band, I make notes, and at the very end I choose notes and momentums. Before the notes are on the paper I know how I want it to sound. Of course I’m using ‘tonal altitudes’ as I call them. But I never think in term of changes in Kartet. Guillaume uses a lot of intervals and rhythmic matrices in his writing, Hubert is on a modal approach these days, and I am still into mixing sound and articulations, within rhythmic patterns or freely. Some melodies of mine ‘fit’ with a bass line, but we are very free in the choice of momentums and speeds. I don’t think in terms of tonality but ‘ear altitudes,’ which is a bit Messiaenesque. Well, I studied composition with a 1960s student of his, Solange Ancona, maybe that’s why.
TR: What do you think is the relationship between tonality and emotion in your music?
BD: I think the emotion in music is up to the listener. We produce certain ear attitudes and altitudes, and we let the listener decide what relationships he may find in the listening. In other words, our relation to tonality is not so linked to an emotional attitude. For my part I don’t wish to order emotions, I want the music to let the listener go, leave him free to be moved in different possible ways.
GO: I don’t think we can control the listener’s emotions. It’d be too pretentious to say that we play a certain way to make people feel happy or sad. We actually concentrate on the quality of interaction within the band – if something’s happening, some people will feel it.
HD: The relationship between tonality and emotion is an absolute enigma. The basic thing we want to do is create music that elicits a special attitude from our fellow players as well as from the listeners. It has to do with abstraction, an enigmatic atmosphere – this should be because something really is happening and you don’t need to know and understand how it works. Then, emotion should happen in the playing…as the result of a deep focus, or of total abandon?
TR: So group interaction and improvisation is at the heart of this music, in terms of how it’s conceived and made. Can you talk about the process, the group dynamics, in rehearsal, in performance? Has this also evolved over the years? And when you write or arrange something for the group, how do you present the material – a diagram, a written-out rhythmic/melodic/harmonic progression, ideas for discussion? What are your expectations about what the others will do with the piece? What about collaborative composing – there doesn’t seem to be much of that – or is that in effect what happens during rehearsal?
BD: Each of us (well, Chander hasn’t been writing lately) brings his own music. And Kartet is a balance between those three composers. When we rehearse we usually spend a lot of time on how to articulate the phrasing of the different elements. At the same time, the collective practice of the rhythmic fabrics is being developed over hours and hours. This band likes to rehearse, likes to enter into trance-like rehearsals. When we rehearse we always try to find several days to work, which is good for our music. We discuss the material a lot, we manipulate it along…we don’t exactly compose together, but the development of the piece is very unique to Kartet. Once we go to the gig, let’s say we don’t think anymore but just play. Of course the playing will be inhabited by the density of the rehearsals and of the private practice of each of us.
HD: I think we are like many bands: we rehearse, we have new songs brought in, the scores let us understand quickly in what direction things should go; sometimes we try a suggestion because one element isn’t ‘rolling’ well, or is not convenient as a cue to operate a mutation. For me, the worst situation would be: “This arrangement sounds great…but then what do we do with this?” The best situation is when the written material looks simple, just enough to suggest the game to play, and then everybody digs, finds some stuff to do…and it’s happening.
Another tricky point when you compose: you may establish the rules of a game, and sometimes the game might be tricky; but at the same time, everyone has a part in the play, and you should let everyone improvise variations using his own language, tools, colors, otherwise it’s not fair. Even a newcomer in the band should feel comfortable with this. I we were a sect, and if only members of the sect could sit in, it would be the wrong train.
GO: Our compositions are simple but can be tricky to improvise on. That’s why we’ve always been practicing in long rehearsal sessions. We can get stuck on a fragment of a piece and make it turn for hours. And even if we’ve never composed together, any suggestion about the process of practicing deserves a try. The confidence is huge.
When I come up with a new piece for Kartet I try to use combinations that we haven’t used yet. Then it’s really made for the band. I never write anything without knowing who’s going to play it. Of course the experiences everyone has with other projects make their way into Kartet’s evolution. The way I practice with Octurn (a medium-sized band based in Brussels under the direction of Bo Van der Werf, with Chander on drums) is a prolongation of the way we practiced during the résidence: digging deep into the use of fine compositional vocabulary for improvisation.
TR: Most of the pieces on the new record are rather short – some are only a minute or two, the longest is less than 8 minutes. In concert though I’ve seen you play much longer – pieces or medleys of pieces with transitional improvisations – which certainly sustained my interest as a listener. Why the decision to organize the record in a more conventional way, piece by piece? Were you concerned that playing longer would make for a less concentrated listening experience? one that would be too “textural” perhaps? – although the textures must be as important as the framework of musical ideas and their realization – all part of the same thing really, the performance?
BD: Yes indeed. Well, a disc is something other than a concert. When we played in Canada last year where you saw us, we were in a transition between two groups of compositions: the old ones, the new ones. In total Kartet must have something like 50 tunes or so, so of course, when we perform, we enjoy quoting our own stuff inside of new tunes for instance, or superimposing two tunes…and it is true it’s great fun at a gig, I guess it sounds like there is always some music coming from the music! When you think of a disc, it’s different. Almost all the music we perform has been recorded and published, so we don’t actually need to play the old tunes inside the new ones, and we focused on the new ones. As each composition triggers different interplay etc., I think it’s better on a record to listen to the pieces this way. Now, their duration is just the duration of the takes as there’s hardly any editing. I think we had longer takes but it’s true we’ve chosen more concentrated takes, the ones that had a feeling of improv density, not to be lost in several improv fields for instance. Anyway everything was chosen at the recording session, not after. Each track has a strong color, and as far as I’m concerned I believe the music we play is more accessible when it doesn’t lose itself in self-flattery. What I mean is that short is dense. There are so many discs with super-long solos for instance that don’t make sense to me on a disc. On a gig, fine, I love long tunes and solos that take their time…on a disc, it’s different.
HD: The notion of duration is very important, and at a concert you have more time. When I play, say, a solo, I take care not to tell several stories, only one story: I try to develop it as far as I can, and when I feel I’m done, I head to the exit. If I am not satisfied I can try one more version, but that’s it. Same for a collective shot.
TR: How did you decide on the order of the pieces?
HD: Let’s make it bounce; let’s have contrasts, let’s have a dramaturgy from the beginning to the ending; let’s have every song well featured because it arrives at the right moment.
BD: We all agreed on opening with the Monk arrangement as it represents a link to North American listeners and to the history of this music we love called jazz. This is Kartet’s first release to be distributed in North America, our fifth recording, and we’re very happy about the fact that contemporary jazz fans in North America can now more easily be introduced to our long-term work. I wrote this “Misterioso” arrangement simply as a stylistic juggling act, mixing up “Misterioso” with “Straight, No Chaser” and “Flakes” by Steve Lacy, who played an important role in supporting the band from its debut on. And we know how much Lacy was into Monk! This is also a way to say, “Welcome to the music of Kartet.” We love the tradition and we respect it a lot like any jazz fan and player, but we love to experiment with forms and shapes, and that’s what we do with our material. It’s the first old jazz tune to be recorded by the band, and it came very naturally. The rest of the track list involves a certain logic in speed, vibe and sound…who wrote the tune and all that. Having all my tunes one after the other for instance on the disc wouldn’t really work for a band like Kartet. The richness of it is the different composing fields of us three. We came up with this order quite easily, there wasn’t any kind of argument over it.
TR: European jazz has been criticized (by some American jazz conservatives) as being either unoriginal or over-intellectual, implying I guess that it tends to lack authenticity, emotion or “soul” – at worst (best?) an abstraction of jazz rather than the real thing. What would you say to that general criticism in relation to the kind of music you make? And is there something in the French creative soul that craves sophistication above all?
BD: Well, if American conservatives tend to think that “emotion” or “soul” is a US monopoly, they should visit Europe sometime! Nowadays, a Norwegian or French or Dutch player of my generation has had the same access to the history of jazz as any US player. I think nowadays there are way more creative directions in Europe than there are actually in America. Kartet is an international band – Chander is Dutch, I grew up among English and Americans and Germans etc., and the conservatives should attend our soundchecks. That’s when we play Broadway tunes. They’d be amazed how Guillaume can f… play what they call the real thing. But, for us, the real thing is old. It’s an old ear attitude. So we play our own music. Today, music can sound different. We’re free.
Sometimes some people are surprised I can play Monk or Ellington in my own way. I played duo gigs with Han Bennink recently and some listeners where surprised I played show tunes and/or Monk or Ellington tunes. It’s just that I hadn’t been doing it in public, since I go with my own music. Reminds me of a review of my solo gig in NYC last year. The guy liked the music a lot – basically I played the material from Nu-turn and a few new tunes, but he wrote he was definitely convinced when I played “Left Alone” by Mal Waldron and Billie Holliday as an encore. Reading the article, I felt like OK, now the guy admits I have a pedigree to play my own music. Seems you always have to prove that. Jazz is supposed to be a creative field but it is one of the most reactionary departments in the art world. Well, I or Kartet, we haven’t been waiting for that pedigree recognition to go our own way. Lacy encouraged us and said to me in 1990, “You will have enemies, the road is long, but you guys are moving in the right direction, because it’s your own direction, your own voice.” That phrase was enough to resolve all questioning of our situation on the jazz scene.
Sidney Bechet was interviewed back in the late 40s or so by (I think) Sim Coppens (a radio announcer in the US Army who stayed in France and started doing jazz programs for French national radio). When he was asked, “Still, you have a very special sound, a strange sound,” he replied “I play my own way.” That’s what jazz is about for us. I have more respect for a young and maybe a little weak player looking for his own language than for a player who’s been imitating the greats all of his career.
If Kartet was sounding French, maybe there would be much more of some very fast line playing, and basic jazz rhythms especially. I don’t think it sounds French at all. We are very different from our French elders. But the French cultural scene has been a context for Kartet to exist in, that’s obvious.
We’re not interested in displaying chops. There is maybe a certain elegance of touch that’s French (my piano touch is definitely based on a French approach to the piano), but ask Chander about it, though he’s Dutch (and he likes elegance that’s for sure!). Now the critiques we may read about us sometimes sound just the same as the ones that have been written about Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Steve Coleman, Ornette, Muhal…all those greats who have found their music and deserve a load of respect and admiration. We don’t invent music to satisfy critics or ‘real thing’ nostalgics. Anyway it’s been years since I’ve seen a French critic at a Kartet concert. That said, Kartet always has had a large majority of incredibly positive reviews.
GO: The idea that French musicians would claim their famous fine identity reminds me of the spirit of the 19th century, when quarrels were going on over the borders. There are conservatives everywhere anyway…One grows up in a specific cultural environment, then opens up by reacting and choosing directions. Some French jazz players may not sound as if they were made in a European mould, some may sound as mainstream as the more conservative Americans. But, even if I would not be interested in what they do, if they keep a wide view over the world, if they do their thing with honesty and don’t spit on others, I don’t see anything wrong – what’s great is diversity. Music has no frontiers!
I love jazz and I’ll always be fascinated by the great historic masters. But I knew from the beginning I had to develop my own thing with some fellow colleagues who I would share that interest with. Otherwise? Imagine if I still would find myself trying to sound like Cannonball? I’d be so far away from his genius that I’d be soured for a long time. I’m very grateful to our European jazz elders who developed original voices in the 70s after a time when everyone was trying to play like the great Americans. The practice of completely free improvisation for example was a big turning that also produced us. Hats off!
When we started off, at the end of the 80s, there were often discussions in the jazz press and among musicians about “what is jazz.” Such and such a recording was not recognized as jazz for some obscure reason, certain musicians were denigrated for not being considered able to play jazz, etc…This era is fortunately a bygone age. Younger players nowadays don’t have this matter in mind. They don’t care about the subject, it’s tended to disappear completely. Their fields of action are large, their spirits freer, they integrate naturally all kinds of influences into their music. And the general level is high. And many put together some truly relevant projects. And I believe that Kartet, by keeping a constant quality and integrity, has had something to do with this.
HD: We can all hear some new US productions that are unoriginal, aesthetically conservative, or intellectual, sophisticated, falsely soulful, unswinging…as well as Parisian ones (the rest, I don’t know…Europe is a big wild thing, you know). We are not doing a European version of jazz (that would be lower than the real thing, indeed), we are doing a music that has to do with rhythm, melody, harmony, colors, forms…and based on collective improvising, with instruments. And I am based in Paris. It’s just natural, I don’t need a name for this, but if you call it European jazz, okay.
You guys have inherited a strong tradition, which is the soundtrack of the fight of the Afro-American people for their rights. Toni Morrison’s books explain this, as well as the movies Mississippi Blues by Bertrand Tavernier or Straight, No Chaser by Charlotte Zwerin showing Monk – and many others. I have not inherited so deeply the tradition of my people – the superb classical European tradition – not really, because when I was a teenager that was conservatism. Nor contemporary classical either – it was not popular, nobody showed me the way, though I changed my mind later. Nor traditional folk musics of Europe either – same thing. That’s why I was fascinated by many influences from different places (Jimi Hendrix, Bird, Coltrane, samba, King Sunny Ade, AlHadj Haruna Ishola, Weather Report, Egberto Gismonti, Les Etoiles, Parveen Sultana, Umayalpuram Sivaraman…), and, more and more, the musicians I was working with. The good side of this is that it leads you to find some musical colors that sound like yourself, without the weight of convention. The bad side of it is that, if I had learned some repertoire directly from my childhood, the swing of that specific music would have come at the same time. This is what we miss. But, I must say, this is what interests me most when I listen to any kind of music.
TR: Where do you see Kartet’s music moving in the future? Are there any radical shifts to try out, or is it a matter of further refining your approach (which is already highly refined!)?
GO: I’m not sure about a radical shift for Kartet but we’ll keep digging on that’s for sure!
HD: No idea! But, Kartet 2007 sounds different from two years ago, new songs and new processes are going on, so I am optimistic. A radical shift would be to include electronics, which we all do with other groups…I don’t know.
BD: I use electronics mainly in Ambitronix…but Kartet has never been ‘flavour of the month’ on the scene, and I see that electronic shift option as a bit too much like an opportunistic attitude…and I’m not even sure it would work well. I think we still have a lot to do acoustically, which is our source. I’m always having daydreams about the music we could play in the future, so I’m not worried. Of course there are inspiring aesthetics around that use electronics, for instance Craig Taborn’s Junk Magic is a direction in jazz I find fantastic (I use this example as there are sax, piano, drums and…viola in that project)…but anyway Craig is a super-inspired musician, and I think Kartet remains an inspired group. Ambitronix is bringing new developments from my side, and that’s inspiring for the rest. So time will tell where the band will go.