Muriel Grossmann: “Music is always a reflection of what is happening in you” By Lost Angeles, Mallorca Music Magazine

Inter­view in Mal­lor­ca Music Maga­zi­ne from 5th of Decem­ber 2021

Muri­el Gross­mann: “Music is always a reflec­tion of what is hap­pe­ning in you”
By Lost Ange­les, Pho­to­graphs by José Luis Luna

Muri­el Gross­mann the saxo­pho­nist (alto, sopra­no and tenor) of Aus­tri­an ori­gin, born in Paris and resi­dent in Ibi­za sin­ce 2004, is one of the voices of Spi­ri­tu­al Jazz. Gre­at jazz spe­cia­lists such as Thom Jurek, from All about Jazz, defi­ne her as the suc­ces­sor to John Col­tra­ne. Muri­el Gross­mann Quar­tet has pre­sen­ted us with a world pre­mie­re of her latest work, cal­led Uni­on, which was publis­hed on all digi­tal plat­forms on Novem­ber 2 and is now avail­ab­le on vinyl. Uni­on is a mis­cel­la­ny of sounds pas­sing through Ali­ce Coltrane’s most spi­ri­tu­al and inti­ma­te jazz, del­ving into the deeply per­so­nal and femi­ni­ne illu­mi­na­ti­ons from Muriel’s tenor sax and emer­ging through the evo­ca­ti­on of Llo­renç Barceló’s Ham­mond organ, which with Remi­nis­cen­ces of groo­ve and sou­thern soul takes us back in time to times not lived and still lon­ged for.

How were your begin­nings in music?

At my par­ents’ house we lis­tened to music every day. My par­ents took me a lot to con­certs and to the ope­ra when I was litt­le. For me this was an adven­ture, I was fasci­na­ted by lar­ge orche­s­tras. My dad had a collec­tion of vinyls, most­ly clas­si­cal music. Music has always been pre­sent in my life. When I was 5 years old, I star­ted with the recor­der taking clas­si­cal music les­sons. The flu­te gave me a lot of free­dom for impro­vi­sa­ti­on, I remem­ber well tho­se after­noons inven­ting melodies.

At what point did you switch from recor­der and clas­si­cal music to sax and jazz?

In high school I for­med a band with my friends and at that moment I began to be fasci­na­ted by the saxo­pho­ne of one of my class­ma­tes. A few years later, in a magi­cal way, I found my first alto sax. The tone was a reve­la­ti­on and I con­clu­ded that its sound was broa­der in the sen­se of expres­si­on and clo­ser to what I wan­ted to feel. So, I began to inves­ti­ga­te the jazz gre­ats of the alto sax: Char­lie Par­ker was a sud­den impact that made me deepen in jazz, stu­dy­ing his solos while forming groups to rehe­ar­se and play live.

What was the rea­son you deci­ded to sett­le in Spain, first in Bar­ce­lo­na and then in Ibiza?

It was an inna­te desi­re to want to live in a sun­ny cli­ma­te by the sea, perhaps becau­se my par­ents always went to Ita­ly or Spain on our vaca­ti­ons. I remem­ber drea­ming about this idea for years until I was able to turn it into rea­li­ty. At that time, I was working a lot in Vien­na, play­ing in many dif­fe­rent bands, jazz, funk, world music. For me this was won­der­ful, but over the years, other things star­ted to be important as well. I always wan­ted to found my own group, com­po­se, record my music … and I ima­gi­ned living near the sea, some­whe­re with a lot of sun. All of the­se things and many more gra­du­al­ly began to push me in this direc­tion. I made the decisi­on, I left ever­ything in Vien­na and went to the South. It was an adven­ture in order to immer­se mys­elf in music and the path took me to Bar­ce­lo­na, ​​a city that fasci­na­ted me, it’s way of living was so dif­fe­rent, rela­xed, warm, a lot of street life, care­free … At that time, I visi­ted Ibi­za one sum­mer and I step­ped in a con­cert at the Tea­tro Perey­ra. They hired me for the fol­lowing sea­son and that is how I stay­ed on the island, fasci­na­ted by its natu­re, its spar­k­ling sea and its mul­ti­cul­tu­ral environment.

Have you encoun­te­red many dif­fi­cul­ties as a woman when car­ry­ing out your pro­fes­si­on and pas­si­on for music?

I have not encoun­te­red much dif­fi­cul­ty becau­se of being a woman, but I know women who had pro­blems, also women who con­ti­nue to have the­se pro­blems, this is some­thing that can­not be exp­lai­ned logi­cal­ly, in the time that we live in, but if we all work tog­e­ther to sol­ve it, I am more than con­vin­ced that we are going to achie­ve a more just world, whe­re diver­si­ty and equa­li­ty will be appre­cia­ted and respec­ted. We are in this tog­e­ther, every step we take now is a step towards this future.In my case, I always fol­low my pas­si­on and climb the moun­tains if they pre­sent them­sel­ves. I am not afraid, becau­se I know my inten­ti­on well.

And as a mother?

Being a mother has hel­ped me a lot to focus on my music, music that flows natu­ral­ly. You find yourself with less time and then you focus more. I thank my child­ren for being on this path with me, and luck­i­ly, I have a lot of time for them. My child­ren are always a gre­at inspi­ra­ti­on to me. 

From a rea­listic point of view, do you con­si­der that women are cur­r­ent­ly valued for their qua­li­ty as pro­fes­sio­nals or are the­re still obstacles?

Well, the sta­tis­tics and the experts say that the­re is still a lot of dif­fe­rence in the eco­no­mic sen­se and how work is valued, but I think the dif­fe­ren­ces are get­ting smal­ler and smal­ler. It is very important for huma­ni­ty to learn from the per­spec­ti­ve of women, to see things from that ang­le. We have many bril­li­ant women in our histo­ry and today the­re are many artists in all are­as. And I’d like to take one step more, see ever­yo­ne as human, gen­der is not important, only values ​​and intentions.

Muri­el Gross­man is a woman com­mit­ted to her envi­ron­ment, she has been a vege­ta­ri­an sin­ce her ear­ly child­hood and an envi­ron­men­ta­list. Not only as an ideo­lo­gy, but as a way of life. How does your envi­ron­men­tal com­mit­ment influ­ence your music?

I try to live by the gol­den agree­ments: “Think, say and do to others what you want them to think, say and do to you.” We are intrinsi­cal­ly con­nec­ted with ever­ything and ever­yo­ne, that is why I think that we must take care of our envi­ron­ment. It is some­thing that ever­yo­ne can expe­ri­ence, you do not have to be very envi­ron­men­ta­list, it is com­mon sen­se. You just have to lea­ve your gar­ba­ge in your gar­den or at your ent­ran­ce and see if it magi­cal­ly disap­pears. If not, then you see that you have to start acting! The first thing is to con­su­me less and just enough and buy things awa­re of their envi­ron­men­tal impact and recy­cle and live con­scious­ly. I always told my child­ren when they were litt­le: “The­re is only one pla­net Earth and this is our home, the land of the ent­i­re gre­at fami­ly of living bein­gs and we have to take care of it.” When com­po­sing, I use my con­cerns and reflec­tions. The Album Earth Tones (2015) is an examp­le of com­po­sing for our com­mon home, Mother Earth. An album that I have com­po­sed with the inten­ti­on of making us more awa­re of her needs.

 

Your latest work Uni­on, which you have recent­ly pre­sen­ted at the Jazz Point Ibi­za 2021, is a return to the essence of the most spi­ri­tu­al jazz and of evo­ca­ti­on. Do you think that the cur­rent world situa­ti­on has influ­en­ced this return or trans­for­ma­ti­on towards spirituality?

Music is always a reflec­tion of what is hap­pe­ning in you, in con­nec­tion with the envi­ron­ment and the world. I think that music can help peop­le see things dif­fer­ent­ly, it can inspi­re and it can help peop­le sur­vi­ve in chal­len­ging situa­tions. For me it is very important to have a good inten­ti­on making music, I always wan­ted to con­tri­bu­te some­thing posi­ti­ve, some­thing that makes us stron­ger and more vital, some­thing that encou­ra­ges us to look wit­hin our­sel­ves, to find what real­ly pushes us to live. My last two albums, Quiet Earth (2020) and Uni­on (2021), which have been released in the­se trou­bled times, are a decla­ra­ti­on of good inten­ti­ons, they are the con­ti­nua­tion of a thought and sta­te of mind that has been deve­lo­ping sin­ce the album Birth Of The Mys­te­ry (2010). Uni­on (2021) is a con­ti­nui­ty of reflec­tions on mys­elf and my clo­sest envi­ron­ment, each album repres­ents some­thing that I wan­ted to do musi­cal­ly at that time. My music beca­me more spi­ri­tu­al with the album Earth Tones (2015) and I think that direc­tion has taken shape with the album Gol­den Rule (2018). This his­to­ri­cal moment has been cru­cial to find both the sound of the group, and to express it individually.

Could you tell me a bit about the crea­ti­ve pro­cess of the Muri­el Gross­mann Quar­tet, both in Uni­on and in general?

The album Uni­on was a bit dif­fe­rent from the other albums in the fact that it was not plan­ned for release. I wan­ted to record the band live, but it was impos­si­ble, so while we were tou­ring Mal­lor­ca, I arran­ged a date at a local stu­dio and we basi­cal­ly recor­ded the set that we play­ed live. I always loved this record­ing, but I thought it would stick with the rest of my files. The impact of the world situa­ti­on made me deci­de to publish the record­ing. On other albums the pro­cess of making the album is always simi­lar. I have many works com­po­sed as a unit of dif­fe­rent pie­ces, which are lin­ked to each other, as a suite. Some­ti­mes I wri­te the parts of each of the instru­ments direct­ly on paper, other times I use the pia­no to com­po­se, many times I do ever­ything with the saxo­pho­ne. It is a mat­ter of lis­tening to the melo­dies, the songs and put­ting it in the con­text of the group that I have and the instru­ments that I am going to use. More or less I always know when I’m going to play sopra­no, alto or tenor. Then we get tog­e­ther to review the songs, we try dif­fe­rent arran­ge­ments, ways of inter­pre­ting and when we are satis­fied, we start record­ing. A pro­cess that always con­ti­nues. Like­wi­se, when I do the com­po­si­ti­ons, I never sit on the pia­no and say “now I am going to com­po­se”, it is some­thing that just hap­pens, like a call. When it comes to the names of the albums or songs, it is the same, they come out natu­ral­ly accord­ing to the reflec­tion and inten­ti­on that I have. The choice of the name Uni­on expres­ses that we are all always united and what real­ly con­nects us is not the glo­bal situa­ti­on, but our deepest values ​​(love, respect, gene­ro­si­ty, pati­ence …), which are the vir­tu­es that we most appre­cia­te and value if pre­sen­ted to us. In the record­ing you can lis­ten to my cur­rent quar­tet which is made up of the gre­at gui­ta­rist Rado­mir Milo­j­ko­vic, with whom I have worked hand in hand for almost 20 years, the fan­tastic Llo­renç Bar­celó on the Ham­mond organ and “the groo­ve machi­ne” Uros Sta­men­ko­vic. I am very for­tu­n­a­te to have by my side the­se fan­tastic musi­ci­ans who always respect and sup­port me. We have been play­ing and working tog­e­ther for so many years that we have been able to crea­te our own sound, the essence of our group that is expres­sed in our music.

How is the recep­ti­on at the dif­fe­rent fes­ti­vals whe­re you have pre­sen­ted it?

Our tours and con­certs weren’t always rela­ted to the release of a new album. The last tour befo­re the pan­de­mic was through nort­hern Euro­pean coun­tries. Now, litt­le by litt­le, we are reco­vering the dates of the lost con­certs and tours. In Janu­a­ry 2022 we have con­certs in Fran­ce, Bel­gi­um, Aus­tria, Hol­land… I hope that when the cur­rent situa­ti­on impro­ves we will go back to giving inter­na­tio­nal con­certs and tours. They await us, espe­cial­ly in Eng­land and the United States.

Your album covers have caught my atten­ti­on. They are very well selec­ted and visual­ly show what we are going to find bet­ween the vinyl groo­ves. Who is or who are the artists to whom you ent­rust this important part, which is the image of your work?

I try to cover various are­as wit­hin the album pro­duc­tion. My album covers are no excep­ti­on. It is when I release music through my record label that I have all the inde­pen­dence I need to crea­te free­ly, and I always use the pain­tings made by mys­elf and my child­ren. We like to paint a lot and it see­med like a very good idea becau­se they repre­sent the music of the albums well. Later, when I release albums with other labels like RR GEMS Records or Jazz­man Records, they respect our ide­as about how we want to repre­sent our music very well, they advi­se us and give us good ide­as and in the end we always come to a good con­clu­si­on all tog­e­ther. When we release the records in vinyl for­mat for RR GEMS Records, they pre­fer to use pho­tos for the covers. The most important thing is that we are all satisfied.

 What pro­jects are you cur­r­ent­ly invol­ved in?

I am play­ing in dif­fe­rent pro­jects. One is from the ear­ly six­ties, soul jazz, one is from music of Les­ter Young and I’m also play­ing a lot with the trio and duo. I am par­ti­ci­pa­ting with the Big Band Ciutat d’Ei­vis­sa and I also play the bari­to­ne with the band of the trom­bo­nist and arran­ger Vicent Tur, which is cal­led “Spea­king of Sounds”, whe­re we are play­ing ori­gi­nal arran­ge­ments. At the moment we are pre­pa­ring some vide­os of some of my tunes and we are working on the next album that will come out next year.

How do you see the cur­rent jazz sce­ne world­wi­de? And the local Balea­ric sce­ne? Could you high­light an artist?

The jazz sce­ne was very diver­se and vibrant at all times in histo­ry, and the word jazz repres­ents music in a very broad sen­se. Only New York has like 3 or 4 dif­fe­rent jazz sce­nes, one that is more stan­dard, ano­t­her more avant-gar­de, ano­t­her that is very much about using ele­ments of cur­rent music like hip hop, and the­re are others that I can’t even descri­be, but like ever­ything, each of the­se sce­nes are divi­ded into several sub­groups. Apart from New York, in the United Sta­tes the­re are pla­ces like Los Ange­les, New Orleans or Chi­ca­go that also have a power­ful jazz sce­ne. His­to­ri­cal­ly Phil­adel­phia and Detroit too, many gre­at jazz musi­ci­ans are from pre­cise­ly the­se pla­ces. And in Euro­pe, ano­t­her style of jazz is play­ed, col­lo­quial­ly cal­led Euro­pean Jazz. Ber­lin and Paris con­ti­nue as the main sce­nes of the euro-jazz, without for­get­ting the Nor­dic jazz sce­ne that has also left its mark.

At the local level, on the Balea­ric Islands we always had good musi­ci­ans or bands like the pia­nists Mar­co Mez­qui­da or Agus­tí Fernán­dez. Now the­re are also many good musi­ci­ans who con­quer the world jazz sce­ne such as the dou­ble bass play­er Pere Bujo­sa, the trumpet play­er Pere Navar­ro, the talen­ted gui­ta­rist Omar Alcai­de, the young talent Andrés Coll on vibra­pho­ne and many more. The insti­tu­ti­ons that deal with cul­tu­re also help a lot. The dedi­ca­ti­on, per­sis­tence and faith of peop­le like Pep Tur, Ibi­za cul­tu­re coun­cilor, Xavier Bar­celó and the team of the Insti­tut d’Estudis Balea­rics, Miquel Cos­ta, the cul­tu­re direc­tor of the Ibi­za Coun­cil and many more. Then the­re are pla­ces whe­re jazz is play­ed, the­re are fes­ti­vals, radio pro­grams, por­tals like yours, dedi­ca­ted to jazz, the­re are some excel­lent pho­to­graph­ers like José Luis Luna or Fer­rán Perey­ra who don’t lose a beat in the con­certs taking some incredi­ble pho­tos, some of them I have used for covers or insi­de of my records. Jazz is a gen­re that has a huge fol­lowing and also espe­cial­ly vinyl lis­teners who are very appre­cia­ti­ve and enthu­si­astic about it.

We know that John Col­tra­ne is for you one of the most important musi­ci­ans that huma­ni­ty has ever known. Bes­i­des him, what other musi­ci­ans have influ­en­ced you?

Bes­i­des John Col­tra­ne the­re are many musi­ci­ans who have inspi­red me: Ornet­te Cole­man, Ali­ce Col­tra­ne, Les­ter Young, Illi­nois Jac­quet, Char­lie Par­ker, Son­ny Rol­lins, Can­non­ball Adder­ley, Pha­ro­ah San­ders, Tony Mala­by, Bach… and the list goes on forever.

Can you name me 10 albums that have mar­ked you on a per­so­nal level?

The­re are a lot of good records. It is very dif­fi­cult to choo­se five, ten or twen­ty records, espe­cial­ly knowing that we always go through dif­fe­rent moments in life whe­re we lis­ten to one thing more than ano­t­her, or we just dis­co­ver new things. But I will make a list whe­re I am going to choo­se some albums that were and con­ti­nue to be essen­ti­al for me:

A Love Supre­me — John Col­tra­ne
Jour­ney in Satchi­danan­da — Ali­ce Coltrane
Com­ple­te Savoy Mas­ters — Char­lie Parker
Kind Of Blue — Miles Davis
Some­thing Else – Can­non­ball Adderley
A Night At The Vil­la­ge Van­guard — Son­ny Rollins
The Shape Of Jazz To Come — Ornet­te Coleman
Out To Lunch — Eric Dol­phy
Les­ter Young Trio — Les­ter Young
Go Power — Illi­nois Jacquet
Heji­ra — Joni Mit­chell
Electric Lady­land — Jimi Hen­drix
Oumou — Oumou Sang­a­re
Faso Denou – Fara­fi­na

by Lost Ange­les, Psy­cho Dj. Lost in a sound maze that I don’t want to get out of …
Jose Luis Luna, Pho­to­gra­pher of the Spa­nish and local music sce­ne sin­ce 2010. A con­tri­bu­tor to natio­nal fes­ti­vals and maga­zi­nes, he has exhi­bi­ted in various Spa­nish cities and abroad. Pho­to­gra­pher in Mal­lor­ca Music Magazine.

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