Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Real Bruno Leicht Stands Up.

One outcome of stumbling onto this weird mess has been a cool musician discovery. Herr Leicht is an impressive trumpet player with a keen musical mind. Another outcome has been the discovery of courage and decency among fellow blog and site proprietors who stood up for Herr Leicht throughout. Allow me to personally thank Howard Mandel, Doug Ramsey, and Ted Gioia for doing the right thing.


1.What brought you to music?  The musical genes in my family, I suppose. My parents went to concerts with me, mostly classical and opera, since I was a little boy. I started to sing first. When I was three years old, I knew all the kindergarten-lieder by heart. We also had a record player, and I played some very thin, unbreakable plastic 7" singles with children songs over and over again. (My love to vinyl is yet unbroken since then.) Prokoviev's "Peter and the Wolf" (recited by 17-year old Romy Schneider, and conducted by Herbert von Karajan) with the various instruments and "Mein Freund Mozart" (an introduction to the composer for children) belonged to my favorite LP's. I heard my first jazz in various television series, Disney's "Jungle Book", and with the age of 13, I started to listen to Glenn Miller. My parents had the soundtrack of "The Glenn Miller Story" in their collection, and so I was hooked to jazz from then on. I listened a lot to jazz in the radio, and I attended concerts, and I even wrote reviews on these jazz concerts in one of the local newspapers. 


2.Describe your role models, muses and mentors. My very first role models, I would rather call them "idols", were the great trumpeters of the swing era: Harry James, Roy Eldridge or Cootie Williams; but I realized soon that it made no sense to "copy" them, and that there were others like Dizzy, Miles and Fats who influenced me a lot more later on. My "muses"? -- Charlie Parker ... Err, well, that's hard to explain. There are so many: Certain films, books or nature in general, some of my girlfriends, even postcards inspired me to write music. It depends as well a whole lot on the musicians of the bands I'm writing for. I would even dare to say, that I'm lost in the woods when I don't have a working band. Really, to write music only for the drawer is not my cup of tea. I must hear what I wrote.


My mentors today are the musicians I'm listening to in the first place. In my early days as a student, several teachers made a strong impact on me, people like Enrico Rava, Manfred Schoof, Matthias Rüegg, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Dave Liebman, Adam Nussbaum, Alexander von Schlippenbach, or Lee Konitz, whom I have all met at various jazz workshops or at the Kölner Musikhochschule. It sounds strange, but listening to saxophonists inspired me more than playing the records of trumpeters. I dig Sonny Rollins and Steve Lacy, but I also love Stan Getz and Paul Desmond. Their rhythmical and melodic concepts fitted best to my way of playing the trumpet. Booker Little is my all time favorite trumpeter. I could listen to him the whole day, and not only because he has the same initials! As a European I have to mention all the classical composers from Monteverdi to Mozart and Mahler, from Bach to Bartok, from Beethoven, Schubert to Brahms, from Schönberg, Webern, or Berg to Ives, Cage and Stockhausen -- I love them all, and they influenced my musical language although I'm a jazz musician. The ancient composers show you how to write a good melody, disregarding the "style" you're composing in, be it harmonic or free. I love to listen to vocalists, if classical or jazz. 


3. Describe your community of colleagues and audiences. You can meet folks of all ages at our concerts, family and friends, my youngest students with their parents or my friends from the neighborhood. Since I don't belong to an exclusive community of musicians, I'm inviting all colleagues who might be interested to listen to our music. Then they will come by, or not. Most musicians are too busy with their own projects, and so we meet more at occasional jam sessions here in Cologne or in Berlin. 


4.What are the important elements you apply to your personal approach to performance, repertoire and composition? I appreciate clearly audible and friendly announcements, paired with a little humor and the respectful introduction of the band members. The audience must be entertained. The repertoire should contain a variety of moods and tempos. I hate all-up-tempo sets. There should be a ballad included. I also find it important to play tunes in different and / or "unusual" keys and rhythms. I don't want to bore the audience. Since I have several bands, the repertoire varies from classic standards to quite atonal "freeprovistations". You could call me a multi-stylist. Many hearts are beating and at least "two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast." But calling me a musical chameleon would be a little too harsh. I always try to play as deep and expressively as possible. 


It's unpredictable where my improvisations lead me to, and there aren't many routines I can depend on. I hardly practice licks or patterns, just the usual major and minor scales and chord progressions. I practice to a lot of recordings, but not to play-alongs or "music minus one" records. If there is a special harmonic problem, I accompany myself at the piano with the left hand and play the particular phrase or chord on the trumpet with my right hand. I try to learn music by heart as soon and as quick as possible. 


5.What role does teaching have in your work? Teaching not too seldom helps me to solve my own problems with the trumpet. I've learned a lot myself through teaching others. There's an economic aspect too: The kid-students of today are the audiences of tomorrow. As a jazz musician one could hardly make a living without teaching, which is the other, the plain monetary side of the coin.

 6. How have changes in the economy impacted your work? It's more or less the same as it was five or ten years ago. If I'd decide to send around more demo-CD's I could have more gigs. It simply depends on how actively you're promoting yourself. They won't call you. You have to call them. 


7. If you perform beyond your region or overseas, how has that changed over time? You would find me most of the time in Berlin when I'm not playing in Cologne. When I had my septet, I travelled quite a lot, did a lot of broadcasts and concerts in Germany and various other countries. The business is tougher today as it was 20 years ago. But I have my working groups and my solo projects at art galleries which keep me busy. It's still important to be around where other musicians meet. It's also recommended to send demos to clubs or local radio stations. But the "mafia" is everywhere, that's true too.


8.How has technology and changes in the way music circulates impacted your work? The digitalization has not yet arrived at my place, except that I can burn CD's for my students. I'm still writing music at the piano, and I don't use notation programs. I write with pencil, correct with eraser, then I transcribe the single parts or the whole scores for the particular instruments. Since I can send mp3's today, it would be easier to show others what I'm doing. But I still believe in snail mail and some good old "hardware" like a nice CD cover the recipient could touch.

  9. Describe your current and potential future projects and collaborations along with things you would like to do. A potential future project could be my first CD. A current project are some concerts with my quartets "The Madhattan Four" (harmonic jazz, standards and own compositions) and "The Free Lights" (free improvised jazz, own compositions) in September.

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