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Visionary Trumpet

SIMON DUFF:  Goran Kajfes is a composer, trumpet player, performer and producer. Based in Sweden he grew up in a family of musicians and artists. He has performed with José Gonzales, Stina Nordenstam, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Lester Bowie, The Soundrack of our Lives and many others. Last year he was appointed Artist in Residence at Stockholm Jazz Festival. He was given the honour of composing and performing the opening ceremony of Stockholm Museum of Modern Art in 2006. He has written music to several movies and produced a number of albums including "Clint" by Oddjob that was named Jazz Album of the Year by Sunday Times in the UK 2010. 

His new album X/Y released on Headspin records is an ambitious project. A two CD album he exposes two very different sides of his music persona. A courageous modern jazz line up makes up the work. Intense driving guitars, reminiscent of early PIL records and the work of Keith Levene, melodic flutes, pulsing bass and drums, winding around sumptuous trumpet lines, all combined with strong Indian and Eastern influences, on one, then a beautiful haunting minimal ambient abstract approach fusing electronics and melodic trumpet on another. The album is packaged as an art book format, with one half of the book dedicated to each CD and featuring art created specifically for the project. As the most eclectic side of this endeavour, the art for "X" was created by a number of visual artists using a variety of techniques including collage, photography, ink on paper, and coffee on linen canvas, each illustrating one composition. Reflecting the more introspective nature of "Y" all the visual aspects were created by photographer and artist Carl Kleiner, whose pictures of alien instruments are as fascinating as the music itself. X/Y is already one of my albums of the year.

SD: You studied at the Conservatory in Copenhagen during the 1990s. What aspect of music and trumpet did you study and what did you learn?

GK: I studied improvisation, composing and arranging. I learned a lot about the roots of jazz. Denmark is pretty traditional in that aspect which was good for me back then but also the reason that I moved back to Sweden. Since then the music climate has actually changed a bit in Denmark.

SD: X/Y is a double album. "X" is out going, band orientated and extrovert. "Y" is inward looking, electronic, ambient, quite abstract and minimal. How did you approach the intention when writing for both CDs? Which do you find easier and which do you find harder to write?

GK: I was actually just doing one album, "X", from the start but as it evolved I realised that my playing the trumpet didn´t have the leading role but more myself as an arranger and producer for this big ensemble, the Subtropic Arkestra. Everybody played great and I didn´t want to squeeze in a trumpet solo just for the sake of it. So I ended up with the idea that I should make another album with the trumpet in focus so there "Y" was born.  David Österberg and me had actually earlier on been talking about doing an album based on trumpet and modular synthesizers so now we found the natural spot for it. Everything became really easy when I realised that I could do two albums - the contrast and relation between the two helped me reach a new level in my music.

SD: I first heard the album on BBC Radio 3's Late Junction programme. They were playing the wonderful minimal ambient trumpet electronic "Perfect Temperature for Leaving Home Part 3" from "Y". It is perfect for a David Lynch movie. I love the trumpet melody, drums, tempo and whistling doubling with the trumpet. Can you talk about the work and how you went about writing and recording that with David Österberg?

GK: In what you describe it sounds like part 3. This record, "Y" was made in two weeks and we were thinking more in pictures and abstract places than traditional composing. We set up different scenarios with instruments in the recording room and spent very little time editing to keep it alive. This is music based on coincidences (you can´t reproduce the same thing twice on modular synths) and my trumpet improvisation.

SD: For the "X" CD, that you produced, how did you work with musicians and engineers and can you talk about the recording and mixing process. How do you like to work in the recording studio?

GK: I prepared the music in parts instead of a finished form. I like to make the final arrangements in the studio as we are about to record. This makes the recording session more dynamic and the musicians open to whatever happens in the moment, instead of following a given structure.

I had some clear ideas about the instrumentation. I wanted to use a lot of my favourite organ, The Crumar, and we also included the Moog for basslines to get a more unconventional jazz ensemble sound. And I love flutes so there is a lot of that in the album.

In the mix, Johan Lindström, and me my sound engineer, spent some time to get a dirty sound (a little bit like you having dust on your vinyl needle). We were mixing down to a small tape recorder and all the lights were peaking red but as long as we thought it sounded good we let it go. I am not looking for a classic retro sound but more trying to get a sound that matches the music and reinforces the core of it.

SD: On the "X" CD I like the way on some of the tracks (Solar Still/Kankani Boulila) you fuse Indian and Eastern influences. Can you talk about this and how you have been influenced by this culture and music?

GK: I met Majid Bekkas, who is singing and playing oud on the "X" album, in the Rabat Jazz Festival in Morooco  8 years ago. I deeply enjoyed his desert blues style and I realised that my own love for repetitive trance-like music actually has its origin in traditional gnawa music. So it all felt very natural. Later on I met Suranjana Ghosh, something as rare as a female tabla player, through a friend and I ended up thinking that I would like to do my own mix of  these influences. All this is tied together with my Balkan roots (my parents emigrated from former Yugoslavia).

SD: Do you write your trumpet scores down on paper or computer? Which computer programmes do you like/use?

GK: I actually prefer writing it down on paper but sometimes I use Sibelius.

SD: How much trumpet practice do you do or aim to do and how do approach that?

GK: I practice about one hour every night when my family has gone to sleep. I need some peace and quiet and also during daytime I am busy working in the studio with different kinds of things.

SD: Your father is a jazz pianist. What do you think you have learnt from him as a musician?

GK: When I was young, I learnt a lot from just listening to him practice everyday and also we played a lot of modern classical music and jazz together. After leaving home he was always giving me good advice about the art of improvising. So I owe him a lot. Thanks Dad!

SD: Who, what and why are you current musical and artistic influences?

GK: I listened a lot to musicians from Mali (Boubacar Traoré is a favourite), Panda Bear and La Monte Young. In a mash-up of psychedelic, ethnic and minimalist music is where you will find me right now. 

SD: When you compose music what are the things you are looking for? What priorities do you set yourself?

GK: I have worked a lot with repetitive patterns trying to make these flow instead of making the music static. On "X" I was also inspired by Bollywood music where the combinations of instruments can be almost weird and that gives the music a non-conventional sound. And last but not least I let my Balkan background colour my melodies more than before.  On "Y" I tried to find new musical environments where my trumpet playing has not been before. In a swamp or on an unknown planet for instance.

SD: You have created a beautiful book and artwork for the album.  Can you talk about the Y photographs by Carl Kleiner? Can you tell me how you approached commissioning and choosing the artwork for X and how both artworks for Y and X relate to the music?

GK: For "X" I sent one song to each artist. Some of the artwork was made after they heard my music and some was chosen from the artists collection. I have a personal connection to all the artists, which was important for me.  For instance Roger Andersson did my first cover, I met Ulf Rollof in Mexico when I was touring with my band and he showed us around Mexico City, I learned to know Moki Cherry when I was doing a Don Cherry memorial concert in Italy with Neneh and Eagle Eye Cherry. The song "Solidarity" on the record is dedicated to Moki who sadly passed away recently. Arijana is my sister.

On "Y" Carl Kleiner, who my wife actually worked with on another project, formed some clear visual ideas when he heard the musical sketches.  His pictures influenced us and we started seeing ourselves as a trio. We had a good interaction between the pictures and the music. I really liked his mechanic, abstract beauty in the pictures where you almost can "see" the sound of it. He deconstructed the trumpet and I could feel I was trying to do the same playing it. I actually found all those parts and trumpet prototypes, used in the art, in an old brass instrument store and gave it to him.

SD: Can you tell me about the session work you do and some of your most memorable sessions and how this then feeds into your composition?

GK: I really enjoy meeting new producers with exciting ideas, this gives me a wider perspective when I do my own music. There are many memorable moments in different ways - one is when I arranged horns for a song with my good friend, the saxophone player Per "Ruskträsk" Johansson. Stevie Wonder was playing the harmonica on it and we were matching our horns with his solo. 

SD: Can you tell me how you approach improvisation in your trumpet playing?

GK: It is important for me to have a relaxed but focused attitude when I play. And have an open mind - sometimes the trumpet wants something else than your head and then you have to let go -otherwise you´re toast.

SD: What are you working on at the moment and what are your future challenges?

GK: Right now I am touring and playing with my band, the Subtropic Arkestra. I am also working on a more interactive installation kind of performance version of Y.  I have also just finished working on the music for a movie documentary, currently working on music for a dance performance and in the making of a new album with my other band Oddjob.

 

 

 

 

www.headspinrecordings.com

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