Born in 1957. Such an amazing and versatile musician that you can´t even imagine. Unclassifiable. He is in his element in exploring spontaneous mystic patterns. He is as much at home in jazz as in contemporary and classical music.
His father, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen composed many beautiful works for him.
If you´re expecting a conventional jazz interview you shouldn´t keep reading.
Today we talk about jazz with Markus Stockhausen.
QUESTION: The saxophonist Steve Lacy said once that he fell in love with Jazz at the age of 12 listening to Duke and music on the radio in NYC, how did you fall in love with Jazz?
ANSWER: My first jazz record was Louis Armstrong, what a great player, passionate. “Potato head Blues” – I can still remember some phrases, since I tried to play them. Then my teacher lent to me a very important LP: Freddie Hubbard, “First Light”. This really got me. I put it on my Revox tape recorder and listened a hundred times, with head phones, and played along on my trumpet, trying to catch Freddie’s licks. What a musician, what a player. Twice I heard him live also, marvellous.
Q: What do you feel nowadays when you play Jazz music?
A: I play my own music, I don’t care how you call it, Jazz, or just music (better). It happens that many concerts take place in the Jazz context, but to me it is contemporary music, music of today, a mix of compositions with improvisations. Always fresh in the NOW.
Q: The trumpeter Doc Severinsen said that Jazz can only enhance the Classical side and Classical can only enhance the Jazz side.Taking into account you also play classical music and chamber music what do you think about it?
A: I learned from both worlds so much. Often I had concerts right next to each other, classical and jazz, and contemporary with my father. Sometimes it was extremely difficult, but I liked the challenge. Easier to go from the ligid to the improv than the other way round. The freedom I felt in Jazz I wanted to express in written music also, and likewise the precision and sound quality I tried and still try to express in Jazz too.
Q: Can you describe how a jazz recording session develops in your case?
A: Different each time. “Far into the stars” we recorded in 2 days. We had in mind to make a demo recording only for ourselves and for Manfred Eicher ECM, but then I liked the result so much that I decided to publish these recordings, even if they were technically not perfect. We ended up signing with Sony/Okeh records, which was a fortunate deal. ALBA was also recorded in 2 days, mixed on the 3rd day. Usually we take 2-3 takes of a piece and then decide. Most of the times you immediately have a clear feeling which take was the best. Sometimes one take is enough, a second take would just be different, but not necessarily better. Before recording we make sure that technically everything is set, especially the headphone mixes. For me it is very important that I have good headphones and I hear my sound similar to what it will be later in the mix, with some reverb. Then each note rings and has its space, its weight.
Q: In words of Booker Little – “Jazz stresses less on technical exhibitionism & much more on emotional content”. Do you think that jazz is not so demanding in terms of technique?
A: This depends very much on the player. The best ones have a superb technique and full musicality.
Q: Many of us don’t know technical features of trumpets. What type of trumpet do you prefer to use and why?
A: I prefer trumpets with a tuning bell. They are more free blowing, open in sound and you can modulate the sound better. I use lightweight bells which allow a super sensitive response. Still they project well enough. But they need more control.
So my oldest (since 1978) and mostly played trumpet is a converted Bach Large bore, 72 L regular brass bell. I just ordered a light bronze bell to see the difference.
The flugelhorn I use now mostly use is a customized Adams/Gärtner&Thul model, with a very light, full copper bell. A great instrument.
And the famous Schilke Piccolo trumpet 5P4, since 1983 I have it.
Q: Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
A: Impossible to say, we play so many different pieces. I don’t work on patterns. When I practice I just try to realise my immediate ideas, and sometimes transpose them into different keys, so I’d say spontaneous patterns: yes.
A: Both are strong players and strong characters. With Arild I shared hundreds of concerts. He has my ideal bass sound, so rich and warm.
Q: Scott LaFaro said “I don’t like to look back because the whole point in Jazz is doing it now.” – Some see you as a jazz avant-garde other as a classical musician who makes incursions into jazz music? How do you see yourself?
A: Just as a musician, expressing myself in many creative ways. No categories please.
Q: A large part of the Jazz audience felt somewhat disappointed when Miles Davis abandoned the cool style and experimented with jazz fusion and more electronic style. Do you feel misunderstood by traditional jazz lovers?
A: No, no expectations whatsoever, just gratefullness when people love my music.
Q: Excuse the observation but your music evokes me some sounds of that wonderful Blade runner soundtrack by Vangelis. Do you seek with your music to create some kind of particular environment?
A: The music comes out of my imagination, intuition, inner feeling. I play and compose what I innerly hear. Where all that comes from ? A complex question. But certainly not from my calculating mind.
Q: I have seen in your performances different percussion instruments. How much importance do you give to percussion in your music?
A: Rhythm is essential, and there are projects with even 2 drummers, like WILD LIFE, and others with no percussion, like with Tara Bouman MOVING SOUNDS, or also with Florian Weber. In duo we have so much freedom, but we are thinking of having a drummer join us sometimes. For years we had a fantastic trio with Arild andersen and Patrice Héral on drums.
Q: You have made duos with the clarinetist Tara Bouman and also with pianist Florian Weber. As they´re not too well known to a part of the audience, what can you tell us about them to know them better?
A: Tara has a very special style of improvisation, completely her own. Her background was classical and contemporary. She is definitely not a jazz player, and this is of advantage for the music we perform together, which is mostly intuitively played. Often a singel note Tara plays on her bass clarinet may touch you deeply. We mostly perform in churches where our instrumenst really sound best, and we can also walk around the public filling the whole space with sound. Our music sometimes has a mystic aspect, hard to describe.
Florian Weber has a broad background, grew up with classical and improvised music. In my eyes he is one of the world’s most outstanding pianists. His talent seems to show no limits. I feel lucky to perform together with him.
Q: What are your hobbies when you are not playing?
A: I love to be outside in the garden, in nature in general, and also to be with my family. Else my time is filled up with organisational things, they take up so much time, and travelling of course…. Sometimes I compose too, depends on the requests and personal aims.
Q: Your next project?
A: In the fall of 2019 there will be a new release: WILD LIFE SESSIONS, a 3-CD package plus DVD, quite an unusual publication, and I am happy that Sony/OKeh records will do it again. So I am hoping to present this project live again a few times. Else I am planning to compose a new orchestral piece for the WDR Funkhausorchester, the premiere will be in May 2020.
Thank you for your kindness and good luck Markus.
(Cover Photo © Hermann Willers)