It’s not every day you get a chance to rub elbows with royalty.
Actually, Jens Lindemann is not quite getting ready to move into more palatial surroundings, but the Canadian trumpeter, who is one of the main draws at this year’s Eilat Chamber Music Festival (February 2 to 7), did recently receive a most prestigious award.
On December 29 His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced that 48-year-old Lindemann has been appointed Member of the Order of Canada “for his skill as a world-renowned trumpet soloist and for his support of Canadian musicians and music students.”
“It is one of the most incredible things that have ever happened to me,” Lindemann enthuses. “It’s not just an accolade, it’s more of an affirmation of everything you’ve done with your life to date. Along that journey, you have a tremendous amount of introspection and looking back – especially over the past two weeks since the announcement was made. You sort of take stock of everything you’ve done and everyone who’s helped you along the way. It’s a very humbling experience to get something like this.”
Let’s hope Lindemann hasn’t become too humble and retiring, as he is due to blow his horn – actually, horns – at one of the most intriguing concerts in the festival lineup, the Brassfire show, which will take place on February 5 (at 11 p.m.). For the occasion, Lidemann will be joined by three of our most creative jazz artists – Katia Toobool on piano, Asaf Hachimi on bass and Gilad Dobrecky on percussion and drums. The festival program describes the show as “an unforgettable evening of virtuosity featuring the sounds and styles of J.S. Bach, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Dizzy Gillespie, Sting and more!” That’s quite a genre and style swathe, and Lindemann suggests that his multifarious cultural hinterland fuels an eclectic approach to life and to his craft.
“My own musical and cultural background is as checkered and diverse as music itself,” he notes. “I was born in Germany, but I grew up in Canada and I live in the US. We have also discovered that we are actually originally Polish Jews. My mother was in the war in the 1940s, and they had to leave everything behind [in Germany]. They were refugees. My parents are starting to get older, and a couple of years ago we started to go on a quest to discover things,” he recounts.
Lindemann says that it all ties in neatly with his career choice.
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“The reason I fell into music is because music is also one of those things that transcend culture and language, especially instrumental music. My own background feels very much like the way I play music,” he says.
That varied backdrop is certainly evident in Lindemann’s choice of repertoire for his Eilat gig, so it begs a question about the trumpeter’s musical allegiances. Where does his heart truly lie? He gained a prestigious classical music education at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and McGill University in Montreal and has been performing and recording a broad range of material for the last quarter of a century.
“The factual answer is that my upbringing was entirely classical,” he notes. “But the beauty of growing up in my area of western Canada is that I had fantastic band of directors early on in my career who were very comfortable in both classical music and jazz. So right from the beginning, I played in orchestras, I played in a jazz band, combos, in wind ensembles, so I had a wide variety of music that I was playing from the minute I started. So my formal education was all classical, but the [improvisational] side of my playing has always existed and I have always fostered it.”
The general consensus about classical music and jazz is that the former requires the player to perform the score as is – albeit with a certain amount of personal input in terms of inflexion and color – while the latter is a definitively flexible field of musical endeavor. Lindemann has no truck with that mindset.
“I firmly believe that’s a fallacy that has been foisted on all of us all around the world, regardless of where we grow up, based on people who decide they are going to categorize styles of music,” he declares, adding that for the latter, it is all about the business bottom line rather than furthering creative exploits.
“Let’s not forget, the only reason musical categories ever existed to begin with, and why they were given names, is that they could sell records. This whole notion of you were one thing or another never existed until commercialism got in the way,” he says.
Still, there is one thing that can be universally delineated.
“The reality is that the only thing that should be unified regardless of any style you play is technique,” says Lindemann. “That’s where, I think, that people decide early on that they have to be one thing or another. In fact, that’s not true at all. What you have to try to do is to be expert at your instrument and get more and more comfortable trying to make it an extension of your imagination.
When you can accomplish that, then you can start to completely blur the lines of stylistic approach. That has nothing to do with the instrument. It has everything to do with how you allow your brain to evolve musically.”
Lindemann notes that classical musicians, prior to the 19th century, were actually expected to improvise as a standard requirement. The trumpeter is keen to point out, however, that today’s improvisers need to be wary of taking things too far.
“Knowing people who are firmly ensconced in the jazz world, what can often be lost there is an eye on the technique of playing one’s instrument because there is such an obsession with trying to find a new idea to present, that sometimes it’s dangerous, especially for younger players,” he warns.
Lindemann has been around for a while, and there doesn’t appear to be much risk of his going overboard, breadth of program notwithstanding.”For tickets and more information about the Eilat Chamber Music Festival: (08) 644-4816; (08) 637- 7036; *9066; and www.eilat-festival.co.il
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