INTERVIEW WITH BARBARA DENNERLEIN: BAKU CONCERT
Barbara, tell us about your childhood. How it came out that you began to play such a rare instrument like organ?
My grandfather always wanted me to learn to play organ. He liked the instrument very much. And one day he gave me a small harpsichord. And this was the beginning.
When did your professional career begin and you understand that you can give concerts?
The first time when I began to visit an organ teacher I was at the age of 11. During half a year I managed to learn much. When I was 13, I gave my first concert. However, my professional career began at the age 15 when I began to give permanent concerts together with a drummer in one of Munich’s club. That happened when I once saw a famous pianist on TV. I was able to get acquainted with him. Later on he recommended me to that jazz club. Twice a year I gave there concerts. After that I understood that I could improve on my own without the help of a tutor.
What about the beginning of your carrier development? How did it happen and with which famous musicians you performed?
I have given many concerts and managed to issue a number of CDs. I was lucky to perform with the best American musicians. For instance, with the drummer Dennis Chambers, the saxophonist Bob Berg, who unfortunately is no more, with the trumpeter Randy Brecker. Or for example, I recorded quite interesting project with the trumpeter Roy Hargrove. For a long time I performed with Friedrich Gunter, he is a very famous pianist who plays Mozart. We gave mutual concert with Joe Zavinul and philharmonic orchestra. It was wonderful time of communication with interesting musicians for me, while I acquired big experience.
We also gave a concert with a legendary bandmaster Peter Herberts. He asked me whether I want to record with his big band. Further we recorded and the album consisted of my and Charlie Parkers’ compositions. From that time I fell in love with bebop.
The moment when I managed to finance my own album was very important for me. In 1985, I already opened a record company and launched my first project. Then, it was a quite confident step in my life. For the album we recorded a quintet of three wind-instruments, a trumpeter, and am organ. It was the time, when I nearly finished the school. I even wanted to enter the medical university. But I was taken into a tour, then performances and concerts began. The concerts were broadcasted and it became a sensation that a little girl performs on such a rare instrument. Very few people could play organ at those times. May be that fact influenced my decision.
When your first CD was issued? And how many CDs do you have?
It was issued in 1983, when I was 18. A live duet with an English drummer. Of course, it wasn’t CD, while that time there were records. Further, there were issued about 23 albums of mine, among which there are works with famous musicians.
The concert with philharmonic orchestra that played my compositions mostly remained in my memory. There is a collection of three discs.
Who do you orient to, maybe on Jimmy Smith or another musician?
No, I listened to many musicians, and have no one to whom I was oriented. And I never said: “Oh yeah, it is my hero!” I liked Jimmy Migrif, he is closer to me.
One can feel classical foundation in the way you play…
I’m glad to hear that. But I’ve always played and learned only jazz. I had a teacher with whom I learned children’s melodies.
Don’t you have higher education?
No, I’m self-educated.
Barbara, it seems that everything in your carrier went smoothly, without difficulties. Were there moments when you wanted to leave the instrument and engage in something different?
No, no, never. I love this sound and I never thought of changing this sound to other one. I never thought what would happen. I just continued to work and play, and worked on myself. Everything has established naturally and smoothly from the childhood. And now I continue to live this way, as it is defined by the fate.
Were there difficult periods in your life?
No, once again everything went smoothly. I was always contented with my job. The only problem I had was related to the transportation of instruments. It is not so easy like to transport saxophone or guitar. Moreover, not in every club there is an organ.
Yesterday you gave a concert in Lutheran church of Baku on the invitation of Mr. Rauf Aliyev, the head of the company A+A which carried out restoration works of the church. What are your impressions?
I was surprised at seeing your church with wonderful garden and organ. Everything was made skillfully and wonderfully. For example, there are many churches in Germany, but what I saw here is really gorgeous! I would like so much to have a similar church with similar scene and perfect acoustics in the place I live. I think it is quite enough to give concerts here with a band. Organ sounds very good. Honestly speaking, your church was made perfectly.
How it happened that you performed with Azerbaijani musicians, while there was no time for rehearsals?
We made everything perfect, despite it was very hard. You know, the origin of a musician means nothing. There is a practice in the world – to play at random without rehearsals.
I had similar concerts in America. Moreover, to play in church with an organ is very dificult for musicians. It is technical moment and there are difficulties with timing.
I would like to stress that the idea of a joint project belonged to Rauf Aliyev. I immediately said yes, given that I know none of the musicians. So, he sent me the records of Rain Sultanov, and I liked the way he plays. At the end, the project was super. Rain was really wonderful; I liked the trumpeter Gennadiy Gasiyev as well. Believe me I have an opportunity to compare.
Usually classical music is played with organ, but we showed a play in the style of jazz. I think it was correctly planned to play first day in classical and in second day in jazz style. The audience was demonstrated the opportunities and various colors of organ. It is very important.
Everything was played. And I think no one felt that you played at random.
Yes, it was a big success.
During the concert you told that at 13 you were in Baku. What are your impressions from old and new Baku?
Baku has totally changed! Of course the last time I didn’t stay here quite enough to get acquainted with people. But this time the first thing that stoked the eye was the full architectural change of the city. It has turned into quite different metropolitan city. And of course I felt here the soul of modernization with the elements of antiquity. I have private home and know the ropes of the architecture. There is a big difference between old and new Baku. I think such changes found their place in other fields as well. And I consider it your big achievement.
When you entered the scene, at first place the audience saw a wonderful woman and only then a professional musician. It is not a secret that your private life triggered interest for everybody.
I’m not married and have no children. Instead I have a dog with which I like to go for a walk.
Currently we have here youth festival “I am a Jazzman!” What do you wish to our local musicians?
I would say that everything you do with all your heart and positive energy brings success. And if it comes deep from the heart everything will be ok. I always believe in my success, and never lose my heart. The main thing is to believe in success!
Then, I wish you further success in your carrier without any barriers on your way and may success always accompany you!
LEYLA EFENDIYEVA.Jazz Dunyasi