Allan Botschinsky

John V. Baer interviews Allan Botschinksky on 21.03.2010

John:   Allan, we hear you are working on a new project.

Allan:   Yes, I am composing a piece called "Concerning Cassandra" for 12 piece classical ensemble and 3 voices - but they only speak, they don't sing.  My partner for the libretto is Nina Malinovski, a poet, who I knew for some time and last met 2 years ago when we did a project in Galerie Varming in Copenhagen.

John:   That was a concert with a poetry reading?

Allan:   Yes, my collegue, guitarist Jacob Fischer and I played, Nina Malinovski read poems, and my sister Jette Botschinsky, who is a painter and sculptor, painted during the event, so 2 large oil paintings were also created at the same time.

John:   I heard it was very successful

Allan:   Yes, people liked it a lot I think, and I was surprised how many of my old friends and colleagues were there.

Allan Botschinsky

John:  Well, wasn't that also because you played for the first time again in Copenhagen after a long time ..

Allan:   Yes, actually I had stopped playing for some time because of health problems. It took some years to find out what was wrong with me. I have what the doctors call post polio syndrome.

John:   So you had polio as a child ?

Allan:   Yes, when I was ten years old, but they said it was a mild form of the disease and after a year or two I was well again. I couldn't really run very fast but I loved to ride my bike and to take long walks - something I really miss today since I can’t walk without help.

John:   So did your condition affect your playing?

Allan:   Lets say I am still working on finding ways to compensate for the change that the condition has brought physically. Mentally I think I have overcome - more or less - the shortcomings ... you work on a sound over the years and when you are finally close to what you feel you want to express - I mean you are never really satisfied and constantly working on improving your sound - but I got to a stage where I can say I can hear my solo albums and feel they are OK, and might stand the test of time" ...

John:   Like what?

Allan:   Like the solo albums I did for MA Music

John:   Your label …

Allan:   Yes, our label - Marion's and mine - the solo albums there ... I don't mind hearing them ...

John:   Well, you certainly made some of the most remarkable albums of the end nineties, MA Music is considered one of the best jazz- and audiophile labels in Europe and your productions are absolutely timeless, you couldn't make them better today ...

Allan:   Thank you.

John:   Do you miss playing?

Allan:   When you have done it all your life it becomes so much part of you and it sort of keeps you fit as well. I am still practicing everyday even though my standard is not like where it was 10 / 15 years ago. To play the flugelhorn is something I enjoy, something I know about and am able to do. Playing is good for me. Unfortunately I had to give up playing longer concerts, but I have heard that my new flugelhorn is ready to be picked up.

John:   What is that?

Allan:   I ordered an instrument from Thomas Inderbinen in Switzerland. He is one if the masters, his flugel fitted me like a glove. I have been playing a Kantstuhl for many, many years, trumpet and flugelhorn, but now I'm anxious to try my new horn ...

John:   What mouthpieces do you use?

Allan:   For many years, Vagn Elsberg in Denmark made mouth pieces I liked. At the moment, I am playing a C10DB on the trumpet and an FL C10MC on the flugelhorn. But I am also trying out some mouth pieces from Monette. One is always trying out alternatives. It is a never ending story.

John:   Any projects in the line?

Allan:   Well, I am thinking of recording another solo album ... we’ll see ... 

John:  Oh, that would be great. And I hear you are doing a lot of composing these days. 

Allan:   Yes, besides the Cassandra Project I have written several pieces for classical orchestra and solo instruments. I like to write for classically-trained musicians. Most of them can play anything you write for them, almost without limitation. I always was interested in composing and it is nice you don't have to retire when entering the third half of your life. I enjoy having more time to listen to music, especially modern classical and what they call "cross over" - a mix of elements from different areas of music.

John:  Tell me about your compositions.

Allan:  I am writing a big project for different solo instruments, called Colours. It was inspired by my reading of Goethe’s “Farbenlehre”, his theory of colours. It involves the feelings which go with different colours. So far I’ve written a piece for solo clarinet, a piece for solo flute, and a piece for solo cello. I like to prepare different themes and have the musician play them, and we both see which passages sound good and are good for the instrument. So these pieces have been a kind of cooperation with different musicians I met in Copenhagen. I met them during concerts of other pieces. At the moment, I am working on a solo piece for violAllan: The pieces are published by Peermusic Classical and can be ordered from them.

John:  What do you find different about writing for classical players?

Allan:   When I write for jazz players I mostly think about my own instrument. When I write for classical players, I don’t think about the typical jazz phrases or tunes, I think more of colours of the sound of the instrument and I think more abstractly in terms of intervals and so. The possibilities are practically unlimited, and that is very exciting. My studies of modern classical music inspired me for my own jazz improvisations. Improvisation is something like “instant” composing, in the moment. When I now write for, say, a flute I try to think like a flute player, which is not so easy for a trumpet player, but it expands my horizons. In an orchestra you have the range from a tuba to a piccolo flute. And your ideas aren’t limited to your own instrument.

Allan Botschinsky

John:   Do you have concerts lined up for the next couple of years?

Allan:  The Cassandra project will be performed by Athelas Symphonietta Copenhagen and they will be be performing the piece in a theatre. We have interest from several theatres but no dates yet. I have been talking to Peer Music about a performance of the solo pieces. We haven’t come to an agreement on the dates yet.

John:  Allan, you will be celebrating a special birthday on the 29th of this month - you are turning 70. And I heard that the week before there is going to be a jazz concert for you, in your honour, in a jazz club in your home town Copenhagen.

Allan:   Yes, I have been invited to the Paradise jazz club where my old friends and collegues will play for me. My sister Jette organised it and I am very excited and very much looking forward to that. 

John:  Who is going to play for you?

Allan:   Palle Mikkelborg, Kasper Tranberg and Thomas Fryland on trumpets, Jacob Fisher on guitar, Ole Koch Hansen piano, Bo Stief on bass, and Alex Riel on drums. What a band.

John:  A reunion of the jazz greats of denmark ...

Allan:   One can say that ... though one is very sadly missed, that is Niels Henning 

John:  NHØP, the famous bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, who died 5 years ago

Allan:   Yes, Niels and I were close friends from when we were teenagers. Later we moved into the same neighbourhood in Ishoj near Copenhagen, together with Ole Koch Hansen. We brought up our kids together and always celebrated New Years Eve in turn in one of our houses, with all the musicians, neighbours and friends and family. Niels and Ole Koch kept up the tradition and last time I saw them was New Year 2002/2003 in Niels Henning's and Solveig's house. Who could have known we would lose him only two years later ... 

John:  Marion tells me she has a gem in MA Music's archive ...

Allan:   Yes, she unearthed a video recording of a jazz concert that Niels and I played in Hamburg.

John:  Was that the concert in the Macadam Theatre which we organised for the release of your brilliant Duologue album? 

Allan:   Yes, and you are on the tape as well, presenting us ...

John:  You have a video recording of that? 

Allan:   Yes, and my wife says it is quite good ... I haven't seen it yet. That was a surprise birthday present ...

John:  Will that be released on DVD?

Allan:   I think that is the idea.

John:  Thanks for the interview Allan and good luck for the future. And have a very happy Birthday.

©2004 - 2010 Allan Botschinsky