Category Archives: Timo Vollbrecht

Timo Vollbrecht Showcasing Originals at the Indaba Loft

As a musician it is a vital skill to be able to process personal and musical experiences in order to channel them into performance. Saxophonist and Indaba Artist in Residence Timo Vollbrecht recently brought his New York Group–Keisuke Matsuno, Sam Anning, and Jason Berger–to the Indaba Loft on Bowery to showcase his mastery of this essential element to modern jazz.

Timo’s original composition “Tale of Jordan” which is featured prominently (1:00-4:03) was composed before a tour through the Middle East with his band. The composition, which has ample space for improvisation, grew throughout these performances and has gained a certain mystique which encapsulates the experiences of the tour.

Please watch, enjoy, and look forward to Timo’s future performances around the world!

-Brian the Intern

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The Magic Of Creativity


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

With creativity we can create magical things that touch the hearts and souls of people. A song, a poem, a painting or just an idea can have a great impact on somebody’s life. It is like magic.

For us artists, creativity is one of the tools we rely on the most.  And this does not only apply to artists: Anybody whose activities require original thinking or problem-solving benefits from knowing how to increase the chances for creativity to happen. Yet, the ability to produce something new through imagination often seems so hard to do. Look back at your last composition or your last live performance, and ask yourself: Was I truly creative? Did I create something original, meaningful, and artistically strong? Or did I rather reproduce something I already knew, or something I or somebody else had done before? Most of us tend to recreate instead of create. While I don’t believe you have to reinvent the wheel every time you pick up your instrument, I think we can all agree that it is the artist’s sincerity that truly touches the hearts of people.

Creativity has little to do with intelligence or talent. The IQ of a person does not have any influence on his ability to be creative. Rather, it requires a deep, broad, and flexible sense of self-awareness. While, it is hard to come up with a manual of how to be creative, it is possible to learn how to bring yourself into a situation that favors creativity.

Have you ever seen a video clip of Miles Davis playing? Every time he picks up his trumpet, you see him getting into a certain mode. His body language conveys someone who is focused, yet relaxed at the same time. It is this so-called open mode that we need to dive into when we want to be creative. It is the mode in which kids play with their friends. In this mode, mistakes do not exist. Instead, they create opportunities for something new to happen. Most times unfortunately, we are in the closed mode.

In his lectures on creativity, Monty Python’s John Cleese identified four requirements that are necessary for entering the open mode: Space, Time, Time (yes, twice!), Confidence and Humor.
SPACE: Create an oasis separate from your everyday life. Seal yourself off in a place where no interruption is possible. Switch off your phone, unplug your internet, do not check email, avoid Facebook, Twitter, and forget about your TV for a while. Stay in this space for a certain amount of TIME. For example, an hour and a half has proven to be a sufficient amount. This is your time to PLAY. Experiment, try new things out, connect random ideas with each other. Chance is your best friend; it may lead you towards a new path. Notes played by accidents lead you to new ideas. Collect material and don’t judge it. “Exploration leads to discovery”, said Herbie Hancock.
You will probably notice how your mind starts to wander and get off-topic. That is ok. Every time you notice it, bring you mind back to your task.

Once you have created your space and stayed in it for certain amount of time, you need more TIME. It is imperative to stick to an idea for longer than you think. The longer you gently orbit around a problem, the more likely you will discover an original solution. In our fast-paced Western world, more than ever we want quick answers. We might think we are wasting time if we have already found a solution to a problem and don’t go on using that first solution. Furthermore, the unknown creates discomfort in us. However, the better we learn to tolerate this discomfort, the stronger the outcome will be.
CONFIDENCE: The fear to make mistakes stifles creativity. If you work with other people, surround yourself with friends or partners with equally open minds. You must not feel intimidated by them. With confidence, you will be courageous enough to try out the most bizarre things.
Finally, according to Cleese, HUMOR works as an accelerator that can catapult you into the open mode like nothing else. Being humorous does not mean that you do not take your work seriously. There is a big difference between seriousness and solemnity. The first welcomes humor, the latter does not.

Decisions are important of course. Once you decide on something, stick to your decision, at least for a while. Switch into the closed mode, the mode in which you execute best. A perfect example of the closed mode is the time right before an important deadline, in which we are furiously trying to finish an assignment. And we usually succeed. Try setting yourself very short deadlines. This will help you get into the closed mode and execute! After working in the closed mode for a while, switch back into the open mode and review your work. Edit if you need to. Ideally, you will effortlessly switch back and forth between the open and the closed modes.

All these tips and tricks do not guarantee a creative and original outcome. You can sit on your chair or behind your piano for days in a row and feel like nothing meaningful has come out of you. This is part of the process. There is no need to be discouraged. It will come and it just needs time. The beauty of it is that once, something does come out, you will be amazed by its magic.

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A European In New York – Comparing The Scenes

Contrary to popular opinion, Jazz is NOT dead. Closely associated with New York City since the 1920s, jazz is flourishing all around the world – thanks to numerous talented and innovative musicians.

I am a German improvising musician, and I have lived and worked in Berlin, Barcelona, and currently New York. Music is a mirror of society and it is exciting to experience the uniqueness of each city’s scene and compare them to each other.

New York City is one-of-a-kind. Since music is heavily influenced by cultural heritage, NYC’s diversity provides an incredible laboratory for musicians. The city is incomparable when it comes the concentration of great and highly talented jazz musicians. Today’s jazz scene is manifold. Yet, the city’s jazz tradition remains a vital part of the contemporary scene. The most important jazz clubs, such as the Village Vanguard, are still to be found in New York, along with innovative performance spaces like the ShapeShifter Lab.

NYC’s music scene contains strong individualism. Many musicians focus on their careers as soloists and invest much energy into improving on their instruments. Whereas the European movement generally concentrates on bands as collectives, New York tends to focus on the individual musician. In New York, band members rotate more frequently, and a gig in the city often requires only one rehearsal or less. The great benefit of this is spontaneity and flexibility. As a downside, working bands that develop a unique band sound are harder to find. The pace of the city is fast, and long-term engagements are close to nonexistent. However, NYC’s energetic vibe proves to be inspirational for many musicians.

Berlin has become one of Europe’s hot spots when it comes to art and music, attracting creative people from all over the world. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it has been a city of change – a perfect environment for artists to shape, design and create. While Berlin is famous for its classical as well as electronic music, improvised music has asserted its place on the scene. On the one hand, in Berlin, jazz lacks the depth of history as found in New York, but the Berlin scene demonstrates the essence of what jazz is, i.e. music that embraces improvisation. The “Berliner sound” is more experimental and jazz incorporates elements from indie rock, punk or electronica. The music from MSV Brecht, as well as Berlin based labels like Traumton Records may illustrate this.

While Barcelona’s music scene is smaller, it is up-and-coming. The region of Catalonia is culturally protective: You will find many music magazines written in Catalan, which feature local artists. So do the festivals like the Barcelona Jazz Festival. Barcelona’s scene is strongly influenced by Brad Mehldau’s former drummer Jorge Rossy who resides in Catalonia, as well as by the label Fresh Sound Records. American artists like Brad Mehldau, Bill McHenry, Chris Cheek and Reid Anderson used to record and perform in Barcelona, and became role models for many local musicians. The great composer Guillermo Klein used to live in the mediterranean metropole and certainly left a mark on the scene before he moved to Argentina, where he currently resides. However, the city suffers from a paucity of performing venues.

In the end, you can find great music all around the globe. The world is beautifully connected and I can only encourage everybody to enjoy the uniqueness of every place’s music.


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