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Mack Goldsbury - "A world sound on the saxophone"

A robust yet delicate sound on the tenor saxophone is the trademark which made Mack Goldsbury famous on the international stage, which helped him to advance from the provincial backwaters of Texas to the top of New York's jazz elite. Aside of jazz he also performed with the Temptations or Stevie Wonder and accompanied pop singer Cher on her tour of Africa.

Mack Goldsbury

Located in Germany since several years, Goldsbury nowadays prefers the reclusiveness of the countryside, concentrates on only a few jazz projects. Soprano sax and flute were added to Goldsbury's portfolio and Goldsbury handles them in an equally superior way. Time also couldn't mar the sound of his tenor, which is still state of the art.

The press, however, nowadays takes less notice of it—Goldsbury may have withdrawn a little too much, compared to his younger years when he was constantly on the go. But the saxophone player is content with his situation: "It's just not as important now to hang out, to be on the scene all the time," he uses to put it.

Carina Prange talked to Mack Goldsbury in Berlin

Carina: Mack, you started to play an instrument at a very early age and began to work as a professional musician at the age of 16. In which way does your present life on the countryside differ from the life in the big cities? And how did your concept of living and working change over the years?

Mack: My concept hasn't really changed. It's just not as important now to hang out, to be on the scene all the time, as when I was younger. When you're young it's important to be seen as well as heard. That's what the great jazz pianist, Red Garland told me years ago in Texas before I moved to New York.

I think a younger musician has to take every job that comes his way whereas more experienced players can choose or create his own projects. Once you've established yourself you can live where you want. Now that I have children the best place to be is in the countryside. But even years ago before the kids, I tried to always have a place in the city as well as in the countryside. That's what all those guys did back then like Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Keith Jarret, Al Cohn and Bill Goodwin.

Mack Goldsbury

Carina: You have been a bandleader for years and now in the first row work as a sideman...

Mack: To say that I work mainly as a sideman isn't accurate! I work a lot of the time as a co-leader along with drummer, Ernst Bier, and recently I'm doing a new project with drummer, Michael Clifton. The other co-leader projects are with Andreas Böttcher and of course the 25 year old duo collaboration with bassist Ed Schuller. Another interesting cooperative project is with drummer Günter "Baby" Sommer and bassist Akira Ando.

The project, 'Tribesmen' is a cooperative of six guys, vocalist Pete "Wyoming" Bender, pianist Reggie Moore, bassist Martin Lillich, percussionist Kevin Burrell and drummer Ernst Bier. Working as a co-leader or in a cooperative does more than just double the pool of inspiration.

The best way to describe it is to use a color analogy. Let's say my ideas are red and blue and the co-leader's ideas are yellow and white. When we work together we get more than red, yellow and blue and white. We'll get orange and purple and green and pink and colors or ideas that wouldn't have been possible without the partnership.

I work mostly in these co-leader projects and to a lesser degree as a sideman with Cornelia and Reggie Moore, "Moore & Moore" and with "Baby Sommer & The Swiss Horns" Naturally it's a privilege to be called as a sideman by great musicians and working as a sideman is very different from a leadership role. A good sideman tries to fit his "voice" into someone else's ideas without losing his personal touch.

Mack Goldsbury

Carina: You came from a very musical background, your father was a violinist and played Country, Western and a little Jazz. How did this "musical surrounding" influence your approach towards music in general? And what about your own children—do they play an instrument? Do they perhaps have the ambition to become professional musicians later?

Mack: : I've played music as long as I can remember. I played mandolin when I was three. As soon as I could, when I was about five or six, I was sitting in with my father's band playing mandolin and singing. He and his band "The Blue Bonnet Playboys", had the first variety television show for CBS in Texas. In the fifth grade I started playing clarinet but never practiced much.

At the half term, seventh grade, my father after seeing a not so good report card, called me into the living-room and said "Get your clarinet son, because with grades like these I better teach you how to play the Blues" The "Blues" was to my father the fundamental of all music. He figured after seeing my report card that my best chance in life was with music.

If someone did me wrong back then, as a consolation he'd say "Yes, but can he play a blues?" I've been practicing the Blues ever since. My older daughter, nine, plays piano and after seeing her last report card I think it might be time for her to start learning to play a blues! My youngest is six and her mother thinks she's destined to be a drummer. In the meantime she starts ballet next week. I want my kids to be happy and will support whatever they choose.

Bier/Goldsbury Quartet - "Live at the A-Trane"

Carina: You also play the piccolo-flute—since when?

Mack: I started playing the piccolo to use in a show when I first came to Berlin in 1991. I never considered it an important instrument in my life until pianist Lito Tabora asked me to play some piccolo on his CD "Understanding" Since then I like to use it on special pieces. It brings an almost child-like voice to the music. People seem to really enjoy it.

Carina: There's this duo-project with Andreas Böttcher—is it still active? I'm also interested in your solo activities—is there something new planned for the future? Last not least your quartet—something there in the pipeline?

Mack: Yes, multi-instrumentalist Andreas Böttcher and I have three CDs, the latest being "Lost Paradise". We're still doing concerts and always looking for new venues! Although I play solo concerts I haven't yet recorded a solo CD but am planning to.

A project in the pipeline is a new quartet recording in collaboration with Michael Clifton. In the Fall of this year I'm looking forward to a Stateside tour and producing my own Gospel recording using the Gospel Choir and band of a long time friend who is a Pastor in one of the biggest Baptist Churches in Texas.

Carina: In earlier years you used to go on tour with some of the top pop-groups while nowadays the modern and mainstream-jazz is your main focus. As a New Mexico-born American, who grew up in Texas, other roots of yours seem to lie in the local varieties of the blues. Do you still regard this blues-saxophone-style as an important influence?

Mack: Blues is the most important influence in my music. I come from the Texas school of saxophone playing along with guys like Leo Wright, David "Fathead" Newman, Arnette Cobb, Ornette Coleman and James Clay.

Someone said the other day that my saxophone sounded like it was speaking German. I suppose now that after playing in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, Europe and The United States of course, my saxophone is "speaking" in all those languages. I consider myself a world citizen and my sound on the sax must be a world sound.

Carina Prange

CD: Bier/Goldsbury Quartet - "Live at the A-Trane"
(Konnex ENJ-9437 2)

Konnex Records im Internet: www.konnex-records.de

Photos: Press photos

More at Jazzdimensions:
Bier/Goldsbury Quartett - "A-Live at the A-Trane" - Review (erschienen: 12.7.2003)
Bier/Goldsbury Quartett - "Next Move" - Review (erschienen: 25.3.2001)
Mack Goldsbury - "Von New York nach Berlin" - Interview (erschienen: 9.11.1999)

© jazzdimensions 2006
erschienen: 17.7.2006
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