Reedist Joachim Badenhorst, born 1981 in Antwerp, worked and collaborated in the past with John Butcher and Paul Lytton and with the guitar player Mathias Van de Wiele. He organised as well his septet Carate Urio Orchestra and is still searching for boundaries between improvisation and composition, abstract sounds and harmonic passage. Since few years he started his own label as so many other musicians did like the trombonist Nils Wogram. Joachim Badenhorst “baptised” his label “KLEIN” through which he began to engage himself in visual conceptions and self-made releases and objects. I attended a showcase at the BJM 2015 and could experience the duo Joachim Badenhorst-Brice Soniano, the so called “Rawfishboys”, knowing each other since they were teenagers.
Did you grow up in a household where Jazz was „part of the stable diet“?
JB: No, not really, actually there was always a lot of art and music in our house. My father is a Southafrican artist, a painter, and my mom is interested in theatre. There was music in the house. My father used to play clarinet and piano as an amateur. My parents love music but more classical music, world music and a little bit of Jazz. I was not bitten by the Jazz virus because my parents loved Jazz. That happened later on.
What kind of Jazz did you encounter and listen first?
JB: I got into Jazz music after being active and starting to play Klezmer music. I played in a trio and that was the first time that I improvised a little bit. From there on I listened a lot to Klezmer clarinet players like Giora Feidman. Then I got more interested in John Zorn. I was introduced to Jazz more in that way. The first time I heard Charlie Parker I was completely blown away. That my first real revelation. Charlie Parker - he got me fascinated.
Why did you pick up the clarinet as your favourite instrument? Sexy is something different. Maybe the electric guitar!
JB: Initially because my father played clarinet and gave me his clarinet when I was a kid. I started playing his old clarinet. I stuck with it and learnt to play the instrument.
I found an interview with you and you stated that the clarinet is not sexy. Do you remember that statement? Was it joking or just irony?
JB: I am not sure what I said in the interview you quote but during my adolescence there was a point when I listened more and more to Rock music and it was not really cool to be playing clarinet. Probably it would be the same if I had played violin. But I am very happy that I kept going on playing that reeds instrument. During those years I started as well to play a little bit of drums and electric bass to feel cool. Apart from playing clarinet I begun to play saxophone in Rock bands. It was just during the years of adolescence every kid is going through. After that period in my love I got really obsessed by Jazz and was happy to be playing this wind instrument.
Why does Jazz fascinate you in comparison with other genres of music?
JB: I am very much drawn to improvisation and to be able to express yourself. That's what I like about Jazz. The thing that I am mostly drawn to is improvisation in different settings.
How would you characterize your music playing with Brice Soniano? Do you prefer to play solo or as a duo?Duo seems quite a fragile formation because you rely on each other and there is no point for relaxing because you have to be focused on each other all the time.
JB: I don't really have a favour. All formations are different but as well valid, challenging and rewarding. With Brice it feels very much in balance. We know each other for so long, practising a lot like in the days when we've been 17 or 18. In a way it is not that much different to play solo. It is almost like one instrument. It is very intimate.
Quite interesting because in a Septet or Octet you can step back and dream not being in demand all the time.
JB: A lot of the projects I am involved in are more smaller projects. There are not so much defined roles like you play a solo and then step back, relax and wait for the next solo. In trios everyone is in one or the other way constantly relying on each other.
How important is the environment you live in for your music or is the environment neglectable?
JB: I think it definitely can influences you as a person, as a musician and composer. I think all your experiences and where you live do something to you. It places a mark on you. For instance the years in New York did something to me. Now being back in Antwerp it is nice. There is a bit more space. My answer is yes!
How essential are images for composing music pieces?
JB: What do you mean with images?
Stories and pictures you have in your mind.
JB: It is a good question. When I am composing I do not think so much of images, maybe subconsciously. I think more in certain moods and start to create that mood I have in my mind. I do have a clear idea and after we play it there is an image popping up.
Is the search of the melody very significant as far as your music is concerned?
JB: Melody is very important in all projects I am involved in. I love melodies. I love beautiful melodies. As a horn player melody is more important for me than harmony. Maybe it would be different if I would play piano or guitar. Yeah, I love just simple melodies. (To Brice Soniano) You know when I write it is very, very simple.
In reference to your concert as “Rawfishboys” I would like to get to know if your compositions are written down or does your music develop out of the spirit of the moment?
JB:A lot of it is quite worked out. There are moments which are more open and we improvise. We have a kind of an idea what we want to do but in that frame we are free to to what we want to do. There is definitely a framework and a structure for what we are doing.
There exist a strong fault line in Jazz performed in Europe: straight ahead Jazz here and Free Jazz, Minimal Music and improvised music there. Is it relevant for you or do you dislike to be packed in boxes?
JB: I prefer not to be placed in a box but unfortunately the music industry likes it to put a stamp on you. What we, Brice and I, do, is somehow in between. If people are open to it they can be surprised, even people they think they don't like more 'abstract' music. There is so much in it, melody, harmony. I prefer not to be labelled.
There was one composition you played, Brice was singing overtones and you played the clarinet with a mic sticking inside the horn.
JB: We called it “Shaman” and it was more an idea than a straight composition. The basics are the singing and the mic in the clarinet. Every time we play it it is a bit different.
How relevant are the roots in Jazz for you? Roots refer to the music presented by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Count Basie, Jimmy Dorsey, Sidney Bechet, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis or John Coltrane to name only few of the giants in Jazz? Or is there Jazz in Europe taking in the tradition of classical music including Schönberg and others?
BS: May I come back to a question you raised earlier. For me it is only important to be connected to my own roots no matter what I do. People who label what I do do not belong to me. I love certainly Ligeti and Debussy, as well the music of the Pygmys which is influencing what I am doing if it is Jazz or not. The place where you are certainly changes you as much as you change the place. I feel that my love for American Jazz keeps on growing because this music is so rich in many aspects, in a way quite alien to me. Of course I play the double bass because I heard Bill Evans when I was a teenager. His music is so rich of European harmonies and still rooted in Afroamerican music. This is the beauty of it and you want to hear more of the music your heroes played. I see it as a continuation.
JB: I share what Brice said. The roots of Jazz music are very important. What we do also is inspired from the roots and from listening for so many years to Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington. But we are doing as well our own stuff with “Rawfishboys”.
Thanks very much for talking to me.
Interview and Photos © ferdinand dupuis-panther
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