Composer and improvising jazz musician Timo Vollbrecht lives and works out of New York City and Berlin — collaborating with various musicians along with leading and performing with his own group. He discusses Reflection and Response as a multi-faceted concept, and highlights the subtle difference between creatively responding to specific experiences and responding to a collection of indistinguishable stimuli. Timo’s music represents the moment-based nature of improvisation as well as the decidedly trained character of composition. Check the dialogue and showcase of his work below!
Some of my compositions are a direct response to an experience…Most of the time, however, my music responds to a conglomerate of different things that are often hard to distinguish. The beauty about improvised music is that you can respond to the very moment. This is what makes it so special – for musicians as well as for the audience.
– Timo Vollbrecht
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
TV: I was born in Stadthagen, a small town in Northern Germany. After living in Wyoming, Berlin, and Barcelona, I moved to New York in 2010. I am an improvising and composing artist, who plays saxophone and reeds. I live and workin between New York and Berlin, am involved in several projects and lead my own group.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
TV: Reflection can unveil your source of inspiration as an artist. If you take your time to reflect on your experiences in life, on your encounters with other people, their cultures, their points of view, your thoughts and especially your emotions and sensations, you have SO much to tell. The most important thing is to keep an open mind in life. Then, responding to your experiences in your art will happen naturally. If you are true to yourself, you will develop your own taste and thus, make your original musical decisions.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
TV: Some of my compositions are a direct response to an experience. An example is “Tale of Jordan”, which came into being during a Middle Eastern tour with my band. Among other places, we also played in Amman, Jordan, and took a bath in the Dead Sea. In Ramallah, during our concert on a roof top, the Muezzin next door started to chant and we spontaneously integrated his chanting into our free improvisation. “Tale of Jordan” reflects on these unforgettable moments. Most of the time, however, my music responds to a conglomerate of different things that are often hard to distinguish. The beauty about improvised music is that you can respond to the very moment. This is what makes it so special – for musicians as well as for the audience.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?
TV: I have been composing music for my next album, which I will record in June, before taking off to an artist residence in Italy with my partner-in-crime, guitarist Keisuke Matsuno, where we will be working on a duo-program. Besides that, I am getting ready for a month-long European tour, which will start on April 3rd in Osterode, Germany, which happens to be my grandparents’ hometown.
Who or what inspires you?
TV: When I played with my group in Haiti, we shared the bill with the Branford Marsalis Quartet. After that, Branford invited me to sit in on his gig in Port-au-Prince and just a couple of weeks ago, he invited me to perform with him at the historic Village Vanguard on 7th Avenue. These are very inspirational moments. Furthermore, I am inspired by my travels, foreign cultures, people, friends and family, by love, life, and especially by my buddies with whom I have been sharing music for years. I especially love the creative atmosphere of Berlin and the exciting drive of New York City.
Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?
TV: My grandfather from Osterode, Germany (where we will be starting our tour next week) is a confectioner who had a pastry shop and bakery – a family business that existed for several hundred years. He is retired, but still sends me handmade truffles to wherever I am. So, next time you see me, ask me for his chocolate, because it will change your life.
Shout out to…?
TV: 1) Keisuke Matsuno, a magical guitarist with one of the most unique sounds on the scene.
2) Sam Anning, whose bass playing can give pure beauty to any musical situation.
3) Drummer Jason Burger, who blends an incredibly smooth rhythmical feel with an appealing kind of roughness.
Purely coincidental…but these guys form my current group 🙂
Keep up with Timo’s musical projects at the following links:
Reflection and Response.