Friday, July 13, 2012

Jacam Manricks in "Sonic"

Here is my translation of a new article about saxophonist Jacam Manricks from the German magazine, Sonic:

“Sound-Forms Frozen in Time”

Jacam Manricks

Jacam Manricks arrived in New York from Down Under shortly before the turmoil of September 11. It was there that his worldview quickly changed, and the music of this saxophonist, clarinetist, flautist, and composer made a quantum leap.

By Ssirus W. Pakzad
Translated by Dan Voss

Jacam Manricks is the master of a great art: he makes the complicated sound accessible, and through rhythmic finesse he instills his music with an unobstructed flow. Another of Manricks’ talents: his music is embraced both by those with an ear for the traditional as well as those for whom the term “jazz” means constant progress.

In the isolation of his practice room, this doctor of music concocts new systems and concepts, experimenting with the metrical division of time. As the title of his third and current album, “Trigonometry,” suggests, the Australian likes to use mathematics for emphasis and accent. It would be wrong, however, to think this means his music is coldly intellectual. “The appeal of jazz is in the interaction. Intuition and spontaneity are what makes this music exciting,” says the thirty-five year old, who lectures, teaches, and gives master classes and clinics worldwide. “Composition and improvisation are essentially the same. Composition is improvisation that’s frozen in time. The nice thing about writing is that you can throw something out if it doesn’t work. I often experiment with polyrhythms and hemiola and constantly shift the pulse around. But all of these considerations are worthless if the music that results isn’t able to create a vibe and excite the audience.”

Manricks doesn’t just write music for various jazz instrumentations, but for symphony orchestra as well. Since he has studied orchestration, he even writes out all the parts himself. Do his small-group pieces benefit from his work for large ensembles? “Definitely. You learn how to build to a climax, how to create drama from the nuances of the dynamic spectrum, and how to handle the different registers.”

In addition to all of his hard-earned skill as a composer, one shouldn’t forget that Jacam Manricks is a terrific saxophonist. Indeed, he is a master of the soprano and tenor saxophones---as well as various flutes and clarinets---though his main instrument is the alto saxophone. He plays it with a brilliant and pliant tone that he often bends and stretches, a tone which transforms in the heat of battle and seems to encompass the entire range of human emotions. Whoever hears Manricks live can witness how thoughtfully he builds his solos. He takes striking pauses between longer phrases, then shortens his rests with unmistakable flair until finally they have disappeared entirely, and the saxophonist can whoosh unrestrained through the tonal systems of his own devising. He compares his playing to grammar, with syntax and punctuation being thought of exactly the same way.

Jacam Manricks is originally from Brisbaine, Queensland, where his parents make a living playing together in the state symphony. His birth name, by the way, is derived from the first names of his mother and father together: Ja-net and Cám-ilio. They listened to a lot of jazz as well as classical music at home, and the young boy quickly internalized both styles. Jacam began playing the piano at five years of age and the saxophone at nine. His father, who has Sri Lankan, Portuguese, and Dutch roots, was rather strict when it came to practicing and urged the boy to take on a demanding daily workload. Jacam complied and developed magnificently as a musician, later studying for a degree and then working with a theater orchestra in Sydney. He received a grant and travelled to New York at the end of August 2011 where he was soon playing with some of the most important creative musicians. He had barely gotten over his initial culture shock when those airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center. “At home in Australia I had led a carefree, innocent, naïve life, and then all of a sudden the world fell apart. The events of September 11 changed my whole attitude towards life and my way of seeing things.” When like many others Jacam tried to channel his tumultuous feelings into music, it suddenly manifested unfamiliar dissonances, and thus he gained an insight: “Music is essential for human existence. It’s a way to bring out what engages and occupies us inside our hearts, and it allows us to document and comment on life and the events of history.”

Check him out:

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