Sixteenth Piece: Chris Engel
This last work of this winter season of Piece By Piece, and sixteenth in the series overall, comes from saxophonist Chris Engel on Friday 29th January, 8pm.
Engel is one of the most arresting instrumentalists on the Irish jazz scene.” [Ian Patterson, All About Jazz]
South African saxophonist and adopted Irishman Chris Engel has cultivated a successful career in jazz and improvised music throughout Europe with his chameleon-like musical talents; adept in small and large ensembles, free improv, contemporary jazz, and latterly electronic music. Born and raised in South Africa, Chris came to Ireland after completing his studies at The Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. Chris also has a BMus in Jazz Studies from The South African College Of Music (The University of Cape Town) and has performed at venues and festivals in South Africa, Mozambique, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Dubai, The Netherlands, The UK and Ireland. include Cork Jazz Festival, Bray Jazz Festival, Derry Jazz Festival, Down with Jazz, Kilkenny Arts Festival (performing with Theo Bleckmann, John O'Gallagher and Nils Wogram), Westport Arts Festival, Atina Jazz (Italy), Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Aarhus Jazz Festival, Cape Town International Jazz Festival (where he performed with world-renowned American jazz artists Joe McBride, Gerald Veasley and Kenny Blake), the Cape Town Jazzathon and the Grahamstown Jazz Festival (South Africa). Exploration, collaboration and interaction through improvisation form the foundation of his musical philosophy. With these cornerstones in mind, Chris strives to cover new ground, creatively, with each performance.
Q. What does improvisation mean to you?
Improvisation is what excites me about the music I’ve chosen to play in my life. I equate it to having a conversation or debate where one is forced to come up with ideas and solutions in the moment, in a manner that is cohesive and clear. Real-time composition! Solo improvisation, I suppose could be equated to giving an impromptu speech, where various guidelines or criteria may or may not have been set. It’s incredibly exciting because of the mental, creative challenge. It’s an exercise in the clear delivery of ideas.
Q. How do you think about engaging with material or ideas from another artist when improvising?
I love it! Following on from the answer to the first question, it’s a great way to force yourself to find different solutions, to think and create differently. It allows you, if you’re open and lucky enough, to see aspects of your musical personality you haven’t seen before and to use the creative tools in your arsenal (that you’ve used thousands of times before) in a new way.
Q. How do you think the world of music is changing or will change as result of the CoViD-19 crisis?
I fear that the world of music has changed for the worse more than the better, and I fear that the consequences will be felt for a long time to come. I worry that a lot of musicians have been forced to re-evaluate their musical lives and professional situation, and may have been forced to pursue something else to pay the bills. I worry that many venues that were already struggling to survive before CoViD hit (particularly the venues that promote niche genres such as jazz, contemporary music, improvised music and the like) have been forced to close their doors forever. I worry that, as much as we’ve relied on the arts to console us through a difficult year, any progress that had been made to change the perception that the arts should be pursued only as a hobby only has been lost. Performing musicians have lost out on a year of professional performing experience, which I’m sure has shaken the confidence of many a musician. It has certainly shaken my confidence. Time in the practise room is vital to the development of a musician at any level, but the importance and value of performing regularly with other musicians cannot be underestimated either, and we’ve all lost a year of it (at least). The CoViD situation and the potential consequences thereof are a scary consideration for many industries and for many individuals. Music and musicians are no exception.