Hello and welcome to another edition of our Person of The Week. Our today’s guest is a multi-talented and one of the best jazz flutists in Europe. He named his idols as the famous Ian Anderson and Hubert Laws.
He told us that he will love to work with the Nigerian P-Square and the US-based Jazz artist (Joe Freel, who was his former roommate at the Berklee Music College in Boston). Sit tight and enjoy the interview.
Good morning and tell us about you.
My name is Günther Johannes Schmitz, I am a flute player from Germany. In terms of style, I love to play jazz and other music where there is space for improvisation.
But I also do traditional classical playing. Other Instruments I play are the didgeridoo and for 3 years, I’ve been playing the saxophone.
How old were you when you started playing your instrument?
I started when I was 13 after playing occasionally the recorder at school.
What inspired you to become a flutist?
When I heard the playing of Ian Anderson in his legendary band Jethro Tull, the sound of the flute touched me so much that I first bought all their albums, and then had the strong wish to learn that instrument.
My first flute teacher introduced me to jazz flute player Herbie Mann, but as I went along to discover flute players on my own, I got stuck to Hubert Laws as my all time favorite player.
Do you have idols that you try to emulate?
Of course. As I mentioned earlier, Hubert Laws is my favorite player and influenced me a lot. But I was also searching in the much larger world of the saxophone, as a closely related horn, for further inspiration.
My favorites there are the bebop players like Phil Woods, Cannonball Adderley and Richie Cole on alto sax. But also Dexter Gordon, Jerry Bergonzi, Joshua Redman and Michael Brecker on the tenor saxophone. Other flute players that I admire are Nestor Torres, Steve Kujala and Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes.
How many flutes do you have?
Right now I only have my Kakulin flute with a composite headjoint made by Geoffrey Guo. Besides that I have 2 Yamaha saxophones, an alto and a tenor.
But I always fight with myself if I should quit again playing saxophone as it has a negative effect on my low register of the flute.
Do you play different styles of music?
Yes, as I mentioned before, I prefer jazz-based improvised music and all that relates to it. So I also love playing Ethno music like African or Oriental music, but also classical music and orchestral.
My education consists of studying classical music in Germany as well as studying improvisation and jazz in the US at the Berklee College of Music, Boston.
How many musical projects do you have now?
I have several friends and ensembles that I play with. 3 different guitar players, one of them my good friend Matthias Coenen and we get us a bass player usually to turn us into a trio and to enable Matthias also soloing. We also play together in another format (singer/songwriter) with a female singer, bass player and drummer.
In summer I led a band to play in my friend Helmut´s wine farm summer festival with singer Beverly Daley and a rhythm section. Some years ago I was playing with a guitarist who exclusively plays Brazilian music, Martin Müller. He also invited me to play on some of his CDs.
Besides that I also play with a Flamenco ensemble doing Spanish music and also some occasional church gigs or orchestral jobs with classical music.
What would be a dream that you would like to fulfill in your musical career?
I do not have a specific dream, but I would love to play more in international settings. As there is internet now it is possible to join album projects by sending sound files that can be incorporated into songs or instrumental tracks.
So one of my dreams would be to play on an album of P-Square or other African artists. I would also love to be part of my friend Joe Freel´s next album or any other good singer that moves in jazz-like stylistics.
What was your most exciting project in the past?
I think that was when a friend from MySpace, Loptimist, a beatmaker from Korea, asked me to do some flute tracks for him real quickly over the weekend.
So he sent me a basic rhythm track that sounded Latin and as I had only time on Saturday evening, I decided to do the whole thing in one night.
I started by composing and recording a 3 part flute arrangement in the Latin style and then adding some improvised solo parts so that he had some material to work with.
Some weeks later I heard the complete song and then it was turned into a Latin influenced rap called “True Romance” performed by the Korean artist Drunken Tiger. I was amazed to what Loptimist and Drunken Tiger had turned it to and that my fluted contributions were at the right spots.
A few months later I remembered that project, did a search on YouTube and found out that it had turned into a number one hit in Korea and was performed for very large audiences and even was broadcasted many times. It is still to be found on YouTube, although I did not get any credits there and the musicians there only pretend to play.
Do you have any foreign collaboration?
Yes. One I mentioned in the question before. Also the Flamenco band consists of Spanish and Latin American musicians. And another online studio project was for a CD with Brazilian music of the late Joao Limburg.
He was a very good friend of mine, an extremely talented singer and guitar player who was born in Germany, but who´s musical homeland was Brazil and he recorded his album there in Recife.
I played many times with a guitar player from Poland, Romuald Erenc and we had some years ago a quartet with Oriental music, called „Esfahan“.
But these were all in the past and I am always interested in new international contacts. For instance I would love to do an album or tour project with the Israel based piano artist Raz Yitzhaki.
What will you like your audience to know about you?
Haha, what a question! Maybe that besides music and flute I love to cook international styles and I love science fiction.
But about my work in music I would like my audience to know that I am also a composer and arranger. So I wrote several pieces for flute and piano that were released by Schott Music in 3 books up to now. Here is one played by my 2 very talented students Luisa and Kira:
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope that in 5 years I will still be as creative as now and having as much fun with my music as always since I picked up the flute.
Any word for us at www.chiomaokoyeakpawusi.com?
My admiration and my very best wishes for your blog and your journalist work for the future and always good inspiration for finding things to entertain and educate your audience about. And of course many thanks for having me as your Person of the Week!
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