Jonas Timm

Jonas Timm Photo
Jonas Timm, Photo: Nora Blum

Onterview

Your first album was released in the JTNG series in April 2022. A new album will now be released at the end of March on the Doublemoon Records label. What have you been doing in the meantime?

We've of course played a few concerts with the quintet and were fortunate enough to be part of a few great festivals. The feedback after Morbu was so positive (also within the band) that I quickly realised that I wanted to develop the project further. The early confirmation from Edition DoubleMoon gave me emotional planning security, for which I am very grateful. I was able to take my time to gather inspiration for the subsequent composition process.
Last summer, I was able to take on a musical direction position at the theatre in Neustrelitz and organise the annual Mjuzik Festival with a team led by my great colleague Olga Reznichenko, with whom I have had a long-standing friendship.
I have also developed a concert programme with the Gewandhaus Choir on the Five Phases of Grief, in which I improvise with and around works by Mendelssohn, Bach and Brahms.
I also work with various MDR ensembles and as a teacher, preparing young people for entrance exams - a job that fulfils me greatly. So there was also a lot going on outside of Morbu.

You have remained true to the line-up of the first album, now with the addition of two musicians. How do you know each other, how does the dynamic of your collaboration work for you as a composer and band member?

The line-up for "Morbu" was already unusual with accordion, piano and acoustic guitar, and Tino and Bertram give my music a very special colour with their unique way of improvising melodies,
give my music a very special colour, but for "Narcís" I needed heavier instrumental elements to give a sound to more complex emotions.
As a teenager in Berlin, I heard Robby Geerken and Diego Pinera together for the first time.
Being able to immerse myself in the music of the South American continent with this symbiotic foundation of congas and drums is a long-cherished dream that has now come true.
I know Johannes through his fantastic teaching work at the Leipzig University of Music. During an exchange on Afro-Peruvian music, it occurred to me that I could also write for him on the trombone. He also plays all kinds of smaller percussion instruments on the album, such as the quijada, which adds another rare facet to the line-up.
So the compositions were ultimately created for exactly these 6 individuals.
I met with all the band members individually to hear how they played ideas and sketches and what I could change.
I can still learn a lot from all of them in certain areas and I really enjoy listening to them.
And I'm totally grateful to everyone for how detached from individual egos the work in the studio ended up being. Something I had a little respect for before, as they are all very expressive improvisers with strong opinions and personalities. On the other hand, I feel that everyone respects my compositions and abilities as a pianist and bandleader and that makes me a little proud when I realise who is on stage with me.

What is your musical background, where are your roots and who are your musical role models?

My parents both sang in the radio choir in Berlin and so vocal music is my intuitive musical home.
I've been singing in various choirs since I was 5 years old - so a cappella music is also quite logically the most direct access to many of my feelings.
And even if it's a cliché, I find it extremely important for my music to never forget the voice as the source when playing the piano.
And despite the great harmonic possibilities of the instrument, I always see myself as part of an ensemble, even if as a soloist or leader I may be in the foreground, focussing on the overall sound. I don't think I'm particularly unusual with my heroes. Herbie, Keith, Kenny Kirkland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba are just the beginning of a huge list of incredibly inspiring improvisers. But I still admire many of my teachers at a distance: Richie Beirach, who showed me what it means to feel musically unique,
Michael Wollny, who, despite his almost infinite musical ability, left no doubt from the very first second that we were on an equal footing, Tino Derado and Diego Pinera, who introduced me to Latin American music as a teenager with a lot of love and no prior knowledge. I was simply incredibly lucky with my teachers. I am also inspired by rather introverted musical personalities such as
Dmitri Shostakovich, for example, who have achieved great art in their lives despite various obstacles.

What inspired you to write the current album Narcis?

The basis for the content of the album was certainly the observation of more complex inner feelings - including
even those that are rather difficult to bear. The critical examination of my characterisation as a heteronormative cis man in our society certainly also played a role...
As I wrote above, my six comrades-in-arms and the work with them and their previous work independently of me were a great source of inspiration. And musically, without any claim to completeness or order:
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Freddy "Huevito" Lobaton, Maria Valencia, Ray Barreto, Marco Campos & Afroperú, Shostakovich, Mompou, Messiaen, Poulenc, Richard Strauss, Gerhard Schöne, Sebastian Schunke, Malcolm Braff. I've probably forgotten some of them, but without these names "Narcís" would not be what it is.

What are your plans for the future?

I dream of a time when I can practise my instrument a lot again. At the moment I've been playing more than practising and that doesn't feel quite balanced. I haven't yet dared to learn a second instrument because I have the feeling that there is still so much for me to discover on the piano.
I also want to take a lot of time to travel to places that have only been able to inspire me so far from a distance. Especially South America, but also Japan and Oceania... But I'm also looking forward to the process with "Narcís" and my collaboration with choirs.
We'll see how that works out in detail. And I'd like to ground and orientate myself politically again, because with all the musical and personal work I've done over the last two years, that has become less important than it used to be. The work of cultural anthropologist David Graeber, for example, is at the top of my list.
All of this could also lead to a political commitment. But it remains to be seen how and in what form.

Discography

Narcis, 2024
Morbu - Jazz Thing Next Generation Vol. 92, 2022

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