“Jazz is like life – you need to improvise”
Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive
Naturally born musicians don’t make music because they want to, they make music because they must. Music is their life. It is their unique way of communicating. Therefore, in order to understand a musician a little bit, you really have to listen to their music. However, since we are a printed magazine, may our interview with musician Adalbert J. Cserkesz serve as a kind of written prelude to your listening to his music.
Tell us about yourself, please, who is Adalbert J. Cserkesz?
Usually, I introduce myself as a multi-instrumentalist producer. I do it this way because I play many instruments like guitar, drums, bass, piano, and different percussion instruments. And, in the past, I produced many formulations, bands, and artists – and I have actually kept on doing that in the present, here in Prague.
Right here at the beginning, I need to clarify that I’m not a jazz musician, or not just a jazz musician. This is because, in my musical experience and career, I have collaborated with all kinds of formulations, bands, artists, as well as music genres like big bands, funk soul bands, electronic music, d’n’b, fusion, free jazz, world music, ethno jazz, metal rock, and alternative rock. I didn’t skip classical formulations either, collaborating with the likes of Luiza Zan, Viorica Pintilie, Berti Barbera, Sorin Romanescu, Cezar Cazanoi, Marius Gagiu, Rick Condit, Erwin Ditzner, Joe Bartmes, Slang, Urma, and many others.
Are you working on some special projects here in Prague?
Yes, I started two interesting fresh projects here. One is with Agnieszka Twardoch, a jazz singer who has also been a vocal coach for over 10 years at the Jaroslav Ježek Music School in Prague. Our live shows are called “Odds and Ends” because we let you enjoy most of the biggest MTV hits in our personalized jazzy manner. We play music from artists like Joni Mitchell, Cinematic Orchestra, Amy Winehouse, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Willson, Nina Simone, Lou Reed, Nora Jones, Esperanza Spalding, Tuck and Patty, Jimi Hendrix, Cindy Lauper, Commodores, and many others.
My other project is called V3 Organ Trio, and it is an instrumental funk soul jazz ensemble. It is a project based on the friendship between the three members, each from different regions / countries, yet at the same time sharing a common cultural / political history. In the trio’s repertoire, you can find both jazz and pop soul funk hits, interpreted in their personalized musical manner and arrangement. Simply put, it is everything from pop to rock through Jazz: from Zawinul to Michael Jackson, through Roy Ayers and others. We cater our concerts to lovers of the music genre (funk soul jazz), as well as to people who like to dance.
The public will soon be able to see us in Prague, and we were also already invited to a few international festivals with these projects.
What can you tell us about your music?
My music comes from me, from my imagination, and it may be more complex than I can reproduce. Sometimes I can, sometimes not… It’s like life – it’s part of my life, with ups and downs as it normally is.
I like to compose, but I also like to reproduce / recover other artists’ songs. I do consider them geniuses, and I believe that no one could have written these songs better during their time. Given that, I try to complete and add some personal updates to their songs too.
What is jazz?
In my opinion, jazz is one of the freest modalities of musical self-expression. It’s like life – you need to improvise all the time.
You perform all over the world. Are your origins in Romania?
Yes, I am from Transylvania, the middle and heart of Romania, where multiculturalism and multilanguage are very characteristic.
After we won the First Prize at Golden Stag (Cerbul de Aur), a famous international festival, in 2004 with my band Slang, I moved to Bucharest for 15 years. There, I met and worked with most of the top Romanian musicians. With Slang and Luiza Zan, we had numerous concerts in Europe’s different cities like Budapest, Lijubjana, Heidelberg, Bruxelle, and many others. With Urma we had a tour for our last album “Lost End Found” in big European cities like London, Berlin, Budapest, Paris, and many more, but we also had a full house at Romanian Sala Palatului, Atheneul Roman, and Cinema Patria.
Is jazz an “international” genre of music?
Of course jazz is an “international” genre of music! And even more so today. Before, it was American music, but today it’s a kind of world music, with all kinds of international cultural influences, which gives the music a more interesting sound generally – but even more so for jazz.
Which is your favorite country or city?
I don’t have favorite places – I love all the places I have already lived in or visited because each place has a special energy and character, formed by its history and the people living there.
Which language do you sing in?
In a musical language, absolutely. As Berthold Auerbach says, “Music is the only versal language which needs no translation”. And this sends us back to one of your first questions here regarding my musical style: it does not actually matter what style you play, it can be traditional, folk, rock, jazz, electronic, afro, metal, techno, and many more. The author of music is like a writer, and the interpreter is like an actor, who reads a poem or prose. He actually counts for more because it’s all about the transmission of emotions, energies, and messages.
Technically speaking, we usually sing in English because we play all around the world, and we need a text-communicating language that everybody understands. Also, sometimes the English poetry in music is more complex than in other languages, probably because we use it so often that it comes more naturally, and we have evolved much in this direction. I’m not saying that other nation’s poems are not good, but for music, I think the best fit nowadays is the English language.
What are your favorite jazz and non-jazz tunes?
Very hard question… I’ll try to be very simple and choose the first song that comes to my mind. Non-jazz: Bill Whiters – Lovely Day, Jazz: Stark Reality – Dreams (‘69)
Who most inspires you?
Over time, I have been inspired and influenced by many. I remember very well in my childhood – I was listening to my parents’ records and found a musical treasure at that moment. So, let me give you just a few names: Miles Davis, E.W.F., Meshell Ndegeocello, Pat Metheny, Dave Brubeck, and of course Michael Jackson (everybody’s favorite) … and many others.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I love to work with everyone who has skills, ideas, and humility for music! I am lucky by default in choosing the artists and projects I play and collaborate with because I still love everyone I have ever collaborated with. Each person is different, with a different take on musical styles, and a different character and soul. During my career, I have shared the same stage with Pink, Natalia Imbruglia, Pink Martini, Faithless, and many other famous artists.
What would you do if you weren’t a musician?
Another hard question… Right now, I cannot imagine my life without music, but, of course, we all have plenty of other dreams. At a young age, I was interested in sports, race cars, horses, but also film directing for example… the things that young guys usually dream about.
What do you do in your free time?
Thinking about what I will do when I get busy again. No, seriously, there’s no free time in the life of an artist – you get distracted by ideas all the time. The only free time I have is actually the moments when we are on a holiday trip with my family – my wife and daughter. In that moment, the only thing that matters is the place we are at, the culture, the gastronomy, and everything that makes it unique and special.