Q&A with jazz-fusion guitarist Gerald Gradwohl - working at the highest international level of quality, jazz meets rock

"Music should not be available for free! Spotify for example should pay at least 1 cent per stream. If that doesn’t change, most of us will not be able to produce further records. The record business is down so there has to be a solution for this. Streaming is fine but there has to be a proper payment for the artists - They are the main reason that people can listen to cool music-not the companies!!"

Gerald Gradwohl: Jazz ’n’ Rock Attitude

Austria-born jazz-fusion guitarist Gerald Gradwohl to release his new album “Episode 6” on April 16, 2021. Working at the highest international level of quality has always been a fundamental characteristic of the Gerald Gradwohl Group. He collaborated with Bob Berg, Gary Willis, Kirk Covington, Adam Nitti amongst others. Rooted in the quartet’s own unique approach to instrumental fusion, their sixth album “Episode 6” is a celebration of improvisation set within an exciting and colorful, sonic landscape of imposing compositions. As we have come to know from guitarist and composer Gerald Gradwohl, he continues to work with musicians who, aside from their extraordinary instrumental skills, also bring maturity and creative drive into both concert and recording situations. Gradwohl’s sophisticated and stylistically diverse instrumental compositions conceptualize exciting musical interactions, and his approach not only continues to keep live recordings fresh and challenging but also fosters the intuition and spontaneity of the musicians, all consolidating the band’s highly dynamic sound.

(Gerald Gradwohl / Photo by Reinhard Gombas)

Gerald Gradwohl, Thomas Kugi, Jojo Lackner, and Harald Tanschek have once again proved themselves to be an exceptional ensemble, unifying dynamic and intimate musicality with artistic intuition and emotional depth. When looking for terms and names to describe the band, the attempt will leave you with a wide spectrum between jazz and fusion music focusing on grooving funk with a strong “Rock ‘N’ Roll Attitude” mixed with Jazz harmony to fierce discharging jazz rock storms. There is no arbitrariness in this wide array of musical styles and influences, as the band selected team players from the international jazz/fusion scene – renders the stringent compositions in a committed and playfully individual manner, putting its high-quality inventive signature to the music and derives its uniqueness and independence from a sure, pro-active and listening interaction of experienced musician personalities. Gradwohl can jump into and out of the stylistic changes like a true chameleon. He has ventured further into exploratory fusion on this effort than on any of his previous efforts.

Interview by Michael Limnios        Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Jazz & Rock n' Blues culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Music - especially Rock and Jazz Rock was my main inspiration in my whole personal and musical life - it always created new perspectives and influenced especially my creativity. When I was young I tried to check every article about great artists which was not too easy in Austria because it was hard to get newspapers like "Guitar Player” etc. 40 years ago. But there have been a few possibilities and it was worth going after that. For me it was always very interesting to hear/read what they feel and think about music or how they achieved their high levels. I was (and sometimes still am) a real guitar junkie and wanted to tear the walls down!

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

In my heart I am a rock guitar player which will always be a big part of my music, but I love to play over chord changes and I am very groove orientated, so I try to mix Jazz with a rock’n’roll attitude which leads into some kind of fusion I guess... My creativity comes from any situation in life - if it’s personal or whatever. I also try to do different things from music like training (Martial Arts), motorcycling or skiing. This keeps my mind and body fresh!

Who are some of your very favorite artists, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music?

Well there are so many: Scott Henderson, Michael Brecker, Wayne Krantz, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery… but also love Gary Moore, Edward Van Halen, Angus Young, Jeff Beck, Michael Landau, and so on.

"In my heart I am a rock guitar player which will always be a big part of my music, but I love to play over chord changes and I am very groove orientated, so I try to mix Jazz with a rock’n’roll attitude which leads into some kind of fusion I guess... My creativity comes from any situation in life - if it’s personal or whatever. I also try to do different things from music like training (Martial Arts), motorcycling or skiing. This keeps my mind and body fresh!"  (Gerald Gradwohl Group / Photo by Reinhard Gombas)

What would you say characterizes the new album “Episode 6” in comparison to other previous five albums?

I think there is a little more focus on composition than on the previous albums, a little less modal and a little more chord changes... This lineup exists since 2014 and we played many gigs in the last 7 years so this influenced my writing a lot. I would even say it’s a kind of „Band“ album, although I wrote all the tunes.

Are there any memorable moments with people that you’ve performed with either live or in the studio?

Yes! My greatest Live and Studio experience was to play with Bob Berg - live and in the studio! Soloing after one of the greatest tenor sax players was a real challenge especially live. But that really improved my playing and attitude generally - I am very grateful for having the opportunity to play with a cat like that. I also should mention playing with Kirk Covington was and is also very inspiring. He is a monster drummer and incredible musician who is always 100% into your music and on your side!

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Music should not be available for free! Spotify for example should pay at least 1 cent per stream. If that doesn’t change, most of us will not be able to produce further records. The record business is down so there has to be a solution for this. Streaming is fine but there has to be a proper payment for the artists - They are the main reason that people can listen to cool music-not the companies!! The volume of streaming sales is there but where does the money go? This must change!

What are the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the European Jazz scene?                    (Gerald Gradwohl Group / Photo by Reinhard Gombas)

As a European musician you have to accept that you are not American! Don’t get me wrong but there was a time when you had no chance to get a good gig without having an international guest. That’s sometimes a little frustrating. But keeping up working hard and producing new music, etc... is the only way to handle that. I think continuity and keeping up the high level is the only way to deal with that.

"I was (and sometimes still am) a real guitar junkie and wanted to tear the walls down!"

What is the impact of Jazz Rock on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Well I have no social or political goal with my music. As long as I play music that I like and there are people who want to hear that - Great! I think that sometimes people don’t know how entertaining and inspiring instrumental music can be! People come to me after a gig and tell me how much they enjoyed the live show although they didn't know that kind of music before. They just feel the energy and the fun we have and that’s cool!! If we can create a certain vibe with a song in the heart of a listener - I am happy!

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