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Patrick Hazell:

"My Best Song Appeared thanks to the Girl from Udmurtia"

All Channels TV Guide, Nov. 2003, Izhevsk, Russia

Patrick Hazell is one of the most famous blues musicians in America. He played on both sides of the Atlantic with world-known musicians, and recently got to Izhevsk. Here he had two concerts. One was at the "Babylon-Disco" club together with the rock groups "Trali-Vali", "Sny", and "Nablyudatel". The other concert was in the Culture Center "Aksion" together with Sergej Kungurov, master of the krez (Udmurt folk instrument), and the wonderful folk-singer Nadezhda Utkina. Hazell, with his harmonica, filled Udmurt folk music with crazy drive and blues-rhythm. With its freshness and sincerity his piano improvisations reminded us of the "Golden 60s".

Patrick, when did you feel like a musician for the first time?
I started playing after I heard boogie-woogie records. At that time I was about ten to eleven years old. Those were records of Pete Johnson and Hadda Brooks. I don't know if that tells you about anything now, but when I was young, these were famous and probably the best pianists playing boogie-woogie.

Why did you get hooked on boogie-woogie rhythms, and not classic jazz or rock-n-roll, which made America famous in the world of music?
I am afraid to disappoint you, since you can guess how old I am (laughing), but my passion for music began before rock-n-roll appeared. At that time there was blues, rhythm-blues, and boogie-woogie. That was the music that I gave my heart to.

In Russia they say, blues is when a good person feels bad. Do you agree with that?
Do they really say that? It's a very interesting phrase. In English it's a good pun. The word "blues" has two meanings - "blues", and "sadness". It means that you can say about any blues-man that he is sad. In reality blues is the music of happy. Yes, for me a good blues performance is happiness.

Cinema dictated their ideas of American blues-men and rock-musicians as "fast-livers". People who spend all of their nights in a bar having a shot of whiskey. And that they are going from city to city by Harley-Davidson. How much truth is there in it?
A lot of blues-men are really like that, but a lot does not mean everybody. Of course, I was in bars. That is a natural place to perform blues. When young, I performed in bars a lot. Sometimes I would have a shot. Over time I got tired from that. Now a bar is the last place I will go to when I have some free time. As musicians say, silence is the best music. Besides, I am not one of those who like to drink. However, I do like fast driving, but not motorcycles. I would rather have a Cadillac.

What are you thinking about when performing?
All kinds of things. It depends on place of a concert and its atmosphere. Sometimes I do not want to think about anything. One famous saxophonist Johnny Hodges was asked what he was thinking about when playing his beautiful solo. He answered that he was thinking about "Exit" sign, which was on the nearest door, and about what an inspiring word that was. It is the same with me--I can find an absolutely unusual reason for thoughts, a flow of associations. Sometimes I am thinking about music.

What are the components of a successful improvisation?
First of all, I should feel that the musicians participating in a jam-session are tuned to each other, and not pulling the blanket each. If not to talk about any particular situations, but about the meaning of improvisation for me, the most important is to discover something new as a result of playing. It is to find "the second bottom" in a familiar melody, new music meaning. If it is possible, to free your feelings and be able to catch new, fresh sensations that are born during the performance. Yes, that is exactly how I see the meaning of improvisation--to broaden the knowledge of my inner world and of music, and to understand the mechanism of how it is born inside of me.

You have an impressive collection of harmonicas. Do you have some unusual instruments among them?
I have what are called "collectable harmonicas" at home. What is the most interesting--their outer beauty-- does not mean that I prefer to play on them. It is even more the opposite. Once, my nephew gave me the cheapest harmonica made in China as a Christmas present. It was laying around for a long time, and once I took it with me to a party. It was more for fun than for real playing. It turned out that it sounded very original--absolutely not the usual tone, and sometimes had some unbelievable harmonica sounds. This is exactly what I need! Now, when I do my recording in a studio, I am using not an expensive instrument, but this Chinese cookie-cutter, and I am happy! Out of the blue, thanks to this harmonica, I turned out to be an experimenter in music. It is something like a famous modern music composer John Cage, who puts screws and nuts on his grand piano to get some new unusual sounds. What he gets is the harmony of dissonance.

During the concert, the harmonica sounded together with Udmurt krez. What was the most exotic and unusual instrument that was accompanying your play?
It was in Paraguay. A man came out of some ground hut with a grass roof in the jungle. He was holding an Irish harp in his hands, and then he started playing the harp (by the way, harp is the national symbol of Paraguay). This instrument has a lot of strings. It looks very primitive, but the way he played this instrument was amazing. I was impressed so much that I joined him, and we played together. It was a real improvisation. Recently I was playing accompanied by Indian sitar, and now I am working with a guy from Turkey who plays saz (three-stringed instrument) and performs Sufi songs.

At the concert you told us the story of the song "Voodoo Queen", which appeared after you met a beautiful Mexican girl who turned out to be a voodoo witch. Do you have a lot of songs, which appeared as a result of real events of meetings?
Yes, a lot. Once, I wrote a song just after I saw dancing people. Another song appeared after a meeting with a woman whose friend brought me to Germany. One more woman who inspired me for the creation of a new song is Nadya Utkina (I named the composition "Nadya's Song"). When my friends and family heard it, they said that this is the most beautiful song I have ever written in my life. It will definitely be in my repertoire and will be in my album thanks to Nadya and your country.