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Encounters in Cyprus
A conversation with Sendecki & Spiegel

Sendecki & Spiegel
Photo: Aglantzia Municipality

Two world-class jazz musicians from Germany, the Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel, were the last to perform on the first day of the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia.

 
For more than 15 years, percussionist Jürgen Spiegel has been the driving force behind the Tingvall Trio, Hamburg’s very own in-house brand within the jazz scene. The Polish pianist Vladyslav Sendecki is regarded as one of the most dynamic and creative pianists in the European jazz scene and has been active in Germany for over 20 years, including in the legendary NDR Big Band. In 2019, the two came together for an unusual collaboration as a piano-drums duet. They immediately went into the studio to record their first record, Two in the Mirror.

Just before their performance, we went for a coffee in the old part of town and talked about their music and experiences in the music scene.

How did this group come about?

JS: The "orchestra" that comprises of the two of us! I met Vlady in 2008 and I thought, "What a brilliant pianist". Then we somehow lost touch until I finally thought - "I'll call him." I just picked up the phone and called him. He was also excited. We "fed" each other with audio files of pieces that we had and then we went straight to the studio without having met before to discuss or deliberate. We just made music.

VS: And it is still like that today-we do not make decisions in advance. We try, to the extent that it is possible, to keep it natural and to ‘feed’ each other intuitively on stage and in the studio. Everyone has their own tasks, philosophy and attitude, but in principle we try to inspire and complement one another.

It works wonderfully! Your album “Two in the mirror” was released in 2019.

JS: About 80 percent of the album was recorded in one day. It is not overly edited, but rather it sounds like it did when we played in the studio.
 

Duo Sendecki & Spiegel


VS: Our theory is to allow for the flow. To make good music spontaneously and to support the process with our experience and knowledge and what we are capable of doing. We start with something and then develop it further, quite spontaneously.

JS: Of course, there are certain themes, but what happens with the themes is relatively open. That’s actually the beauty of it. And because it’s just the two of us, we can, of course, react very quickly. One would think, "Where is the bass now", but since the left hand plays these runs on the piano, this is not missed. And I play very deep tones on the drums, so there is a frequency range that is always present.

What are the challenges of this unique constellation?

VS: For me, every concert is a challenge, because I always try to go beyond my own limits and achieve an unbound flow of thought. I always say, "I do not play, I just listen". When I think about playing something, everything goes awry. When we play, we create a mood, and that depends, for example, on who you are playing for and how the situation develops acoustically. We try to communicate and have fun. We perform without taking risks into account. Sometimes there is tension, but this has to be resolved somehow. It’s like in normal life where you have situations that you have some control over and others that you can’t always control.  Sometimes we say, “We’re playing one more piece”, and then we play a piece for two hours; but a whole world lies within this one piece, a whole life. Music is life.
 

  • Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia Photo: Aglantzia Municipality
    Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia
  • Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia Photo: Aglantzia Municipality
    Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia
  • Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia Photo: Aglantzia Municipality
    Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia
  • Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia Photo: Aglantzia Municipality
    Hamburg duo Sendecki & Spiegel at the 13th AglanJazz Festival in Nicosia

You have played abroad many times, but you are in Cyprus for the first time. What expectations do you have from the Cypriot audience and the local music scene?

JS: Personally, I have no expectations. I am just happy to see other people making music. I just want to see what others are doing, that inspires me; I find that really exciting.

VS: We have created our music in such a way that it captivates the audience. Music is our home and the audience is our guest. When someone enters my house, I look after him/her. It is the same with music-I do my best, so that the guests feel good.

[To VS] You yourself say "I'm not a jazz pianist, I'm a pianist". For you, what does jazz mean?

VS: In this day and age, “jazz” is often an artificial construct. I do not hate jazz, but I want nothing to do with such music.

JS: Music is often packaged in a certain way. And the moment it is packaged, it is like putting away a plant -it will die eventually. You must water and water it, with creativity. And you also need the sun-the sun is the audience, you cannot separate that.

VS: If you love someone, you cannot imprison them. If I love jazz, then I cannot be absolute and say ‘this is jazz”.  Jazz is the most ideal art form, as it contains the complete range of emotions and, above all, it entails the intimacy of making a personal statement. It is unfair to limit such music.
 

Duo Sendecki & Spiegel – "Meanwhile in Heaven" (Album "Two in the Mirror")


What do you want to achieve with your music?

VS: I say that I am a musician of the people. I want to make people happy and offer them stories, which affect both me and them. It’s all up to me; this state of being present and building a relationship with the audience is incredibly important to both of us. We do not put up any barriers, we set no limits.

The level of difficulty of the music we create is completely unimportant. The main thing is that it works and that we are not playing in vain. We also want the music to have an effect on us. When we are performing, we are telling a story with the music that has such power that it simply captivates everyone. It is like magic.

JS: In my opinion, it affects everyone differently. You can describe it, but when you hear it, it has a particular effect on each person.

VS: It is simply nice to be able to reach people. You see people for the first time, and you do not know them and their mentality. And that is what is wonderful for me-to try and move them and send out cues. You send out the first cues and see to what extent you can have an interesting conversation.

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