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Honing A New Feel For Jazz

Yuri Honing, Dutch Saxophonist visits Bangalore and chats with well-known, Bangalorean bass player Prakash KN in a free-wheeling conversation about music, influences, inspiration and more.

Yuri Honing received the Boy Edgar Prijis—Holland’s most prestigious Jazz award. He has performed with Pat Metheny, Christian McBride, Joe Sample, Charlie Haden, Kurt Rosenwinkel and other famous jazz musicians.

And now, he’s touring the globe with his “Acoustic Quartet” and sometimes with a more experimental electric band called “Wired Paradise”.

Born into a family of pianists, Honing grew up practicing the piano. But something happened at age 12. His father gave him a recording of Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Honing decided right then he wouldn’t be able to top that. He gave up on the keys.

Fate had other musical plans in store.

A year later in 1976, holidaying with his folks in Switzerland, they drove downhill towards Montreux, following the sound of music. Finding music coming from everywhere, they reached the casino to find greats like Dexter Gordon, Woody Shaw and Stan Getz hanging out with beautiful woman and having fun drinking and performing back-to-back sets all night—a completely new and different environment to the young Honing. It lasted till four in the morning, the last thing Honing remembers before falling asleep was watching Stan Getz's rendition of the song “Infant Eyes” with Bob James on piano.

Waking up the next morning at 11, he could hear Stan Getz playing from the balcony adjacent to his room… wearing just his bathrobe.

Honing made up his mind right then—he was going to be a horn player.
The next few years were spent in the study of the saxophone. First alto and then tenor, which he believes is the voice of his soul.

And the result, today, “Wired Paradise” brings together influences from Arabic, Latin, Sufi and Rajasthani music mixed with Rock, Funk, Reggae and Pop. Electronic processing is intrinsic to their sound—the guitarist and bassist process their instruments and bring in the electric quality to the sound, (but the sax and drums are clean and unprocessed).

At rehearsals, the musicians work off each other, layering each one’s sounds upon the other, making up the “Wired Paradise sound”. Sometimes they rehearse for months, so they can play together with precision. Honing calls “Wired Paradise” a castle—very hard to get in, very hard to get out.

So it's a band—and a bond between the mates that keeps them together as a team. Speaking as a musician, I can say that no matter how good your sessions musicians might be, it takes the feel to sound like a band.

Yuri Honing Wired Paradise group has performed for audiences all over the world, some of the best gigs being in South America, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa, U.K and the Arab countries, Israel being his latest one, including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iran. Honing’s influences come not only from the music from these different places, but their culture too… the environment, people, the food and everything, like its one big soup of sound.

One of the fun gigs he recalls was at Skopje, Macedonia, where they performed on a working day but yet, the audience would not leave. Encore performances resulted in the gig ending at 5 am and he wonders if anyone of them went to work the next morning.

Honing’s “Acoustic Quartet” is a classic jazz line up of  piano, upright bass, drums and saxophone. But the resemblance to jazz ends there. An open sound with lots of spaces, the influence is from pre WWII, when jazz was less complex in harmony and form. It was the popular and dance music of the time.

Musicians often like playing fast solos. The audience digs these too, but it takes a mature musician to transcend technical skill and keep audiences hooked with slower, more melodic lines—not unlike using a few, meaningful words than a rushed, diatribe—and without being slave to technicalities like complex rhythms and scales.

Honing says he is a singer first. His iPod has more than 600 albums but right now, he is into Elbow, Blonde Redhead, P J Harvey, Foo Fighters to name a few. But being a big baroque music fan, his day is not complete without listening to Bach for an hour.

Playing the club circuit in Bangalore and Pune, Honing is looking forward to playing at the International Jazz festival in Goa and Calcutta.

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