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03. September 2014

dogma chamber orchestra wins the ECHO Classic 2014

„DO.GMA#3 – The Shostakovich Album” (BERTHOLD records / MDG) awarded the Symphonic Recording of the Year (20th/21st century music).

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30. July 2013

Interview with Julian Waterfall Pollack

Julian Waterfall Pollack talks on the album “Waves Of Albion” by the Julian Waterfall Pollack Trio (June 7th, 2013)

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10. July 2012

DO.GMA#2 – American Stringbook wins ECHO Klassik!

Unbelievable: With only their second CD-Production the do.gma chamber orchestra has been awarded the German ECHO Klassik for the best surround production of 2012

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Interview with Julian Waterfall Pollack

30. July 2013 by ---

This is the second album of the Julian Waterfall Pollack Trio. What does the title “Waves of Albion” stand for?

Albion usually is a word for Great Britain, but in the United States there are many towns and villages named Albion. I grew up in Albion/California, which is on the coast line, about three hours north of San Francisco. The cover on the front of the album gives you an impression how it looks like. And it is the last track on the album. A very melodic, harmonious tune without a predefined structure. I wanted to represent my hometown. A lot of composers and musicians always had a kind of sense of where they are from and want it to be part of their art. I come from a very beautiful place as you can see on the album cover. I took this picture with my Iphone when I was out visiting the coast.

So your hometown gave you the musical inspiration for that tune?

Correct. It is the Pacific Ocean, which can be very dark and wild, but still maintaining a lot of character. So when it came to writing the music, I decided to compose it as an open piece without timing or drum beat - symbolizing that this ocean cannot be calmed or tamed by human beings. We are just playing together creating this kind of waves - with a threatening but still beautiful sound.

What is the musical concept of the album?

Well, I come from a place playing traditional Jazz but also learning about modern Jazz. I really love tonal harmony but I also like Pop music with its simplicity, where you take beautiful sounds and play it over and over again. The first tune on my new album for example – Flume – is from the American Indie-artist Bon Iver. I think a lot of the time in modern Jazz or classical music, complexity and intellectual pursuit trumps the act of communicating emotion. But to me, feeling is the most important part and that is why music exists. So what we are trying to do with this trio is to see how much you can get out of these really basic materials, asking ourselves: can we create something beautiful, moving within the context of a simple D Major triad? A lot of old Jazz songs, American Folk songs and Rock tunes can create a lot of feelings and vibe with very simple materials and we want to utilize those materials and convey the sentiments of those styles and THEN do what Jazz musicians do – which is improvise. Generally speaking, we are mixing Jazz with classical and Pop elements.

Did you have a clear focus which kind of songs you would to have included on that album?

Of course I wanted to have some of my own compositions on it, but also – as on the album before – some cover versions. At least we ran up with four tracks that I wrote, as well as two traditionals – which are “Amazing Grace” and “Shenandoah” and two cover versions of modern Rock songs, which are “Flume” by Bon Iver and “What Sarah Said” by a group named “Death Cab for Cutie.”

How do you choose the songs that you want to re-arrange with your trio?

That is quite funny. Of course we have a kind of sound that we are looking for. And some songs really fit nicely to our particular vibe. Most of the time these are old standard Jazz ballads, because for some reason, we can really speak through those. But traditional folk songs and contemporary Indie-Rock-Bands can also work very well. We also recorded a song which was in fast swing – but we decided to pull it from the CD because I wanted the whole album to represent the idea of simplicity and tonal harmony that touches the heart.

You mentioned the song “What Sarah Said”, which I find very interesting. Compared to the other songs on the album it includes a lot of changes, like changes in the rhythm patterns etc. What is the idea behind it?

When I was 17 years old and attending High School my girl friend gave me the CD “Plans” of that Indie-Rock Band “Death Cab for Cutie” and I really dug it. I thought it was really beautiful music with so much character, atmosphere and vibe. And the song “What Sarah Said” always stood out to me - the lyrics are heart-breaking. It is about being in a hospital and watching someone die who you love. It is a song that helps you realize how much you care about someone. There is a line is the song saying “Love is watching someone die”, which is super-heavy but that is just how it is. Our arrangement is similar to theirs. I took the melody and the chords, but gave it another twist of the screw. One time the band drops out but then comes back and we change the tempo and the meter, take the chord progression, transfer it up and the solos are in 11/8 or rather 11/16. This song really represents what we are trying to do. Which is: take these simple materials with a lot of emotion and feeling in it and then take the more intellectual pursuits with metric modulations, key transpositions, improvising in 11/16, but still maintaining the feeling of the composition.

Looking on the track list of your album and listening to the songs one could get the impression that you are quite a melancholic person, since there are titles like “Sad Song” or “I Don’t Believe in Love Anymore”. Quite unusual for a young man aged 25, isn’t it?

In music, the melancholic vibe is a very powerful one - you find it in a lot of pop music. I think it's something you don't often find in jazz music. I wouldn't say that I'm a particularly melancholic person, but I of course like any human have experienced the feeling. I would say the record is very melancholic and that is definitely intentional. We had some other tunes that we were going to put on the record, but did not include them because they didn't fit the feeling that the majority of the body of work expressed.

Let’s talk a little bit about you as a piano player, composer, arranger and band leader. You are what people consider a child prodigy. Why was that?

My mother is a concert pianist and she started giving me piano lessons when I was just five years old and my father is a symphony conductor. So I grew up with music in my house and I heard my mother practicing piano when I was in her womb. My Dad also plays saxophone and clarinet. I was raised up with classical music, Jazz and stuff like “The Beatles” – so I had a very rich musical education when I was a child. The first Jazz record I listened to was Oscar Peterson’s version of the “Westside Story”. As a piano player Peterson still is one of my heroes as well as Duke Ellington who also was a gigantic arranger.

In 2006 you decided to make a big move from the West Coast to the East Coast. What was the reason for that?

New York is the Jazz capital of the world. That is the place to go if you seriously want to play Jazz music. And since the best of the best musicians are gathering there the level of musicianship is very high – that is one reason why I moved here. But also because the city is culturally so rich, there is so much amazing stuff happening here. Los Angeles is cool, but New York in a way is cooler, because everything is much closer together, there is a centralized vibe to the city and there is a real Jazz scene with a lot of clubs.

Now at the age of 25 – critics praise your mature style of piano playing and the emotional depth of your compositions. What’s the secret behind it?

It’s just an expression of who I am. It works out as long as I write the sound that I would like to hear. There is no formula that we use - we just stay true to ourselves.

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