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An Exclusive Interview with Hans Groiner

The noted Austrian musicologist and Monk expert grants JazzTimes an audience

Hans Groiner
Hans Groiner

This rare interview with pianist Hans Groiner was recorded on April 8, 2021.

JazzTimes: Do you follow the latest trends in jazz? What have you been listening to? 
HANS GROINER: There was a record I heard recently, which was very good. I can’t remember the name of the artist. I particularly liked the spaces in between the tunes … But I’m not so familiar with the new records. I can’t find a shop to buy records, so that’s a big problem.

Have you heard the newer jazz/hip-hop hybrid music?
No, I have not. I’m very picky in what I like. For instance, if something is too minor, I will turn it off. And if something is too loud, I will turn it mostly down. Some of my favorite music is the things that I have been doing. I am particularly proud of my latest Charles Mingus work … I feel that if he hadn’t been so disturbed … in his head … his music would be more cheerful and easily accessible. So I think when you hear some of the reharmonizations—some people have said de-harmonizations—of Mingus’s work that I have done, you too will agree perhaps that it is better. I’m not so interested in being influenced by other people. When has that worked?

What did you think of the latest spate of jazz-themed movies like La La Land and Whiplash?
Wonderful. Loved both movies. I thought, finally, finally, someone is telling it the way that it is! The melodies in La La Land, the fact that I can’t think of any of them, I think is the mark of a truly great film … in a way.  And Whiplash—my great-uncle was a lot like that teacher. He would throw things at me and hit me sometimes. And I deserved it, because I was not playing the right scales and so forth. And I think that one does have to be harsh when necessary. I hope there are more movies that depict music as accurately as those two films.

Who are some of your favorite pianists besides Monk? Also, what’s your take on those pianists who grunt or vocalize while they’re playing?
Well, Tesh, John Tesh would be up there at the top of the list. Then, all the greats: you’ve got Yanni, you’ve got George Winston—all the players who really go to the edge. Who am I forgetting? I would love to hear Tesh’s take on Ornette Coleman, for instance. And, in terms of the second part of your question, I don’t remember what it was, but it was an excellent question.

What do you think of pianists who grunt or vocalize while they’re playing?
Yes. I mean, if they do it on key, I think it’s okay … But I have this problem with tennis players, as well. There’s too much grunting. If the grunting is louder than the playing, it’s a problem. This happens sometimes. But I prefer to overdub grunts, because then you really have control over when they happen and how loud.

That’s an excellent point. Hans, it was a pleasure to meet you after viewing so many of your instructional videos.
I’m sure it is.

Allen Morrison

Allen Morrison is a music journalist, musician, jazz critic, lecturer, and a regular contributor to JazzTimes and 
DownBeat. His work has also appeared in The Guardian, Jazziz, American Songwriter, and Departures. He lectures frequently on jazz history aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. Before becoming a full-time journalist, Allen worked as a music publicist and a pianist. He is working on a book on how musicians and non-musicians hear music. He maintains a blog at AllenMorrison.com.