Dalgoo interview

MEINRAD KNEER about the third DALGOO album

'Liberté Egalité Fraternité' (Jazzwerkstatt)

Dalgoo is a contemporary jazz quartet that just released its third album ‘Liberté Egalité Fraternité’. The quartet was founded by sax and clarinet player Tobias Klein and double bass player Meinrad Kneer when they were students at the Amsterdam Conservatory. They started Dalgoo with the intention of playing their own music. Lothar Ohlmeier was added as second  sax and clarinet player. They recorded ‘Dalgoo’ (2000) and New Anatomy (2003) with different drummers. The band was resurrected in 2016 with drummer Christian Marien, who should provide a stable line-up for the future.  I had a nice chat with bass player Meinrad Kneer about the new album and the band.

I think the band has developed towards a more free and avant-garde direction since the last album in 2003. Am I right about that?

‘Yes, you can see it that way. All three founding members have developed themselves in their own way and we all went in a more progressive direction. With Christian Marien we have found an exceptional drummer whose influence on the music is important.’

What is the idea behind a line-up with two sax/clarinet players?

‘There are a lot of inspiring examples of that in jazz history like the Ornette Coleman Quartet, Tim Berne Blood Count, John Carter/Bobby Bradford Quartet, Old and New Dreams, etc. The most motivating thing about this line-up is the harmonic freedom that we experience and create without a piano or a guitar.’

The new album has a remarkable title. Why did you choose the slogan of the French Revolution?

‘There are a lot of reasons for that. Those three elements, freedom, equality and brotherhood are very important to us. There’s a lot of trust between us which creates a lot of freedom. That means that the music can go in any direction without losing each other. There’s complete equality of the four members, there’s no difference between the so called soloists and the rhythm section. Then there’s brotherhood because we are a real collective and everybody takes equal responsibility. Not just for the music but also for the logistics and finances. This is rare in the music scene. Another reason for using this title is that the world is in urgent need of freedom, equality and brotherhood!’

How did you connect the titles of the pieces to the music?

‘That’s a hard one to answer! The titles for my compositions and for those of Tobias were found by ourselves. These come often naturally after the writing. The free improvisations with the titles ‘Egalité’, ‘Liberté’ and ‘Fraternité’ were choosen after the pieces were recorded, but if you listen carefully, you may discover why they we used these words for each track.’

Let’s talk about your compositions on the album: ‘Irr und Sinn’, ‘Die Zeit Steht Still’ and ‘Eens Oneens’.

The titles of my compositions are always very associative. I listen back and see what kind of images I get. ‘Irr und Sinn’ plays with German words like ‘Irrsinn’ (nonsense), but also with ‘verirren’ (getting lost) and ‘Sinn’ (giving sense). ‘Die Zeit Steht Still’ was what I felt after listening back to the music. I think this music captures the idea of time standing still. ‘Eens Oneens’ is a Dutch title. There are two bass clarinet lines that sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. That’s the idea behind the title.’

In ‘Lakeish’ there’s some old fashioned swing in there. I suppose it’s nice to have a moment of going fully straight?

‘Sure, we like that. We all love jazz and do not avoid so called old fashioned ideas. Still, we do it our way! We also feel a direct line towards traditional jazz because improvisation is important in both styles.’

Do you really ‘compose’ the music with written scores?

‘Yes, me and Tobias present our more or less finished compositions, although the whole band does the further arranging and there’s room for improvisation.’

Listening to the playing and interaction of Lothar and Tobias, it sounds like they produce a musical knitwork with crossing lines, with alternating creation of distance and finding each other.

‘Yes, that’s a perfect description of what they do. It’s all about pure musical understanding between the two of them. They understand each other completely and it’s hard to distinguish who plays what. They have so much experience that they managed to develop this uncredible tightness.’

Meinrad, you have a very busy career with your own record label (Evil Rabbit – GR) and lots of bands and combinations you play in. Where does Dalgoo stand in your priority list?

‘Oh, Dalgoo is very important to me and I’m so glad that we came together again after so many years. It was my first own band when I lived and studied double bass in the Netherlands. The same goes for Tobias and Lothar I think. They are both very happy about playing together again.’

How would you describe the music of Dalgoo yourself? Is it cross-over jazz, chamber jazz, contemporary music, avant-jazz, …?

I don’t know if there’s a name for it. I leave it to others to put a tag on it. We get inspiration from many different kinds of music and forms of art like theater, film or literature …

One thing is for sure, every album Dalgoo has recorded is worth listening to and with ‘Liberté Egalité Fraternité’ they have managed to set a new standard to what the band is standing for: four strong individual musicians who take the challenge to go in dialogue with each other without any ranking of the individual members. That’s the spirit in which they work and play. It's a generous idea that produces fascinating music! Unfortunately Covid-19 prevents Dalgoo to play live concerts at this time, but that will change as soon as possible.

Geert Ryssen