Ivo Sans can most often be found behind a set of drums, treading the fine line between jazz and free improvisation, but he’s also an artist and a sculptor, and his collaborations regularly include dance. But whether it’s his regular quartet ISCJCMKMB, the SAI trío with pianist Agustí Fernández and dancer Sònia Sánchez, or his paper and found object sculptures – which have been described in the Japan Times as calligraphy in the air – the common thread is the quality of deep simplicity that he brings to every endeavour.
1. Name an experience that contributed to your becoming a musician?
At school when we were fourteen years old, a friend of mine – who was related to Camilo José Cela – used to play drums with desk items. Small boxes, pens as drumsticks and tapping the floor as a bass drum only getting the sound from his shoe. That excited me in a way that I wanted to have a drum set of my own to learn to do these independence and coordination tricks asap. The funny thing is that there was no sound in it, was just plastic “noise”! Besides, my parents love good music and would always play great records at home, such as The Beatles, Nina Simone, Beethoven or Vinicius di Moraes. There are no musicians in my family so I didn’t study music when I was young. But sure, the love for good music was yet in my family and I have to say above being a musician I’m very often out listening to live music. All kinds.
2. What’s your ‘guilty’ listening pleasure? (i.e. something you listen to in secret?)
Haha, I’m not really the kind to be ashamed of something I like. I listen to a lot of different stuff. But yes, sometimes I feel that some people with whom I share a specific kind of music wouldn’t understand that at the same time I can love something so different. For example bossa nova, Vivaldi, Bartok or The Cure. I really don’t care about the style, as long as there is something that I find interesting. And I can go very far on that! For example some Stevie Wonder records from the 80s can be so démodé and kitsch… But you know, music – and art – is like that, if you like it, it means that there’s something that’s talking to you. And that’s the point, never mind the period, the age or the country where it comes from.
3. What’s the starting point for a composition? (assuming you have one!)
I do have some compositions of my own. Although I often say I’m not a composer. I see the composition as a tool, not as a goal on itself. For example for my band ISCCJMKMB [Ivo Sans Convida Cesar Joaniquet, Masa Kamaguchi, Marcel·lí Bayer], I have to compose to put the band in a certain state of mind. If I told them to play a blues, or The Girl from Ipanema, it could be harder to take them where I want them to be. So I create a composition, a certain context, that will put the band quite quickly in that mood. It’s not that I’m a dictator but you know, the leader – the boss as Masa calls me – has to take care of the repertoire…
4. Then there’s the free-er improvisation (e.g. your work with Agustí Fernández in WRY and with Sònia Sánchez) – what state of mind do you need for this kind of performance?
The same I need any time I sit behind my drum set: concentration and inspiration. That’s all. In my case the first thing depends more on me, the sound of the venue, the lights, the people talking or quiet, being relaxed, etc. The second on who am I playing with. This I would say is more important than concentration, to me, to the music I try to do. If I have to play with someone that doesn’t inspire me at all, I can concentrate like a Zen monk but rarely will something meaningful come out of my instrument. With Sònia and Agustí I can be perfectly focused on the sound I hear, and the movement I feel from Sònia, because I’m 100% inspired always! That’s how we decided to go on with the band I guess, from the first moment we played together we felt very comfortable and inspired the three of us.
5. With ISCCJMKMB, you’ve said you weren’t looking for a jazz quartet but that it just seemed to fall into place. After three discs, it seems to be a regular touring and recording line-up – what keeps you so interested in this particular project?
Well this is my band, it’s the only project where I do all the work apart from playing music, you know composing, editing, promoting, planning, those kind of things. Sometimes it’s annoying but when you have a record in your hands, like “Yoruba” or now “Adorno” you’re very proud of having done it. What I try to explore with this band is the marriage between jazz and improvised music. The two things I think I’m good at. We’re always playing tunes but I try to keep it that all of us always have the same attitude as when we do free improv, which means we listen carefully to the sound coming out from the other musicians or the silence rather than thinking about a score or a predetermined form. And if I keep on with the band, I guess it’s because I feel that there’s still so much music to play together.
6. Where do you stand on the streaming/downloading/file-sharing/musicians-not-getting-paid-for-their-music debate?
Ha! First of all I think this is a debate for artists selling records and that’s definitely not my case. I don’t really know, you see if you look back to the history of records you’ll see that it has been quite short. Now some people complain but in the 30s or 40s nobody would sell records, then came the record fever in the 50s and 60s, and later, but I wonder if for instance Steve Lacy was ever earning good money from that… I don’t think so but it doesn’t matter. I think, at least in this country, jazz musicians should have work playing for TV shows, restaurants, marriages, you know this kind of work, and they should be decently paid. Of course, we should play as well at festivals and in clubs, and people should come to hear us! But what I mean is that recordings (and most of the times very bad ones) have finished as a big part of our work. And it’s a pity!
7. What’s next? (musically, geographically, recording, tours, ensembles, anything…)
I’m working with the contemporary and butoh dancer Andrés Corchero, we’ll do a show at the MACBA on October 10th. Then this year I want to record two trio records with the ISCCJMKMB members, one with Cesar as soloist and one with Marcel·lí, playing just standards as we’ve done for three years live at Josephine every Friday, with Masa on bass. In November the Arts Santa Mònica will be holding an exhibition of my works and we’ll be also playing there, as a related activity, with the SAI trío, with Sònia and Agustí. I also want to record the first studio album with ISCCJMKMB but changing the line-up a little bit. This summer we played at the Ibiza Jazz Festival with Iván González on trumpet and Marc Cuevas on double bass instead of Marcel·lí and Masa, and I want to record some new tunes with them.
For more music and art, take a look at Ivo’s website: ivosans.com