Johnny La Marama
Johnny La Marama
With his coat collar turned up and a cheap carnation on the revers, he orbits in a constellation of his own design. Johnny La Marama: a gangster out of passion with the tendency to shoot himself in the foot. A twilight-iguana who, after a successful bank robbery, can’t find his car keys and gets caught; only to latter escape prison by hiding inside the warden’s birthday cake. ... This Johnny La Marama has a sound, a groove, a melody as sinister and adventurous as his nature.
Johnny La Marama is a band from Berlin. The Finnish guitarrist Kalle Kalima, the New York bassist Chris Dahlgren and the German drummer Eric Schaefer compile dozens of musical preferences and experiences from their cardinal points. But, unlike numerous other projects in the wide fields of the Berlin jazz scene, the musicians turn out as a real band. A band in which a lot of things happen spontaneously, but few things happen by chance.
On their new cd „...Fire!“, inspite of the music’s openness, they sound so tight and self-contained that it’s hard to trace back which intention, which impulse and which element goes back to which initiator. And while most of the pieces on „...Fire!“ come the invidual band members, they sound as if they were written by a single person. Johnny La Marama is no trio in the classical sense, but an intuitive unity. „ Although we only improvised in the beginning“, drummer Eric Schaefer remembers the beginning four years ago, „ it worked out immediatly, because we like a similar kind of music, and need a comparable level of freedom.
It came naturally for us to find a common language to develop this collective sound that we brought from three different directions. We all pull together concerning our musical style, which shows influences of, for instance, Post Rock, Metal, Drum’n’Bass, New Classical Music, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa.“ The album title’s accordance to an authorized Zappa bootleg is mere chance. But Zappa’s historical question „Does humor belong in music?“ runs through the cd like a thread, connecting all of the tracks, which run between ten minutes and four seconds. If there is a conceptional umbrella term for Johnny La Marama at all, then maybe ‚urban blues grotesques’.
Urban because of the noise and the open and subliminal hectic-ness of the tracks, blues because of the guitar and the nocturnal flair of the pieces, and humor that doesn’t make you laugh out but invites you to smile beningly. „ Some of the tracks on the record are actually simple blues“ , Schaefer says, „ that only sound more complicated because we added something. Actually, it’s the principle of call and response; we always give each other enough space to respond to calls. There is no traditional role allocation like a soloist and a accompanyist.
Through the groove, we open common rooms, and slowly develop within this architecture. When we played together for the first time there were already noticable song structures. It was astounding to ourselves, how logical our pieces developed. There always was a certain groove, some kind of undertow to something juicy between HipHop, Drum’n’Bass and Rock.
Even though there amay be a lot of breaks within one track, we don’t try to formulate some particular concept, we just follow the pure joy of playing. We have fun combining Rock, Jazz and New Classical Music in this groove-habit.“ But the fascinating twilight charm of Johnny La Marama doesn’t only come from the music. As virtuosic as all three groove- and sound-magicians are in controlling their instruments and musical idiom, they know, masterly, how to juggle with attitudes and platitudes. From time to time one is reminded of old comics in the style of Will Eisners „Spirit“, or memories of Film Noirs from the 40s, surf sounds and insipid american thriller series from the 60s, and „Schweinerock“ from the 70s.
That’s how Johnny La Marama has found a very individualistic way to bundle diverse anachronisms in the here and now. „ We definetly find ourselves in comics in which the size of our suit is always one too large and the goons have backs like oxen; comics in which everything is a little bit exaggerated, but nevertheless representing a demimonde that stands for a certain kind of adventure. Of course we’re neither Cubans nor a Hard-Rock band from the seventies. But we enjoy to engage in strangely juxtaposed musical spaces.
Jazz has always been using eclecticism anyway. You just have to find a way to put all the different pieces together and make them your own. The listener decides whether we succeed gloriously or not at all. Anyway, it is a delight for us to put ourselves into the most different musical situations and to tap the full potential.“ The three musicians from Johnny La Marama are connected through their dare-devil love of music.
Eric Schaefer was already introduced to Blues, Rock’n’Roll and Funk by his father. Kalle Kalima grew up with Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and has the reputation of being a most audacious nonconformist among european guitarists. Chris Dahlgren, a little bit older than the two Europeans, brings in his memories of Weather Report concerts and his intense collaboration with Anthony Braxton and the New York Jazz-Avantgarde. All three of them advance outside the band.
But when Johnny La Marama calls, they don’t have any other chance but to answer. „ When Johnny calls, we have to meet.“ recapitulates Eric Schaefer. „ Each musician has something he anxiously wants to try with the others. We meet, someone reads a book about Mexican frogs who’s names correspond to some substances you can ingest.
Then we go on tour and meet someone who doesn’t want to exchange cds with us, because he doesn’t want to cart too much luggage. Out of that we make a piece about a father who always rejected Johnny. That’s how we handle those rejections. Later, we pass through the Alps in a small train where you could consume several hard liquors (if required), and the names of those liquors, placed in a numeral order, will make a new song text that will ask for its music....
As soon as we’re together as a band, an endless stream of things is washed up. Johnny works like a magnet that attracts things out of every corner.“ Johnny La Marama is a band and – so much is proved by their latest cd – at the same time so much more. Johnny La Marama is an adventure, a story, a bittersweet dream, an unrealizable desire, an indulgence in immoderateness, the ideal intersection of exaggeration and understatement, a stylish tastelessness, a bubble-bath in fiction, a timeless somewhere in nowhere but yet the soundtrack to every day life’s monotony of departure and return. Read more on Last.fm.
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