Five-Time GRAMMY Nominated Ottmar Liebert took some time to answer a few questions about his return engagement at The RRazz Room. Ottmar Liebert harnesses the emotional fire and mournful tonalities of traditional Flamenco music, updates it with the subtle rhythms of Jazz and makes it widely accessible with the melodic song structures of Pop. The acoustic guitarist summed it up with the apt comment that Nouveau Flamenco is to the traditional variety what Bossa Nova is to Samba. But even the cleverest formulas are worthless without the animating spark of genius, a quality for which there is no formula, only serendipity.
LISA: Welcome back to San Francisco, Ottmar! I read that In May 2006, you were ordained as a Zen Monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. How has your music changed since becoming a Zen monk?
OTTMAR: I don’t have a good answer to that question. I haven’t noticed any particular changes, but other people might feel differently about that. I did not perform solo before 2006, but don’t know whether that is related.
LISA: For this run at The RRazz Room, is the set list a highlight of your career, or are you focused on songs from, say, the past five years?
OTTMAR: When I perform by myself I don’t use a set list. I play whatever comes to mind. That said, on Thursday and Friday I played music from the past twenty years, as well as playing two or three pieces that will be on my next album. The album will be called “Dune” and should be released in the Spring of 2012. I have been recording since returning from our Summer tour and am really excited about the music we are making.
LISA: As a music aficionada, I listen to music with my eyes closed, especially if I feel a strong spiritual connection. As a musician, when you perform on stage, do you play with your eyes open or closed? Please elaborate.
OTTMAR: I usually play with my eyes closed, which makes it easy to concentrate on the sounds I am producing. I find that movement can be distracting, since we are programmed to react to movement – like having a conversation in a bar that has one or more big TVs – as soon as our eyes detect movement on the screen they will be drawn there, whether we like it or not. So yes, I mostly play with my eyes closed.
LISA: What type of music do you listen to; specifically, which artists?
OTTMAR: That changes constantly, but this past week I listened to Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett’s performances of the first book of Bach’s well-tempered clavier, a whole bunch of music by the Temptations, a few songs by the band War, the new album by Stephen Duros, Rai music by various artists, but especially Cheb Mami – in other words, I am all over the map.
LISA: What’s new on the horizon for you?
OTTMAR: As I mentioned, I am working on a new band album that will be released in the Spring. In March I am doing a solo tour in Europe and a little later the band will tour the East Coast of the US and Canada. After that I am hoping to start work on a second solo guitar album and then we will be out for most of the Summer with the band – the western states plus Canada.
LISA: Thank you in advance for taking the time to do this.
OTTMAR: You are most welcome.
Three more chances to Spend An Intimate Evening With Ottmar Libert: Saturday, 11/12: 7:00 & 9:30pm and Sunday, 11/13: 7:00pm. The RRazz Room, 222 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. For tickets and more information: 800.380.3095 or http://therrazzroom.com
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