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Exclusive Interview With Stockholm Jazz Guitarist, Hans Olding



In this Jazz Guitar Today interview, JGT contributor Joe Barth talks to Sweden’s Hans Olding.

Above photo: Nadja Karlsson

Studying classical piano at age six, Hans Olding, switched to classical guitar at age twelve.  Playing some rock music he focuses’ on jazz at the legendary jazz program, Skurup’s Folkhogskola,  and later at the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm.  Busy as a jazz guitarist in Stockholm, Hans has toured in Europe, South America as well in the United States.

Jazz Guitarist Hans Olding photo: Johan Markusson

JB: What was most helpful in your personal development as a guitarist?

HO:  I focused on the music not just on the guitar. I started on the piano first then switched to the guitar.  It was all about learning the music as I learned my instrument.  I listened to all the great guitar players but I wanted to find my own way to play. I also listened to a lot of piano players and how they do their voice leading.

JB: What are a couple of the most influential jazz guitarist albums to you and why? 

HO:  Mike Stern’s Upside Downside with Jaco playing a couple of cuts first issued in 1976. I also loved Mike’s work with Miles Davis. Coming from rock to jazz I really identified with the rock element in Mike’s playing, bending the notes and rocking out when he played.   

John Scofield’s Meant to Be album with Joe Lovano.  As a teenager, someone took me to a club here in Stockholm when John was touring with the guys on that recording, drummer Bill Stewart and Dennis [Irwin] and Marc Johnson on bass.  It really drew me in with his organic sound.  He is a virtuoso, but not in a flashy classical way, he is so connected with the guitar. He makes the guitar sound the way that the guitar is supposed to sound.  He has such a passion for the music. I saw him just a few weeks ago and even now, he still has a fire in his soul for what he is playing. John has probably had the most influence on me of all the players.

Wes Montgomery The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.  I was into rock music when I heard that album and he just drew me into jazz.  I just connected with what he was playing. To me, he is the greatest jazz guitarist ever and the guitar just seemed so natural to him.

JB:  What do you find rewarding in your career today as a guitarist in Stockholm?

HO:  Continuing to develop as a musician, composer, and player.  There is some work here in Stockholm but not a lot. You have to be willing to travel if you want to work steadily. 

JB: Tell us about one of your CD albums.

HO:  My newest, Way Station is with my trio.  All the songs are my compositions. It is me… right now. There is a lot of odd-time meters in the songs.

JB:  Tell me about the type of gigs that you do in Stockholm.

HO:  If it is more a concert-type setting I do my music with some Standards mixed in.  If it is a smaller club gig I do mostly Standards [and] like Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell tunes.

JB:  How do you promote your music?

HO:  I’m still doing CDs. CDs are the main way you get your album reviewed.  But, this is all changing. We are still finding our way.

JB:  Tell us about the guitar and amp that you use.

HO:  For twenty-five years I played a Gibson ES 335.  Now I play a Semiacoustic Schottmüller.  Stefan Schottmüller is a German luthier [down south near the Swiss border].  He makes only [around] ten guitars a year and a friend of mine in Norway bought two of them and made one of them available to me. It is a great instrument.  I play it through a Polytone amp with a 15-inch speaker.

JB:  What would you say if you could speak to an 18-year-old guitarist who has some facility on the instrument as well as aspirations of a career as a jazz guitarist?

HO:  Find your own way. There are so many different ways to develop as a musician and a guitarist.  You need to have passion and patience. I used to teach but I found that teaching took too much energy from my playing.  Now I work two days at my day job and devote the rest of the week to my music. 

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