Interview: Janno Trump – winner of the Young Jazz Talent Award 2017

26. April 2017
Eeva Trei

Janno Trump (born 1990) is one of the most notable younger generation bassists in Estonia, he is primarily active on the jazz music scene but has played and recorded albums with different pop and rock artists as well. He’s written music for smaller jazz ensembles as well for big bands and is the leader of the jazz-funk orchestra Trump Conception.

The Young Jazz Talent Award winner was interviewed by Jazzkaar reporter Eeva Trei.

The first instrument you learned to play was the accordion. Did your parents play a part in this choice?

 

My start in music school was pretty interesting, we lived in a small place called Aruküla and back then there weren’t many people living there. So what formed was a little routine with my family where my mum would teach solfeggio, dad music history, and my aunt the accordion. So when I chose an instrument, I was certain what I wanted. I think the accordion has its own place in jazz, although at the moment I can’t imagine it in the music I do. With the accordion, I have recollections of just letting it sit in the corner. Now I’ve tried to, quietly, squeeze something out of it in the corner of the room, but it makes no sound.

 

It makes no sound at all?

 

Well, it makes a sound but no one wants to hear it.

 

You graduated high school at the Tallinn School no.21, where the students’ musical activity is greatly supported. Did you get the opportunity to perform a lot?

 

I didn’t play in a school band but I sang in the mixed choir. All sorts of musical projects were always anticipated, although there weren’t really boys in my class who I could’ve jammed with. In my class there was only one other bass player, but with two bassist there isn’t much to do. There were different bands at school but I wasn’t part of them. I had a band outside school, with local boys from Aruküla.

 

From there you moved on to study at Tallinn Georg Ots Music School. Were you always set on studying music after high school?

 

I wasn’t so proud to graduate high school and study at Georg Ots Music School as some of my classmates went to study law in the US and others to England or Germany. At that time I kept my plans to myself. But I’d had a plan to study there since middle school. So after high school I went to Georg Ots Music School, which was the best decision of my life. I can’t imagine what else I’d be doing.

 

Was jazz always the type of music you wanted to make?

 

When I enrolled in Georg Ots Music School I didn’t think I’d get to call myself a jazz musician. At that time I thought of myself as more of a pop lover. I didn’t have the jazz bug then. Of course when I got into school life there I realised that jazz music is much more interesting than pop or rock or anything other. It has so many more ways to express yourself and that really captured me.

 

Were there any certain groups that you carried on working with after graduating Georg Ots Music School?

 

At the end of first period we developed a group of people that really enjoyed playing together and had a good bond. With that group from the first year we formed a band called Late’s 5. It consisted of Pille-Riin Tei, who this year together with me was nominated for the Young Jazztalent award, Mathei Florea, who is now studying in Berlin, Caspar Salo, who plays percussion in Trump Conception, and Janno Tomingas, who at the moment is working in IT – the only one of the group who isn’t in music. Late’s 5 was a cool bunch – we played Latin music, we were all young and furious. We were so on the same level that it allowed for us each to grow fast individually and I think I made it through my 3 years at Georg Ots Music School largely thanks to that group.

 

Has music writing been a part of you since you were a child or is it something that came later?

 

I remember that I wrote my first song when I was 6 years old, my dad has it somewhere on tape; from time to time he just can’t help but show it off. But at Georg Ots Music School we started experimenting for the first time. The Uno Naissoo composing competition takes place there every year and back then it was a really good output for me. When that deadline was coming closer, I always managed to send something. Deadlines have always worked for me. When I’m forced to act on something, then ideas will come.

 

Musicians say that they write their best songs when they’re extremely sad, or in love. How would you describe your writing process?

 

I really don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever been sad to such an extent that I’d write a hit. I’ve been in love but I’m not sure if there’s ever been a song induced by that. I think things work a bit differently for me, I’m rather inspired by some musical ideas that I hear somewhere, or that emerge when I’m practicing. Nature has definitely inspired me, and of course people too, but mainly music itself.

 

What musicians have influenced you the most?

 

Definitely the band Yellowjackets, they’re in my top 3. Of course Jaco Pastorius. Of the current artists I have to mention the influences of Michael League and Snarky Puppy. Then I always highlight one more person who perhaps isn’t as widely recognised, the Finnish pianist, composer and arranger Jukka Linkola. His music is more widespread in Nordic countries but I still think he’s shamefully underrated. Of course for the Finns he’s a god and a great idol, and he really has recorded some phenomenal music, with large groups as well. I suppose the subject of performing with large groups is close to my heart.

 

Are you familiar with the program of this year’s Jazzkaar? Are you especially excited about any particular artist?

 

I’ll only be able to be here on the 26th, receive my award and listen to Steve Gadd. But I’m a fervent fan of his. Of course Meshell and Dianne Reeves, and I’d also like to hear Spyro Gyra, but inevitably I won’t have that apportunity. Liisi Koikson’s new album seems very interesting, she’s taken an interesting direction with her music as I can tell from the singles I’ve listened to on YouTube, and I’d love to hear the album.

 

Last year you had the opportunity to perform with Trump Conception within the Jazzkaar festival and Tallinn Music Week (TMW). Are there any festivals or places you dream of performing at?

 

There will always be dreams, without dreaming it’s hard to make it anywhere. So there should always be dreams… For example a year ago it was my dream to perform with this band at a jazz festival outside Estonia. And now the reality is that we have 2 festivals this summer, in Latvia and Lithuania, which are both very distinguished festivals – I’m looking forward to those very much. That dream came true pretty fast, so now I have new and bigger dreams.

 

Did the Young Jazz Talent Award come as a surprise?

 

Absolutely! It couldn’t have come in any other way. Even if we exclude all those who were nominated, at the moment the Estonian jazz scene is filled with extremely talented musicians – I have no idea how someone could be picked out. I’m just taking this decision as a massive compliment, but I’m honestly not sure how for example Pille-Rite Tei could be less deserving of this award.

 

Out of all the recognitions and awards you have received, would you say that this award makes you feel the proudest?

 

Definitely. When I found out about winning the award I started thinking that I actually haven’t won an award before. Of course I’ve competed in singing contests, at the Naissoo competition I didn’t come first, so it’s interesting to actually win something for once. I didn’t know the feeling and I’m starting to like it [laughter]. But you shouldn’t get used to it.

 

Do you sometimes dream of international recognition? Is it a goal for you to maybe win a Grammy one day?

 

I believe you can’t ever set winning an award as a goal for yourself. I think if I had set a goal 6 years ago to win this award, I definitely wouldn’t have won it. It’s a step by step process that takes you there. I wouldn’t compare music to sport, in that way.

 

How would you compare your upcoming album with your first? Is it going to be something experimental, something completely new, or will it be a continuation of the first one? 

 

I believe it’s a natural continuation of the first album. Perhaps the difference comes in having video in addition to sound.

 

The name of the first album was “One”, will the second be named “Two”?

 

[Laughter] I think it will be something original. “One” was my first big undertaking as a musician and the title says this, but “Two”? I don’t think so.

 

Have you found yourself performing back in Aruküla?

 

My dad was named Raasiku Valla Citizen of Honour a few months ago and there was a big gala there where I performed a song. Before that I think I hadn’t performed there in 7 or 8 years.

 

Were you struck by nostalgia?

 

I was. I even felt a bit nervous, I don’t know why, but the performance gave me a feeling of warmth. I’d like to perform there again.

 

Where can we expect to see you perform in the near future?

 

There will be a mini tour at the end of May, beginning of June, covering Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. On the 20th of May we’ll be performing at the JazzTime 2017 festival in Sillamäe. We will also have a concert on the 30th of May at Von Krahl, then on the 1st of June we’ll be in Riga and on the 2nd in Klaipeda. After that the recording sessions for the new album will start.