From 16 September to 19 December the twelfth year of Jazz Brno will be taking place in the Stará Pekárna club in Brno. It will offer not only modern jazz but also fusion, funk and a solid chunk of blues. The festival opens on Saturday 16 September with a concert by the American blues musician Linwood Taylor, who will be performing in Brno as part of a larger Czech tour. We asked him a number of questions on the telephone.
On your Facebook page we can find a comparison of your playing to the style of Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and Albert King. Which of these giants did you encounter first and which of them is most important to you today?
All three are important to me. I love the style of each of them and I have taken something from their styles. But I am trying to do things my way. The first I listened to was Jimi Hendrix. In one of his songs it seemed I heard something that reminded me of Muddy Waters. Someone then told me that it was Waters’ composition Rollin’ Stone, which Hendrix used in his version of Catfish Blues. So I began to also listen to the original.
You come from Maryland, a state that is not exactly linked to blues. How did you come into contact with this music? And why did you start playing it?
Blues was played in our house, by my father. He had a big collection of discs. Blues was the music I listened to at home. I began to play the guitar, because most of my classmates did, as well as our teacher. And what is more blues spoke to me. I also liked rock and roll, but that is really only blues played faster and louder. I realised that blues and rock are really the same thing. It was the music that surrounded me.
Superficial listeners have the impression that blues is sad music. Would you disagree?
When someone says that blues is sad music, they are perceiving only one dimension of it. I would rather link the term ‘overcoming’ to the blues. Someone feels sad or defeated, but overcomes it and writes a song about it. Blues is about overcoming various forms of adversity.
Do you tell real stories in your songs or are the lyrics completely made up?
Often I decide to tell some kind of story but it does not have to be about me at all. It can be about the experiences of my friends or members of my family. Or it can be someone I saw on television. I put myself in their place and tell their story. Generally though I don’t think it is necessary to write something completely new. Only it should be something that you have lived through or thought up. People have lived on this planet for long enough that it is practically impossible to come up with something completely new. But the way you express it can be new. And that is what you do as the author. Some prefer to be entertaining and others rather melancholy, but it depends only on the author. For example for me humour is very important. To be able to laugh at many things.
You have already performed in the Czech Republic in the past and in September you are coming for quite a major tour. How do audiences differ between the USA and Central Europe?
In America people show clearly their satisfaction, dancing and enjoying themselves. In Europe audiences are more reserved, which is not a bad thing in itself. They listen to the music much more attentively, and show more respect for the performance itself. And that is really great. Both approaches suit me. I am doing what I want to – I make a living though music. The circumstances vary but I am grateful for both types of audience.
From your recordings I know you not only as an interpreter of your own works but also a player of the standard blues repertoire. What will you be offering listeners in Brno and in your other Czech concerts?
In the concerts I will play both my own works and cover versions. I see it as important to give people something they already know and want to hear. If I do that then I can go off on a trip to where I want to go, including my own pieces that they do not yet know.
What motivates you to keep on travelling?
We could say that I want to let the world know that I exist. And when I travel around the world I like to try the local cuisine and sample the culture. I am not just a musician but also a tourist. And I enjoy it. Travel also gives me inspiration and I can then write new songs.