German band performs in city as part of India tour

Charlotte Greeve with other members of jazz band ‘Lisbeth Quartett’.

Charlotte Greeve, a jazz saxophonist and composer from Germany, is currently on a tour of India with her band, the Lisbeth Quartett. Fresh off her concert in Bengaluru, the musician, who treasures improvisation, spoke to Metrolife about her music and what her experience in India has been like.

You started off with the flute, but switched to the sax. What inspired the move?

I picked up the classical flute at the age of nine and played for 10 years. But I always felt stressed out during classical concerts. There were always so many rules to follow. The aesthetics of jazz appealed to me. The ability to improvise and find my own sound was freeing. At the age of 16, I made the switch to the saxophone. It was so much more flexible. 

You have extensively studied it in academic settings. How has that influenced your work?

The best thing about being in an academic setting is that you meet so many like-minded people. In fact, I met my band members when I was studying at the Berlin jazz institute. Of course, to grow you need to play and the academic setting gives you a safe space to experiment. You also get the time and space to perfect your sound, without having to worry about earning a living. 

You’re touring with your band Lisbeth Quartett. Tell us a bit about your sound.

Our sound is quite open with a lot of room to explore, experiment and improvise. At our concert in Hyderabad, a lady told me that she thought our sound was quite raw. I think that’s a good word to describe our music, it’s direct and free of any pretension. 

How has your experience in India been so far, both on stage and off it?

We’ve now played in Pune, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It’s been an amazing experience to meet different audiences. Everyone has been so open-minded up the music. In fact, in Pune a bunch of youngsters came for the concert without knowing what kind of music we perform. That willingness to expose yourself to any and all kinds of music was so heartening to see. 

Off stage, I’ve been fascinated by the sounds, people, and colours that the country offers. It’s so different and refreshing compared to all the places I’ve been to. I’ve started writing a diary to be able to process it all. 

You’re in a field of music dominated by men, playing an instrument more often than not played by men. How is that like?

As far as experiences with colleagues and contemporaries, it’s been great. I’ve had no negative experiences. But there have been multiple occasions when audience members have gotten too close and complimented me on my appearance. Those situations have been uncomfortable. I also find all these ‘women in jazz’ festivals very patronising, as if we’ll not sound as good when we play along with our male contemporaries. 

On the positive side, it does become easier to stand out. And I do believe that there will be many more female jazz musicians coming up in the future.

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