in Amsterdam, Holland, guitarist Marnix Busstra keeps the art
of instrumental guitar jazz alive and well with his 2013 CD entitled
Sync Dreams. 21st century mainstream jazz, with
the spotlight on Busstras refined, eclectic guitar pallet, Sync
Dreams features Marnix backed up by a solid jazz quartet featuring
Rembrandt Frerichs (piano), Arnold Dooyeweerd (bass)
and Pieter Bast (drums). With its cool jazz grooves and uptempo
guitar-scapes, Sync Dreams is kind of ECM Records inspired
in places, however Busstra's jazzy sound is fully developed and upbeat.
With Sync Dreams theres a solid bop jazz sensibility
in places and Marnix steps into the spotlight on electric guitar,
electric sitar and bouzouki too, which broadens out the sound with
a World Jazz kind of feel. Several guitar watchers and music fans
have also mentioned the name John Scofield when comparing the sound
Marnix gets on Sync Dreams. Astute Guitar fans may recall Marnix
thanks to the albums he made with vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. Commenting
on pressing ahead with his solo career after recording two albums
with a band co-chaired with Mike Mainieri, Marnix adds, I wanted
to make a step forward musically after the albums with Mike Mainieri.
I loved doing them, of course, but I wanted a little bit more freedom
in the music, so in the compositions I tried to make more space and
the possibility to offer that freedom. The Sync Dreams
CD cover art and the solid studio sound truly enhances the listening
experience. Sync Dreams is one of the most accomplished guitar-centric
jazz CD releases of 2013. www.MarnixBusstra.nl
mwe3.com presents an interview
mwe3: Can you give the readers a little background into where
youre from, where you live now, what you like best about it,
and some of your background in the guitar world and music world, including
when you started playing and studying guitar and music and when you
decided to become a recording artist?
BUSSTRA: My hometown is Amsterdam, for a long time now. It's a
very nice city to live in, with a relaxed atmosphere and a lot of
art, theater and music all year round. I was born in the eastern part
of Holland, but moved to Aalsmeer with my parents when I was very
young. Aalsmeer is a small village near Amsterdam, so actually I have
lived in the same area for about 40 years now. And Im still
My father was a fanatical jazz lover. He was always listening to Oscar
Peterson, Errol Garner, Clark Terry, etc. My brother Berthil, two
years older then me, was a very talented pianist and together we grew
up with the music of my fathers choice and later our own kind
of music: Earth, Wind & Fire, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Brecker
I started playing the piano when I was 7 years old, but it turned
out it was not my instrument. I tried other instruments too, among
others drums and trumpet, but found the guitar when I was 13, starting
with classical lessons. My heart was of course into jazz, so I switched
to the electric guitar soon. But the technical basis of the classical
lessons was there. I still have a 'classical left hand'. I never use
my thumb for bass-notes, like a lot of jazz guitarists do...
school I went to the Conservatory of Hilversum, but never liked it
there. I was into my own music, and never felt any support doing that.
So the conservatory was a bit too conservative for me. I stopped after
two years and developed my own playing, got really interested in Indian
classical music and started studying the Indian sitar. Indian music
is all about melody, which helped me a lot in developing a very precise
feeling for melody, which is very helpful when you improvise and when
you write music, so that was very inspiring and educational.
After that period I listened to modern classical music a lot, did
a course, and wrote some pieces in that style, among others for saxophone
quartet. I especially liked Bela Bartok, I listened to his six string
quartets about a hundred times. It's amazing music and a very good
training for your ears, because of the very complex harmonies. Again,
very inspiring and educational.
mwe3: You mentioned that your new CD Sync Dreams is
your most personal album so far. How so and in what ways has your
recorded sound and guitar vision of the guitar changed, improved and
evolved over the years and where do you find inspiration when you
write your music?
MARNIX BUSSTRA: Sync Dreams is my most personal album
so far for a few reasons. The compositions are all mine and are a
culmination of everything I learned and developed. All the compositions
are very compact and specific in sound and idea, and are all what
you call 'playing-pieces'. So they are not difficult in structure,
but, as a good jazz-composition ought to be, are just simple starting-points
for the band to go on an adventure.
It took me some time, but I finally found my ideal guitar-sound. And
in the setting of this album, with these musicians and compositions,
this sound works at its best.
sound of the album, all credits by the way for my good friend and
technician Norbert Sollewijn Gelpke, is also exactly how I think an
album like this should sound. I tried a lot of different approaches
over the years, such as working with natural acoustics... Very interesting,
but in the end not working for this kind of music, but the approach
we work with now, mainly using analog systems, is exactly how I like
to do it.
These last years, I made recordings with the Buzz Brothers Band, together
with my brother and pianist Berthil and the Mike Mainieri/Marnix Busstra
Bandboth bands with 'shared leadership'. Sync Dreams
is in every way the product of my imagination, no concessions made
So, everything fell in place and all together makes this definitely
my most personal album so far.
mwe3: You released Sync Dreams in 2013 after recording
several albums with Mike Mainieri. What was it like working with Mike
and how long did it take to write and record Sync Dreams? How
does this album reflect your approach to writing and recording guitar
instrumental music and can you tell us who plays with you on the CD
and why do you call the CD Sync Dreams?
BUSSTRA: Working with Mike Mainieri was/is a great experience.
We definitely 'found' each other in our shared taste of music and
especially in our compositions. He's also a melodic writer and we
love to play each others pieces.
He's an extremely experienced player of course. He worked with almost
everybody you have ever heard of, he even played with Billy Holiday!
He has so many great stories to tell. Actually I think he should write
his memoirs, that would be very entertaining to read, for sure...
Of course I still love to play with Mike. We have plans to arrange
another tour for 2014/'15 but it's difficult to plan things, simply
because he lives in New York and I live in Amsterdam.
This time I wanted my next project to be with all Dutch players, also
to make things easier to organize. There are a lot of great musicians
in Holland, although it's always hard to find the exact right musicians
for a project like this, simply because what I wanted to do was quite
So I sat down with drummer Pieter Bast, he also plays in the Mike
Mainieri/Marnix Busstra Quartet, and I wanted him to be in this project
as well, and together we discussed who would be the most suitable
for this new band. I already wrote the compositions, therefore I knew
the most important thing for me was that I wanted lots of freedom
And I'm sure we made the right choice. Bass player Arnold Dooyeweerd
is a veteran, very experienced with free concepts, and pianist Rembrandt
Frerichs is relatively young, but very open-minded and has a great
musical instinct... He has a very 'playful' approach to the music.
name Sync Dreams tells something about what happens on our
best moments when we play with this band. It feels like getting together
in a synchronous reality, a reality that the four members of the band
experience and interpret each from their own perspectives.
mwe3: What guitars were featured on the Sync Dreams and
how were certain guitars and amps selected for different tracks? Tell
us about the amps you prefer as well as other instruments you play
including the sitar and bouzouki. Also what is your choice in string
and other guitar related gear you require?
MARNIX BUSSTRA: My main guitar, love of my life, is a Gibson Howard
Roberts jazz guitar. I have used this guitar for many years now, and
I don't think I will ever change to any other type of guitar ever.
Its a kind of in between a Gibson ES-335 and ES-175a bit
more tone then the 335, and a bit more sustain then the 175.
I use Joe Barden pickups, Elixir strings (011), Dynamic Arc Ultra
cables and a simple effects pedals set-up:
- Ibanez Hand Wired Tube Screamer
- T-Rex Replica delay
- TC-electronic chorus (to make it stereo)
- two T-Rex Room Mate reverbs
And the amps I use are two Bogner Duende 112.
I also play a custom-built electric sitar from a guy in Germany, Günter
Dreams I used this whole set-up for almost all the tunes, also
for the electric sitar in Earth Tone but without the Tube
Screamer, of course, which also goes for the 'clean tone' tunes Small
Truth and Desolation.
Another instrument I use is an Irish 8-strings bouzouki, the brand
is Fylde. I use it in another tuning, so it sounds more like an Indian
or Eastern instrument. On Sync Dreams it was only used on Peasant's
The bouzouki was recorded acoustic. Live I use an AER Compact Classic
mwe3: Some have compared your guitar sound to that of John
Scofield. How do you feel about that comparison and what other guitarists
were inspiring and influential in forming and building your own guitar
sound and vision, both then and now and why? Were you influenced by
both rock and jazz guitarists?
MARNIX BUSSTRA: When a jazz guitarist plays with a distorted sound,
the comparison with grand master John Scofield is easily made. I definitely
have another sound, rounder and darker, compared to his, but I can
understand the comparison. My sound has got nothing to do with, for
example, the sound of George Benson or Wes Montgomery.
The main thing for me, when I developed my sound, was that it should
have a big 'singing' quality. I'm definitely a single note player.
Sometimes I think I chose the wrong instrument... maybe saxophone
would have been more suitable (lol) and my fixation on melody, also
caused by the Indian years, makes the 'singing quality' of the sound
the main thing for me.
So for me a classic jazz guitar-sound hasn't got enough sustain to
be 'singing', but a real rock-sound, I love the old sound of Santana
for example, is too heavy for jazz, especially in an acoustic setting
as we have on Sync Dreams.
So it took me a long time to find the ideal sound, but I'm very happy
with it now.
Do you still practice the guitar or is most of your time spent
writing and recording? How can practicing the guitar improve not only
your guitar playing but also your writing and interaction with other
musicians? How else do you try and improve your playing and writing?
MARNIX BUSSTRA: You never have enough time to do all the things
you want to do in music, that's for sure. What I have learned is not
to try all things at the same time. So when I'm in a writing mood,
I write, and when I'm in a practicing mood, I practice.
But in the end, it's all the same thing. Sometimes you practice and
you're playing a weird scale and you hear a melodic idea for a song
in it. And sometimes you write a song with difficult chords to improvise
over, and then you have to practice that.
But I stopped having the idea that I always have to improve my playing
and writing. To be honest, I even think that's a dangerous thing,
especially in jazz, always trying to be better. It's not sports, it's
a language you use to tell stories! When you have found your language
as a musician, just concentrate on telling as much beautiful stories
as you can, and dont try to learn all other possible languages...
it's impossible, and a waste of time.
For me, I know that I'm not an extremely virtuosic player but I can
play my instrument good enough to tell what I want to tell, and that's
good enough for me.
mwe3: Holland has such a rich history of jazz, rock and
guitar centric music. What is the jazz and rock music scene like in
Amsterdam and throughout Holland and who are some of your favorite
Dutch musicians, including vocalists, guitarists, groups and how about
favorite musicians from other European countries? Do you feel that
there is a difference in sound and style between American and European
jazz artists, and how do you feel about combining jazz and rock?
BUSSTRA: There are indeed a lot of very good Dutch musicians,
and that's something to be proud of. But I can be a bit jealous at
the jazz-scene of for example Norway, because it has its own signature.
Holland hasn't got that... Maybe we are known to be a country with
a lot of good musicians who know how to play, but I don't think we
have a specific Dutch signature.
There are some very good jazz-guitarists in Holland, very virtuosic
guys like Jesse van Ruller and Martijn van Iterson. A very good and
open-minded trumpet-player is Eric Vloeimans, he can play really beautiful.
And I love the sound of a country singer from here, her name is Ilse
de Lange. So yes, there are so many good musicians here...too many
To be honest, I do think jazz is in the end American music. There
are very good individual players from Europe and other parts of the
world, but the big story of jazz, and the development of the music,
lies in America. What you can call 'typical European jazz' is nothing
more then a footnote.
I have always been proud to be reviewed a lot of times in Europe as
an American kind of jazz musician.
Combining jazz and rock is not an item anymore, maybe only for very,
very old jazz-purists. Jazz always absorbed other music-styles, from
classical music to musical to rock 'n' roll to rock to funk to world
music to house to computer-loops to anything...
Style isnt the thing one should be interested in, the only thing
that matters is what individual story someone has to tell, no matter
what language he uses.
You come from a very musical family. Can you tell us about your family
and your playing and recordings with your brother Berthil, who you
work with in the Buzz Brothers Band? I understand you have toured
Asia and Europe with Berthil. What was that like and how would you
describe the musical chemistry between you and Berthil? Also what
other artists are you currently working with or that you would you
like to work with and / or produce in the future?
MARNIX BUSSTRA: My brother Berthil is two years older than me
and is a brilliant pianist. He is a specialist on the Fender Rhodes,
he's unbeatable on that instrument. We grew up together and discovered
all the great music together, so we have a very strong bond. When
we play together, it feels totally natural.
For the Buzz Brothers Band I wrote a lot of tunes through the years,
always in mind it's for that band. His taste of music is a bit different
then mine, so I try to write music in a style we both like; funky
with a lot of 'space'. And it works like hell, we tour a lot in Asia
and people are crazy about our music over there. The interaction between
the band and the audience is really special, we always have a lot
the moment I'm very happy with the bands I'm working with, I've got
no specific dreams about 'playing with that guy or this guy'. We'll
see what comes along...
mwe3: What plans do you have for the remainder of 2013 and
what would you like to accomplish next with your music, recording
and guitar playing?
MARNIX BUSSTRA: In September/October I'm touring again with the
Buzz Brothers Band in Asia (China/Philippines), and after that period
I will be playing with the Sync Dreams band in Holland.
I also work with my wife Karin Bloemen, she's a famous singer/theater
performer in Holland, and we're developing a new theater show for
the coming season. I'm busy right now writing new compositions for
One of the things I like to accomplish next with my music is to come
to America with one of my bands. The reviews of my albums are always
very positive in the States, so I do think people will like my music
Thanks to Marnix Busstra @ www.MarnixBusstra.nl