Iver Cardas (Norway) has just won First Prize in the 4th International Jarek Śmietana Jazz Guitar Competition in Kraków. Born in a small town north of Oslo, music is in Cardas’s blood: his mother, Berit Værnes Cardas, plays in the Vertavo String Quartet and his father, Emery Cardas, is principal cellist of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. At just 23 years old and in his first year at the Manhattan School of Music, Cardas won over the judges of the Śmietana competition (including Wolfgang Muthspiel and Śmietana’s daughter Alicja) with his effortless musicality. Interview by Izzy Blankfield…on a cold bench outside the Kraków Philharmonic.
LondonJazz News: What has been the best thing about taking part in the Śmietana competition?
Iver Cardas : I think any event like this that gathers people from all over is healthy. It’s a great initiative, no matter what it’s about – if it’s about guitar music or anything else. Playing to people who enjoy listening to music is always nice.
LJN: You’ve been playing the electric guitar since the age of six. Why the guitar?
IC: I think the electric guitar had a very immediate appeal to me, because it’s loud and looks cool. Nowadays it’s dear to my heart for other reasons. I don’t even play very loud – or look cool doing it for that matter.
LJN: What struck me was how thoughtful your playing was. Every note seemed to mean something different to you…
IC: Some people are very intuitive and can just follow their heart, their ears. I have to think through what I’m playing. I’ve made some conscious decisions about how I want to play, how I don’t want to play.
LJN: You’re now based in New York, but you also studied jazz at the NTNU in Trondheim. What was that like?
IC: NTNU is a very special school. The jazz program revolves around ear training, which I wholeheartedly think is the best way to go. I had some terrific classmates. I liked it a lot.
LJN: Playing as part of an ensemble is so much about communication. How was the experience of playing with Adam [Kowalewski] and Patryk [Dobosz] in the competition after knowing them for so little time?
IC: It felt easy! They’re both musicians of the highest calibre, and incredible listeners. From the first couple of seconds of playing together it was obvious we had many similar musical references and had listened to many of the same records. That always makes interplay interesting. We had a lot of fun anticipating each other’s moves and shifting the beat and sense of swing.
LJN: So did everything go as planned?
IC: Musically, not much was planned. So yes?
LJN: Who do you consider your greatest inspiration?
IC: My mom! My hero in music and in life – this question is always easy to answer. As for inspirations specific to jazz I would have to say John Coltrane and Warne Marsh.
LJN: What’s next for you?
IC: I’m very much a music student. I’m enrolled at a school in Manhattan and I study the music. I should probably record an album soon, maybe think about making some music. I’ve been putting it off for years because I want to be good. But I don’t know if I’ll ever feel good enough, so I just have to do it.