Kai Winding, 1970s.


Interview Section



The Incredible Kai Winding!--His Official Site

Interview with Ezshwan Winding--artist, sculptor, yoga master, writer.

Interviewer: B.J. Major

This interview received in email.

Q. Ezshwan, I would like to begin by telling the readers that you are the wife of the late Kai Winding. Could you tell us how the two of you initially met and how long you were together before Kai's death in 1983?

A. Kai and I originally meet about 1959 at the London House in Chicago. I was married to my first husband at the time and we had come with friends who knew Kai and they introduced us. I thought he was a gracious man and not much more. I wasn't much interested in jazz. In 1973, I was divorced, raising 3 daughters when I moved to Phoenix AZ.  The same friends that knew Kai were living there also and invited me to go to see Kai play at the Boojum Tree Club at the Double Tree Inn.  Because the next day was Thanksgiving, and I didn't have to work, I agreed to go. I had a vague memory of a dark haired man.

I went into the club with my friends and another couple and we walked in front of the band stand. I saw a silver haired man playing a trombone and I turned to my friend and asked "which one is Kai Winding?" I didn't even remember what instrument he played!  That naivete was to end quickly.

At the break Kai joined us at our table and I took one look into his eyes and thought, "don't ever go away". According to the other 4 people at the table the sparks and energy between us were evident to all.  I liked to say it was love at first sight.  Kai preferred to say it was lust at first sight.   From that moment on our lives were linked.

Before too long we had a "do it yourself" wedding exchanging vows before my daughters and our friends. Kai gave me a gold wedding ring. It was about 2 years later that we decided to make it legal and exchanged vows again in 1977 at the Self Realization Lake Shrine in front of the Gandhi memorial and had all the paperwork to prove it. We had an eventful 10 years together.


Q. What was life like with Kai? Did you travel with him to performances or do any kind of touring with him?

A. It was a combination of things, just as he was a diverse man. On the one hand, he was an elegant European man, which was very comfortable for me since I was raised as a first generation American. My grandfather never did speak English. Now the other side of Kai was the jazz musician. Intense, volatile, and completely involved with music. His ex-wife told me that I would always be second to his trombone. I could understand that perfectly, because if it were not for his trombone, he wouldn't be Kai. Maybe it takes an artist to understand another artist. Actually, it didn't turn out as predicted. After we moved to Spain, Kai liked nothing more than to be home with me sharing every moment. He even gave up golf because it kept him away too long. I had to work on my books and paintings mainly when he was on the road.

We had been living in southern California, talking about how some day we would simplify our lives and move to Spain, when we decided that someday was now and we made the big leap. Thank goodness we did. Who could have imagined that Kai's robust health would only last another 5 years?

We had a beautiful life in Spain. Almost idyllic. Kai did not wish to work much in Spain. Most of his performances where in other parts of Europe and the U.S. He loved our Villa, El-Kai.

I did travel with him quite a bit. I still had a young daughter in school so when I could get away, I would go to the most exciting and beautiful places with him. I avoided Norway in January. We went to Nice, France every summer for the Nice Jazz festival.

It was in Sweden, where Kai was a guest artist at a jazz camp, that I began teaching yoga to musicians. Kai had wanted me to teach the breathing to the brass players, but all the other musicians were interested and found it helpful.

I wrote the preface for Piet Van Engelen's discography of Kai while I was still living in Spain. (I left in 1986) and I would like to include it here.

"I sit here in Kai's office in our home in Spain, surrounded by his awards, photos of him and fellow musician, his arrangements, books, mementos and many tributes, and feel that he was a man who accomplished what he set out to do in life.

I once asked him what he would have done if he had not become a musician, and he answered that nothing else ever occurred to him.  So for 45 years of his life he lived music. He was as demanding of himself as he was of others. There just wasn't room for non professionalism in his work. He was leader, organizer, business man and a musician respected by his peers, both for his music and his word.

Even though he had been called 'The Gentleman of Jazz' and 'Mr. Trombone' - one reviewer thought that he looked more like a stockbroker than a jazz musician. But as soon as he started to play--there was no doubt that he was an inspired artist.

When we chose to live in Spain, one of the big reasons was to simplify our lives. Kai wanted to play only his kind of music (Bebop) and to write and perform his own compositions. And that is just what he did the last five years of his life. Kai loved color, beauty of nature and a melody. He was always young and felt that every day was 'another great adventure'.

Whenever I look at his pictures, hear his music or think of our life together, I feel his strength. I believe, as with almost all musicians. Kai's music expressed his personality: strong, proud, sometimes brash, sensitive, innovative with a good dash of humor. His sense of humor pervaded his whole life. When I would not completely appreciate his old familiar jokes and threatened to hire a writer so he could get some new material, he would say "What..and spoil my act? An old joke is like a good note. When you get a good one, you stay with it!"

Many musicians told me stories of how Kai had helped them, encouraged them and had been an example to them. I knew him as my best friend, lover and soul mate. We knew that we were very fortunate people to be able to live our lives as we wished and spend so much time together. Kai was thoughtful, romantic and generous, but his humorous nature always came into play. When I one day complained of losing my identity, he said "What do you mean?  You are Mrs. Trombone, aren't you?"

His illness came as a shock. Kai had never been sick, had never been hospitalized and was apparently in perfect health. It took only ten days after a headache started and his pain became so severe that I rushed him to a New York hospital where his brain tumor was diagnosed. He fought bravely for five months, keeping up every ones' spirit with his courage and humor. Streams of fellow musicians came to see him. There were phone calls every day from all over the world. Even strangers and old fans sent cards which I strung all over his hospital room. We were surrounded by kindness and generosity. We were supported with love from all sides. Kai was touched by all of this and said, 'I don't know what I did to deserve this. I must have done something right.' I told him that he was just getting back what he had sent out.

He died May 6, 1983. On June 23, 1983, the first day of the Kool Jazz Festival in New York, there was a tribute to Kai Winding - ' A Statement of Love to a Great Musician from the Jazz World.' I hope many people will remember his courage, talent and zest for life.

His last words to me were "Where is the music?"  I made sure he had his music to escort him on 'another great adventure'.

He was a musician until the last breath, and I had the privilege of being 'Mrs. Trombone'."


Q. You have told me that you were involved with creating the art work on some of Kai's albums. Can you tell us which albums you did the art work on and how many of these covers there were? Did you volunteer to do this work yourself, or was it done at Kai's suggestion?

A. I only made one cover for Kai. That was "Danish Blue". I had complained about the poor likeness on "Solo" even though it had been done by a well know artist, I felt I could do better, so I did. I helped in the layout of "Caravan" and did some advising on "Giant Bones".


Q. Do you have a favorite Kai Winding album? If so, which one(s) and what makes it your favorite?

A. My favorite album is "Israel".  I seem to have lost it, unfortunately.  It is the one that I listened to over and over learning to hear the subtle differences in the playing of Kai and JJ.  "Penny Lane [and Time]" is very close to my heart. Kai gave that to me when we first fell in love and I played it over and over. Through the years I repeatedly asked him to play, "Here There and Everywhere' (a cut from that album), but Kai claimed he didn't remember it.


Q. How long into his life did Kai continue to play the trombone?

A. Kai played the trombone until the end. He kept it in his hospital room after Chuck Mangione insisted that I bring it in. Kai became too weak to play, but he kept his mouthpiece handy.


Q. Outside of music, did Kai have any hobbies or interests?

A. Like myself, Kai's art was his work and his hobby. He gave up golf when he moved to Spain. We loved to travel and have new experiences. Wherever we went if he didn't speak the language (he spoke Danish, a little German, and mediocre Spanish) he would get the dictionary of the country and jump right into the culture. He was not concerned about conjugation, as I was, he would just talk to people. He kept reminding me to "do it now", whatever it was, because we may never be back in the same place again. His spirit of adventure surpassed even mine. He looked at life as if it were a great adventure.


Q. Do you know how many pieces of music Kai composed himself?

A. According to the discography, "Where is the Music" by Piet Van Engelen, Kai composed 99 pieces. He did more of his arranging and composing while we were living in Spain than he had in all the other years before. That was one of the main reasons he left show biz - so he could do his own work. And what a gift it was to make that move since he only lived 6 years more.


Q. How do you personally view the legacy of work that Kai has left the world of jazz?

A. I am very proud of the legacy of work that Kai left. I donated many of his arrangements to the Eastman School of music. They have put them on microfilm and occasionally play some of them. My hope was to keep the music alive and out there.


Q. What was Kai actively doing in the last years of his life?

A. I believe this covers what Kai was actively doing in the last years of his life. He wrote almost everyday that he was home, and traveled widely playing his music until a week before he became ill.


Q. Are there any interesting stories you can tell our readers about Kai's career, your life with him, or anything else that he was involved with?

A. The interesting stories are innumerable. I wouldn't know where to begin.  Our life together was a great adventure.


Thank you, Ezshwan, for the interview!


The Original Art of Ezshwan:

Ezshwan's Blog about art and her life in Mexico:

POSTSCRIPT:  Through my correspondence with Ezshwan, I came to find out that Kai called her one of two things: "Lady H" or "Darling". And, "Lady H" was the title of one of many songs that Kai Winding wrote.  Although this question below was not part of the above interview, I found Ezshwan's response about the song Kai composed for her so interesting that I include it here:

Q.  Ezshwan, you will have to tell me sometime what that "Lady H" tune is like, I've never heard it! Was it composed for you as a surprise or did you know Kai was working on it?

A.  "Lady H" was a surprise. Kai called from Milan, Italy and insisted that I come and join him. I resisted because I had just gotten back from Paris. Thank goodness I did go. It was a fabulous trip and one of the highlights was at a performance with an orchestra in a big hall which was being broadcast on the radio. Kai stopped the show, looked up to the balcony where I was sitting, and announced the new tune that he had written for me. I was delighted and love the beautiful. slow, romantic tune.




The Incredible Kai Winding!--His Official Site

Interview with Carl Fontana--trombonist, recording artist.

Interviewer: B.J. Major

This interview received in U.S. mail.

Q. Mr. Fontana, I would like to begin by asking you what year you initially met Kai Winding and when did you first begin working with him on recordings?

A.  1954-1955.


Q. What were your personal impressions of Kai and how was he to work with?

A.  Wonderful man!


Q. How many albums did you record with Kai Winding over the years?

A.  Trombone Sound; Trombone Panorama; More Brass; Kai Winding Septet (Live in Cleveland 1957); Dirty Dog.


Q. Do you have a favorite Kai Winding album? If so, which one(s) and what makes it your favorite?

A.  Trombone Panorama.


Q. When was the last time you recorded and performed in concert with Kai Winding?

A.  Denver, CO - 1958-1959.


Q. How do you personally view the legacy of work that Kai has left the world of jazz?

A.  Wonderful Man!


Q. Do you feel that Kai Winding has received all the credit he deserves in the world of jazz? If not, what do you believe to be the reason for this?

A.  Yes, I believe he has.


Q. What would you characterize is the trademark of Kai's style and playing ability?

A.   Excellent player.


Q. Are there any interesting stories you can tell our readers about Kai's career, the time you spent recording with him, or anything else that he was involved with?

A.   No - [but Bill] Watrous has some funny stories - give him a call [phone number].

Thank you, Mr. Fontana, for the interview!





May, 1991 - From left to right: Urbie Green, Bert Boeren and a young Piet van Engelen playing a trombone formerly belonging to Kai Winding.


Interview with Piet van Engelen--trombonist, author

Interviewer: B.J. Major

This interview conducted via email.


Q. Mr. van Engelen, I'd like to begin by your telling the readers how you initially met with Kai Winding and how you came to know him over the years.

A. I heard him for the first time life in 1978 when he played with Lionel Hampton's big band. We met at the 1981 North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague. He played there again with Lionel Hampton, but also with the Giant Bones (with Curtis Fuller). There was also a jam session in which he played, with Dizzy, James Moody, Ray Brown and some other people. We ended up talking in the mens' toilets as there was a lot of noise around us. We kept in touch frequently ever since.


Q. What was Kai like personally?

A. He was a professional, soft spoken and very very friendly. He looked quite tired when I first met him (after two concerts and a jam session!) but still took the time to have a long conversation. He promised me to send things after the tour was done and he kept his word. Whenever I phoned him he took time to talk with me. It was only after he died that Eszhwan told me that he always referred to me as 'the kid from Holland.'


Q. You told me a brief story of playing trombone with Kai in a hotel room--how did that come about and what was that like for you?

A. I think it was in late 1982 . There was at that time a radio program with a famous Dutch big band, the Skymasters. They had a Monday evening live radio show and invited great jazz musicians for it. Kai did a concert with them. They rehearsed on Sunday evening. I went to the rehearsal to meet Kai. We spoke about trombones etc. and I came back to his hotel next day. Because I had a gig in Amsterdam I had my horn with me. I had a two trombone band at the time and of course we played some of Kai's music. When I asked something about his tune Corriente he suggested to play it. I was quite nervous, but he made me at ease and gave good suggestions. Later in the evening I went back to the live radio show. It was the last time I met him. In February or March 1983 we were talking about him playing with a big band I played lead trombone in, but shorty after I got a phone call that he was very ill.


Q. How your did writing the book version of Kai's discography happen? Was Kai involved in this project himself?

A. I started with looking through my record collection to see on how many of them Kai played. Then I searched a huge collection of a friend of mine. That is the way it started. I worked my way through standard jazz books and got a lot of help from experts. When I met Kai for the first time I told him about it. I thought he wouldn't be interested but he promised to help me. He didn't know exact early recording dates, but he made the list of his compositions and helped me with more recent recording dates. I still have a letter in which he statet that he liked the idea about the bio/discography and 'that we should get it together'. Later I heard from Eszhwan that she encouraged him to cooperate. She helped me a lot, too. We worked through his archives after he died. It took about five years of labor to get the book together. And there are still additions to it. That's why I think it is good to put it on this site.* It can easily be edited…


Q. Do you have a favorite Kai Winding album? If so, what makes it your favorite?

A. I like Solo (1963) very much, because it is really Kai playing: relaxed, melodious, swinging and playing with wit and gusto. Furthermore Trombone Summit with Albert Mangelsdorff, Bill Watrous and Jiggs Whigham. Totally different players, and Kai being Kai. Then Dirty Dog (1966), with Bill Watrous, Urbie Green and Carl Fontana, all four of them tumbling over their trombones, and Kai in charge. There is a beautiful live performance with Urbie, Kai, Carl and Trummy Young: Colorado Jazz Party from 1971. Listen to Undecided there. And I like very much Collaboration from 1946, his feature with Stan Kenton. In fact I like all of his music, I keep seeing Kai behind it.


Q. I understand that you have one of Kai's original trombones and one of his mouthpieces. Do you use them often in your playing?

A. I got the trombone from Eszhwan in July 1983.  I have used it ever since and still play it.  I still feel his power in it.  It is a lightweight 2B with a straight bore, especially built for him by Chuck Ward, an engineer at King. He built most of his trombones. It is the one pictured on this site. I do not use the mouthpiece as I think it is too small for me. It is a special made Giardinelli, I think a copy of a mouthpiece he has always used.. I do use a Giardinelli myself, a standard 4D, and that is bigger than Kai's., but it combines good with the horn.


Q. Do you believe that Kai gets enough credit in the jazz world for the legacy of work he accomplished?

A. Oh yes, I think so. Even 17 years after he died trombonists still talk about him. K & JJ is still a monument in jazz. But Kai deserves it. Maybe JJ gets the credit as being the trombonist who made the trombone fit in bebop, but Kai did as much. Maybe even more because, after all, he also set a sound in the Kenton band which they used until the end. It also influenced a lot of lead players.


Q. How long have you been listening to Kai Winding recordings?

A. One of the first jazz records I had was from Stan Kenton's band. There was a tune on it, Rika Jika Jack--it has a trombone solo on it which caught me. It was the first solo from Kai I heard. I think I still was at high school, so it must have been something like 1966 or 1967. I really started listening to him in the early seventies. He was touring with the Giants of Jazz then.


Q. How has Kai influenced your own trombone playing and/or style?

A. He did not influence me technically. I had and have my own sound, as everybody does. But I play a lot of his music. And when I played lead in a trombone section, I noticed that I took much of his phrasing. Especially when I played in a big band which played a lot of the Kenton charts. I found out that Kai wrote tunes in a logical key, not always easy, like F or D minor or B flat, but fitting with the instrument. In that way he had a lot of influence on me.


Thank you very much for the interview!




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