Interview with Manuel Rocheman: The intellect concerns all that is rational, and the soul is more spiritual: Video

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Jazz Interview with jazz pianist Manuel Rocheman. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Manuel Rocheman: – I come from a family of musicians. I started classical music at the age of 6 and then my brother offered me a recording of Oscar Peterson (Tracks – piano solo) when I was 10 and from that moment, I decided to play Jazz music!

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

MR: – Sound, for a musician, is one of the most important musical element that he transmit to  listeners. For a pianist, it evolves in particular thanks to a constant practice of the instrument. The first time I went to Martial Solal’s place for a lesson, I was 16 or 17, I put my fingers on his piano and I realized how hard it was! To press a key you really had to put a lot of weight. Martial explained to me that he had deliberately chosen a very hard piano in order to never have a bad surprise when he discovers the piano at every concert. It’s true that we never play live on the instrument we’re working on at home. So when I bought my grand piano, I also chose a model with good resistance, so as to strengthen my fingers. I also greatly improved my piano sound thanks to Alberto Neuman who was my teacher at the Conservatory. He comes from the famous Argentina piano school of Vincenzo Scaramuzza, Alberto then moved to Italy to follow the teaching of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli before coming to Paris. He gave me a whole range of extremely precious technical and musical knowledge which allowed me to improve myself very solidly.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm? 

MR: – Regarding the purely rhythmic aspect, I played a little drums and got a classical percussion prize at the Conservatory. As far as the daily practice of the piano is concerned, I have for many years developed a technical improvement program including exercises by Czerny, Liszt or Cortot . I could have made a career as a classical pianist after having had my prizes at the Conservatory, but I was too passionate since my childhood by Jazz. So at one point I gave up working on the classical repertoire because it took too much time and I didn’t have the same satisfaction that the freedom to improvise gives me. I kept only the classic exercises in my daily practice.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

MR: – I think it is not necessary to protect yourself from various influences, on the contrary it is good to let yourself be influenced and then to digest these influences to make them something personal. All musicians are stealing ideas from each other. The next step being consistency and personalization of your musical universe, it takes time.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

MR: – I’m trying to empty myself, and try thinking about nothing. But most important: I try to relax!

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JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

MR: – Musical encounters have over the years participated in the evolution of the musician that I am, I have always learned things by playing with such and such a musician or such a group. I called on my faithful companions Matthieu Chazarenc, drums, and Mathias Allamane, double bass, with whom we recorded two albums as a trio, and it was a great pleasure to welcome Rick Margitza in this project. Rick has a magnificent sound, he is a musician I admire, someone who inspires me a lot and who influenced me in the composition process.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

MR: – The intellect concerns all that is rational, and the soul is more spiritual, deeper, a sort of “Magic Light” in a way. Its unpredictability, its sentiments, its emotions that I endeavour to hand over through the work of writing first and then through the work of ourselves, jazzmen, to also render emotions through improvisation.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

MR: – I think we have to take the public interest into account in what we do, and therefore cultivate this very important connection by staying true to ourselves. If we confuse the public too much, we risk no longer being understood. However, we should not format an artist to adapt him to the taste of the public. The balance is between the two.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

MR: – I remember a rather strange situation, having played for a party at the annual agricultural show, and it was amazing because we were surrounded by cows and pigs. A unique experience, not that common !

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

MR: – It’s hard to say, I think there are more and more young musicians on the market, all of whom are well trained technically and have a great knowledge of Jazz. They try new experiences. Here in France what is working well at the moment is ethnicity, for example a jazz musician who musically claims his Eastern or Eastern European roots. This gives ethnic Jazz music, it’s very enriching.  The mixture of jazz with soul, pop or electro also appeals to young people who find there a less classic way than their elders.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

MR: – It is a real philosophical question. It is true that John Coltrane pushed musical exploration very far, we can assimilate this to a real spiritual quest. As far as I am concerned, music takes an essential place in my life, to the point of certainly giving it meaning. I pursue my path which I know is limitless, apart from that of the duration of life, which is not eternal, but the music is timeless.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

MR: – Peace and harmony for all.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

MR: – I don’t  have a lot of time to listen to music, the fact of playing it, practicing it, composing it, learning it by heart, already occupies my mind a lot and when I have a moment of calm I don’t necessarily listen to music. When that happens to me I listen to Brazilian music, classical, Jazz, whether it is new talents or sure values.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

MR: – I don’t have a particular message, just to make the people who listen to me happy for a while, to communicate to them emotions that they would not have felt otherwise.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

MR: – I’d love to go back to the 60s, to listen to John Coltrane live and the Bill Evans trio live, something that I haven’t been able to do in my life. I will also be able to get to know my parents better because they were young, and understand them better.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

MR: – Tell us about your experience with Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta?

Being a great admirer of his music, when I was in Brazil for a project with Yuri Popoff, Marcio Bahia and Chico Amaral, I was able to meet Toninho. I took this opportunity to record with him the album “Café & Alegria” named after the song Toninho composed for me. We played at the famous New Morning club in Paris for the album release. Toninho Horta  has just won the Latin Grammy.

JBN: – My questions were few. You should ask me a question, not yourself.

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

MR: – I don’t quite understand the meaning of this question, sorry.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Manuel Rocheman music @ All About Jazz

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