Jazz interview with jazz violinist Vincent Millioud. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Vincent Millioud: – I grew up in a village called Rances in the french side of Switzerland. My parents used to listen to classical music and my sister played piano. My father was conducting the village’s choir. I grew up in a music friendly family. I found pictures where I am playing on the piano, I may be 2 years old. Of course I was playing whatever but I remember I spent hours exploring the sound of this instrument.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the violin? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the violin?
VM: – I remember once my mother brought me to listen to a sunday morning classical music concert at the abbey of Romainmôtier. There I saw for the first time violinists playing. I was around 5 years old at this time. Then I insisted to get one and start to play. After one year of insisting, my parents rented one for me and I started to take lessons in Yverdon-les-Bains by teacher Geneviève Monticelli.
With eleven years old, I got introduced to the violinist Anne Bauer which was teaching at the conservatory of Neuchâtel at this time, then I started to take violin, rhythm and harmony lessons at the conservatory in her class end then in the class of Denitza Kazakova. Besides this I played with several classical music orchestras. I was doing this as a hobby at this time because my main interest went on cycling, I wanted to be a sportman or an airplane pilot. My interess for music, studies and sport got lower and lower until my friend drummer Jean-Luc Lavanchy offered me a LP of jazz violonist Stephane Grappelli “Stéphane Grappelli at the Winery” Beautiful recording which I still preciously conserve. I listened to this recording nights and days during weeks. For me it became clear that I want to be a musician. I decided to quit my family, friends, studies and sport to go to Milano to study jazz violin by Luca Campioni. Then I moved to the italian part of Switzerland. Having no money in the poket, my family decided not to help me because they couldn’t conceder music as something else than a hobby. Excepting my sister which did offer me a general pass to can travel all around Switzerland for free. I worked shortly in the fabric end then in a book shop, practicing like mad. I may have been 18 years old at this time. Then I started slowly to get some music jobs. After 2 years spent there, my dear friend guitar player Fabio Pinto offered me to go for the examination to get into the Swiss jazz School, university of the Arts of Bern. I practiced more than 10 hours a day at this time to get the level to enter this institution. They accepted me and I obtained a Master in Performance in 2011.
At the University I had the chance to study by, Francis Colletta, Andy Scherrer, Monika Urbaniak, Benjamin Schmid, Jonas Tauber Pierre Blanchard,.. During my studies I got invited for a tour to Egypt from the trumpet player Mohamed Sawwah, during this tour I got to meet the violonist Abdu Dagher, this stayed a big experience for me and still influencing my way to play today.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
VM: – Concerning jazz, I copied a lot of Stephane Grappelli’s solos, first playing together with him on the recording and then writing down his solo. If I like a player, I do this. It can be any instrument, the sound develops automatically like this, I do this with all kind of music. Learning by hearth directly from the recording I like. I think the oral transmission is the best way to learn. I practice as well every day only the bow first and try to find the best way not to press to much on the strings, then the sound is a matter of taste. I think keeping relaxed and playful is the best way to get the best sound. To look forward for every note coming out of the instrument. By the way, my favorite instrument may be the oboe. This warm and direct sound hypnotize me.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
VM: – Scales, thirds, arpeggios, exercises of flexibility. Singing the hard parts on the scores I get to play and the use of the metronome. Sometimes I take back my old Dante Agostini method.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
VM: – At the moment I get interested in Charlie Parker’s way to improvise and his vision of harmony.
JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?
VM: – “The Saga of Reflective Perspectives” from jazz singer Sandy Patton – Montreux Jazz Label- This is a very tastefull mix between jazz and classical music. Voice, string quartet, jazz-guitar & double bass.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
VM: – You play with your soul. The intellect is one of many ways to develop your sensibility. The soul is the center of convergence of everything.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
VM: – My first jam. It was at the Cully Jazz Festival, I may have been 17 years old and never heard about what is a theme or a coda or all technical words, I’ve always been very instinctive and never liked to analyze the music. I got invited by my friend Jean-Luc Lavanchy to the jam. He said: “Vincent, you play the theme” I thought: “The what?” and answered: “OK”. I remember I played just anything with an electric violin I borrowed just for one night. I may have played over 15 minutes solo. When I closed my eyes, the place was full, I opened them it was empty!! I stopped because I think the piano player just unplugged me to make me stop. But I mean.. I had so much fun!!!
On the way back I asked my friend: “Was it good?” He answered that I should work on my phrasing. So did I. But first I learned by heart a theory book. Philippe de Baudoin “Jazz Mode d’Emploi, Volume 1” I just received the second volume some days ago by the way. This second volume is about transcription.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
VM: – Keep on Swinging! Don’t look for something new. Just be yourself, every note is a new thing. Doesn’t depend on the music style. Don’t push yourself and the others too much. Like Charlie Parker says: “There is room for everyone at the top”. Love what you do, it will come back to you.
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
VM: – A musician stays a musician. The business shouldn’t be made on stage. Don’t mix it with your music. If you believe in what you’re doing you can sell it. I live from my concerts since 15 years. Right now I am teaching in a music school over a period of 4 months to replace somebody. This is the first time in 15 years I earn money in a different way than playing music. So I guess, music can be a business the day you decide you play music to can eat.
JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?
VM: – I couldn’t say. Each collaboration is the same important for me.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
VM: – I don’t think it has to do with the age of the tunes. Look at the classical music. We can get interested young people, playing and practicing ourself a lot and love what we do. We are the example for young generations. To organize jam sessions, concerts, invite friends and music schools.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
VM: – To trust your intuitions. Like in playing music, the intuition is the best way to follow. Like a child, if you lose it, you’re hard and dry like an old tree and you brake with the first wind. Flexibility, curiousity, humour and spontaneity are the spirit and meaning of life.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
VM: – I have no special expectations. I take what is coming. Fear and anxiety are states of mind. I could describe my vision of the future as evolutionist.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
VM: – That much more people play music.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
VM: – To keep practicing and keep the pleasure and the will to explore music for still a very long time.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
VM: – Yes, the improvisation and the fact that most of this music is transmitted in an oral way.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
VM: – To the recordings of the swiss violinist and pedagogue Anne Bauer and to Charlie Parker.
JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?
VM: – A german violin from 1850. This is the first violin I got from my mother at the age of 14. It is based on a Stradivarius model. I use Pirastro Obligato G, D & A. The E string is a Pirastro Gold. I have a bow from Jean-François Daber from 2015. I use Pirastro Olive raisin.
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
VM: – Right now. I have my body which is a machine to flow in the present, keeping souvenirs of the past and creating the future.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
VM: – How would you describe the Armenian music scene? Some characteristic or particularities.
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Armenian jazz and blues have their own attraction in incorporating national traditions in music, along with purist, classic-style performances. Armenian jazz is on the rise. There are effectively no new blues acts in Armenia. When we were celebrating 70 years of jazz in Armenia, numerous renowned jazz and blues musicians visited Yerevan. Here I cannot but mention my childhood memories of the blues king, B. B. King, who toured the USSR in 1979 and performed in Yerevan. I was 10 at the time, and unfortunately don’t remember much, but the delight of my parents stays with me till today. In the latest years, Yerevan keep hosting Yerevan jazz festival, starring one or two great acts each time. But now I live in Czech Republic.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan