June 18, 2024


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Interview with Clément Simon: I think there’s no place for intellect on stage: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Clément Simon. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Clément Simon: – I grew up in the city of Bordeaux, France, I had violin lessons at a young age but I was already more interested in piano. I would go home after my violin lessons and start playing by ear on the piano what I heard on the radio and on records. My parents weren’t professional musicians but both used to sing in a choir, and so I was exposed to all kinds of music, mainly baroque, classical and jazz repertoire, some pop music too.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano?

CS: – Around the age of 10 I started attending a local jazz school, as a piano student. This kind of school was pretty unusual at the time, even the conservatory didn’t have a proper jazz department. I had no academic classical training there (I still haven’t to this day), but I learnt my first jazz standards and started listening to pianists like Ahmad Jamal and Michel Camilo. I kind of discovered how improvising worked and I loved it. Many years later I decided to drop out of University and pursue a professional musician career. And I never looked back since ! I spent a couple of years at CMDL, a great music school founded by the late Didier Lockwood in the Paris suburb. I also spent two years studying classical composing and orchestration, I was particularly amazed at how Mozart was able to craft melodic lines with such mastery.

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

CS: – Sound has been my main concern for years. To me sound has a lot to do with the intention you’re putting into it. So I try to relax and use every emotion that comes to my mind. I think sincerity is paramount when it comes to improvising, or simply performing, whether it be in the studio or in front of an audience. It doesn’t really work if you’re faking it, or if you try to play licks you’ve been working on. Listening to greats such as Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau helped me a great deal with that.

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

CS: – I do a lot of work sessions with friends or musicians I just met. Anybody can come up with a new tune or exercise, for example playing a standard in a weird metric or something. It helps improving my skills. Regarding rhythm, I’ve always loved playing with drummers, to me the drummer is the most important musician in any jazz band. I’m also an Hammond organ player, so being on the same page with the drummer is really important to me.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

CS: – Though question … I tend to be interested in patterns that are not necessarily dissonant in a “jazz” or contemporary music sense, but that are so daring or complex that it’s disorienting. I love what Prokofiev or Liszt can do, for example. Kurt Rosenwinkel is also a big influence as a composer.

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

CS: – I think there’s no place for intellect on stage. A wise musician once said “try to play on stage as if you were in your bedroom, in play in your bedroom as if you were on stage”. So focus and soul are everything ! Of course intellect is a great tool when you’re practicing; but you want to use it as little as possible when performing or even composing.

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

CS: – I just recorded an album for the talented french jazz singer Caloé. On the trumpet was Ashlin Parker, a great cat from New Orleans. I hope to go there soon !

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

CS: – I remember playing with Didier Lockwood years ago, he taught me a lot about explaining to the audience what’s happening on stage, and giving everything when you’re playing.

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

CS: – People who don’t like jazz usually think that it’s either old-fashioned or too complex (or both). I think the solution resides in more funding for music education, and making jazz music hip again. Interestingly, something is happening in Paris right now. They opened this new place called La Gare, and it’s basically live jazz music every day of the week, and the entrance is free. Young people love it because it’s cheap and it’s a former train station, so it looks more like a place you would use for a techno festival than a jazz club, and it’s not intimidating to them. And this place is full almost every night!

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

CS: – I’m not a religious person, so I think I’m actually saving all my spiritual self for music ! It helps connecting with people around me and that’s probably the best thing about it.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

CS: – I’m reading this great book by Naomi Klein, “This changes everything”. It’s no mystery that the world is in a very strange and dangerous place right now, so my hope for the future is that people will understand that our western way of life is not sustainable any more. We need to take action, and quick !

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

CS: – We need to be very careful about the power we’re giving to corporations such as Spotify or Apple. Over the course of the past 15 years, we went from “everybody is willing to pay 20 bucks for an album” to “everybody is getting everything online for free” to “everybody wants to pay 10 bucks a month for a Spotify plan”. But musicians, people actually making the music are not getting paid for that.

Also, we need more women in the industry! Especially in actual power positions.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

CS: – I want to spend more time playing with my organ trio, and I’m also going to record an EP with my piano trio. I’m playing in some really exciting bands in Paris too, and I’m already working on my next album.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

CS: – A few years back I used to listen to a lot of Spanish flamenco music, and it’s fascinating the similarities you can find with jazz, especially in the relationship between blues and European classical harmony, the tension between modal and tonal. Even the mood. And the rhythm aspects of it are mind-blowing too, with strong influences from India, thanks to the Gypsy people. It’s an incredibly rich music and tradition.

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

CS: – This week I listened to Rossini, Monk, old Boards of Canada stuff, John Lennon, Keith Jarrett, Adam Benjamin from Kneebody, French composer and arranger Carine Bonnefoy, Jimmy Smith and Schnittke.

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

CS: – I would love to meet Gustav Mahler ! To tell him what a genius he is … Also I never got to see Prince performing live, so just a few years back would be enough.

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

CS: – I often have specific images in my head when composing music, it’s kind of a cinematic process for me.

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Clement Simon jazz

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