May 18, 2024

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Interview with Jean-Michel Pilc: I have no idea, nor do I think you can separate intellect and soul: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Jean-Michel Pilc. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Jean-Michel Pilc: – I fell in love with music, and later with jazz, by listening to vinyl records (some of them 78 rpm) in my mother’s family. My mom, grandmother and uncles where music lovers and listened to records all the time. That’s how I discovered Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, then Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, Django Reinhardt etc. I got acquainted with modern jazz much later.

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?

JMP: – I think it chose me. Seeing that I loved music and sang everything I heard, my parents took me for piano lessons with an old lady. I adored her, she was very kind to me and already encouraged my urge to improvise. I stoped taking lessons at the age of 10 and have been self taught ever since. I just practiced by myself applying commonsense regimen: technical exercises, lots of classical music, transcriptions etc. And last but not least, always listening to a lot of music, live and recorded, trying to imitate what I heard, and playing with the best possible musicians.

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

JMP: – I have no idea. Your sound is part of yourself, and as such, evolves mysteriously. How and why do you fall in love? To me, both questions are unanswerable. One thing I could say is that it helped me a lot to listen to my own recordings, I always recorded my sessions, including my solo improvisations at home, and then listened to find out what I liked and what I didn’t. This is a major key to progress, sound-wise and else. Recordings don’t lie, and you naturally feel what works for you and what doesn’t, what you enjoy in your sound and what you don’t, and then natural selection does its job. The next time you play, you feel you really hear yourself better in the moment, and to me that’s crucial. Playing is not the most important thing, hearing is.

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

JMP: – Rhythm has always been a natural thing to me and I have never practiced it specifically. What has helped me a lot is singing and simultaneously tapping rhythms on my own body, anywhere I could, often while listening to music. I did it at school a lot, and that got me into trouble more than once. I still like to sing or whistle while comping for myself on the piano, sometimes tapping with my feet or hands. The one man band, so to speak. That’s the natural extension of the earlier process. I always tell my students they should be able to tap rhythms while having a conversation. Internalization, hearing and doing several things in the same time, that is the secret. I call it creative time sharing.

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

JMP: – I don’t think that way. I’m just looking for the magic. When it’s there, I’m happy. And the least I know, the more likely magic is to happen.

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

JMP: – I have no idea, nor do I think you can separate intellect and soul. I’m not even sure what those words mean. I think humans ask themselves too many questions to which they bring too many false, ready-made answers. Music to me is a mystery, and I want it to remain that way.

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

JMP: – You are asking me to write an Enyclopedia here. Unfortunately time and space are limited. Suffice to say I had too many great moments with so many outstanding musicians to make a selection. It would be unfair to the ones I don’t select. In recent years, my 2 duo piano concerts in Paris with the great Martial Solal definitely stand out in my emotional & musical memory.

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

JMP: – Peoples still listen to Bach and Beethoven, great music doesn’t age and beauty never gets old. Besides, to me, playing a standard is a reinvention, not a copy of what has been already been done, so the process (and hopefully the result) always feels fresh and new.

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

JMP: – I don’t. I think by understanding too much, or by thinking you do, you actually limit yourself, and your perception. I embrace my ignorance, I think it’s a great asset for an artist and for an improviser.

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

JMP: – Less image, more music. Less concepts, more mystery. Less politics, more innocence. Less attitude, more love. Less talk, more beauty.

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

JMP: – Lots of classical music actually, I never get tired of it. The moment I stop loving Chopin or Schubert will be when I draw my last breath.

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

JMP: – Right now is perfectly fine with me, I wouldn’t exchange it for anything else. Living the present is way more important than fantasizing on the past or the future.

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

JMP: – What is the more important question in music? “Why not?”

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. May be …

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Jean-Michel Pilc

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