February 25, 2024

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Interview with Olivier Collette: I seek Harmony, Beauty, Joy, Balance, Energy, Love … Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist Olivier Collette. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Olivier Collette: – I grew up in Belgium, my father used to play the guitar and my mother the piano so I was pretty much surrounded by music.

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?

OC: – Because we had a piano at home, I used to sit down and try some stuff at the instrument, just fooling around. Then I took my first lessons when I was 13 years old. After high school, I studied jazz music one year in a private school. At that time, my teacher was Diederik Wissels. Then, I studied three years at the Brussels conservatory with Eric Legnini. Those two teachers were the most important for me. Fantastic musicians !

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

OC: – 3 things: Listening, practicing and playing with other musicians.

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

OC: – I do at least one hour a day of technique exercises, I’ve been doing that for many years now. When I was at the conservatory we had a class entirely dedicated to rhythm. What I do now is practicing all the time with a metronome in different time-signatures and tempos for instance.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

OC: – I’ve build over the years a large range of different harmonic colors for each chord. For every chords I have a set of simple voicings, without tensions, then another group of other voicings with one, two or three tensions. This way, when I feel the music needs to be calm, I have the appropriate color to express that. On the contrary, when I feel that the musical mood needs to be more tense, I have the right dissonance, ready to be played to get the expected result. So there’s a part of logic and a part of feeling, always.

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

OC: – I don’t prevent myself to get influenced ! On the contrary, I try to be as more open as possible to get ideas, sounds, colors from the masters I love.

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

OC: – Ideally, in my opinion it should be equal.

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

OC: – Only if I want it too ! I play jazz music, it is not very popular. I made the choice to play what I really like. But I try to share it with people the best I can.

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

OC: – A couple of years ago, I got the chance to play at the Sète jazz festival in France. We played just before Kenny Garrett, in front of the sea, a beautiful night, some very good memories…

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

OC: – It’s not because it’s old that it’s less beautiful. It’s the way we play the tunes that could be old-fashioned or not. I try to stay modern, whatever song I play.

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

OC: – That’s a big question ! I would be a fool to say that I know the answer. I think that we try during all our life to find some answers to this question. I believe that Nature is intelligent and a fantastic creator, the sound is part of this Nature, so is life..As far as I am concerned, I seek Harmony, Beauty, Joy, Balance, Energy, Love…I see that in Nature and sometimes of course in music.

I am a big fan of John Coltrane, he was very spiritual. He is one of my masters.

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

OC: – I would change the medias. I mean that nowadays, the musical genres are not equally represented on the radios, TV, press, internet,…Our world is lead by what brings more money. Because of that, jazz music is not as much exposed as the other more popular genres. I think that a large number of people, without knowing, suffer from a lack of education. Very often, I think about J.S. Bach. What such a genius artist like him would think about us listening to the large amount of stupid music that is produced nowadays ?

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

OC: – A fantastic trumpet player based in New-York, his name is Alex Sipiagin. I also attended to Jacob Collier’s concert recently…

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

OC: – No message, just to share with people the huge love that I feel for music when this music is beautiful and interesting.

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

OC: – I would have loved to see Miles quintet with Coltrane, Miles quintet with Herbie, Coltrane with McCoy, Jaco Pastorius, Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Chet baker, Oscar Peterson…

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

OC: – What is Beauty?

We don’t know really what Beauty is. There is definitely some mystery around it.

It is probably cultural and your perception depends on where you grew up and what your parents liked but still, everyone has its own and unique perception of Beauty.

This is what makes our world so fascinating, there’s not ONE Beauty, there are an infinite number of Beauties and we can spend our life looking for them!

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers, but my question is that you had to ask me your question and not to yourself ????

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

OC: – To continue my musical journey, with passion, love and perseverance.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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