May 20, 2024

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Interview with Alex Grenier: Jazz will always be part of me: Video

Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if guitarist, problematic person Alex Grenier. An interview by email in writing. – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Alex Grenier: – I have always been attracted to music and especially the guitar. When one of my teachers played me some bossa nova chords, it was a revelation. I was maybe 9 or 10 years old.

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

AG: – I started in a punk rock band with my brother on electric bass. You have to give a lot of energy to play this music and it’s an asset for me today. I think I control my emotions better and my guitar sound has evolved through that. Maybe softer than before, It’s a long process.

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

AG: – Franck Durand (drummer in my band) has just lent me a “Power Ball”, it’s a kind of gyroscopic ball that is very convenient to build your arm. Recently, we played 4 days in a row and sometimes the muscular fatigue is felt. I practice a lot especially when I have an important issue like a recording or a festival. In general, I record the chord grids of the songs in my computer and I accelerate the speed to the maximum of my capacities to arrive as cool as possible to the concert …

JBN: – 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?

AG: – I’ve been since the beginning of my career influenced by guitarists like Wes Montgomery and George Benson. It’s the language of the blues that gives me the most emotions. I also love the dissonances of John Scofield or Mike Stern for example but for me, the blues speaks to the soul of the audience. I also love Grant Green, still blues!

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

AG: – Good question 🙂 I met a lot of guitarists who have exactly the same equipment as Pat Metheny or John Scofield. It’s a good idea because their gear is really cool but I think it’s hard to find your own way like that. I tested an incalculable number of amps and guitars. I need less experience today. For example, I was a little hesitant to use the octave technique in this new album because it makes a lot of reference to Wes Montgomery. I love this sound so much that I still chose to use it in my songs (Honolulu for example). Finally, my material is very simple, I just use a Roland Space Echo on the last track of the album (“Tamanoir”). Other than that, it’s just my Gibson plugged directly into the amp.

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

AG: – I love touching people who have never heard a jazz note before. My goal is to offer sophisticated music close to the public. At the end of a show, the moments of sharing with the audience are very important for me. Just listen, Art Blakey « Moanin », this is the best example of an infinitely rich, sophisticated and accessible jazz.

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

AG: – We can bring the public to discover a sophisticated music but it is up to the musician to make this effort. For me, a good musician must always be able to adapt. To give you an example, the jazz festival where we played last week offered to play in a retirement home in the afternoon. It was truly a very emotional moment and we shared something very strong with the audience! Of course we did not offer the same repertoire, the evening at the festival on big stage and big PA sound system.

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

AG: – We had the chance to make several prestigious openings since I formed my band; Marcus Miller, Gregory Porter, Snarky Puppy, Peter Erskine … How lucky to have shared the stage with all his prestigious musicians! Sometimes we exchanged a few words, sometimes not. In spite of that, they are only beautiful memories.

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

AG: – Jazz is the standards of course but it’s also and above all a state of mind. Improvisation brought me a lot of freedom in my music but also in my personal life. It works both ways. I think a lot of teenagers will be interested in this concept! We have played several times in schools lately and the children have been very interested in this music. With a little effort, you can easily access to jazz music.

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

AG: – John Coltrane is one of the best musicians I know. It’s really a reference. I often say that you can know the personality of a jazz musician just by listening one of his solos. You can’t hide anything when you improvise. To return to Mr Coltrane, it seems that there is a live recording with Wes Montgomery, it’s very interesting! Maybe we’ll find out someday?

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

AG: – Perhaps more space for independent music on radio and television. I would like to hear jazz in a supermarket for example, it would be cool!

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

AG: – Recently, I attended a gig of Kiefer (the pianist) and also Kamaal Williams in Paris. It was very cool!

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

AG: – I try not to cheat. I’m always myself. The music gives me a lot of emotions. On stage, I happen to have a smile all along the show, I can even cry sometimes. Pat Martino is one of the best jazz guitarists i know, he talks a lot about jazz meditation, it’s very interesting. I don’t know if I have a message to give to the audience. I try to bring something positive. To be a jazz musician, it’s a real satisfaction for me.

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

AG: – Maybe in 1936, when Gibson released his first electric guitar, a revolution! We can listen this instrument in the hands of Charlie Christian, a virtuoso and very creative guitarist.

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

AG: – I do not remember the first time I touched a guitar for the first time. What I know is that I still have the same passion for music and jazz since the beginning of my career. Even in difficult times, I never gave up (thanks to my family).

Jazz will always be part of me.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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