Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Yann Benoist. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Yann Benoist։ – I grew up in Dinan a small city in Brittany (West part of France) and really young i was fascinated by what i heard with friends on radio specially Rock and Blues most of the time from England ( Beatles , Rolling Stones …)or singers like Ray Charles , from America .
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
YB: – I used to play on different guitar at my parent’s home ( 6 ,12 strings acoustic or nylon strings) But for live dates at that time i had always an electric guitar . It was end of sixties so even when i was at school i used to play with different bands 2 or 3 times a week so in a way it helped me to develop my sound .
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
YB: – For Rythm i never had any special training . I’ve listen a lot of records trying to pick up chords. As a teenager there was no books to learn about that kind of music … Then a little bit after i performed with a lot of musicians and bands. Later on, end of 70 ‘s 80’s 90’ and 2000’s i’ve have done a lot of sessions. The first »rôle« as a guitarist is to have a good rythm before to be a soloist. About daily training i use to play some melodies ( most of the time it’s sounds a little blues then i like to improvise on old standards … it depends of my feeling .
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
YB: – I just try to follow my heart in a way and i hope it feels ok.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
YB: – Nothing really special. When i play it ‘ s too late to think ..․ may be i could say: i do the job and it is what it is. It depends of you the other musicians and the audience.
JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2021: Hard Groove (New Blues: Diggin’ Miles Davis, Randy Brecker), how it was formed and what you are working on today.
YB: – In the mid seventies i ordered the «Berklee correspondance course» and it helped a lot in my career . I received some really good advise by a teacher from Berklee School … when i arrived in Paris (1976). Jazz standards and famous guitarist was in my mind (Joe Pass specially)․ But suddenly i was involved in the « Paris music business » it give me a lot of oportunity to work and improve my background .I could read the music play picking , classical (all that stuff) and i had my Jazz Knowledge .
About this new album it ‘s like a kind of outcoming. i took a step … i’ve always like the music of these two «Monuments Miles Davis & Randy Brecker». I ‘ve seen them different times in France. Two years ago i began to work on some of their tunes and later i got a date in a Paris Jazz Club « Sunset Sunside .. It was full and the Audience was really warm .. So when the Pandemia arrive in 2020 i decided to stay home to work on it.
JBN: – And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
YB: – In the past I have worked with some of them in studio or on stage. Some weeks before to be enclosed we have performed in this Jazz club and it works. So i nearly took the same combo․
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
YB: – In my opinion soul is the basic but really close you need Intellect to always learn, change or adapt to new situation.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
YB: – Of course yes can you imagine: it »s so positive to have an audience … so we are here to please this audience and to get a good time too….
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
YB: – A day i got a call for a Session . It was for a famous French singer named Sacha Distel .. i was excited to play for him because before having a sucess as a singer he was a very good guitarist ( Best French Jazz guitarist in 1956) . So ,for that session i had to play some of his old songs and specially one recorded a long time ago with the famous violonist Stephane Grapelli ( Ma premiere Guitare ) the Sessionmanager told me that we have to be really in time for my guitar part because he did’nt want me to meet Sacha …. . I respected the deal but i was a little bit frustrated … When suddenly late in the evening i got a call from the manager . He said that Sacha did’nt like something that i played .. But he said do’nt worry it has nothing with your guitar playing it’s just that he is curious and want to meet you … So the day after we had a really good Lunch together and i learn a lot of things about jazz in Paris in the 40’s 50’s …..
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
YB: – I think you have to be curious about Harmony and Melody, the way they work together even if it’s a simple song .. you must try to understand then you suceed so little by little it will be more and more interesting ….
JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
YB: – Music gave me the real direction of my life .. Curiosity to learn , trying to do the best and to progress in what i discovered when i was young. Music can give you a lot of goals and if you’re serious about it. it ‘s never ending.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
YB: – I would like to have more live performances everywhere . i wish young musicians could learn , play and have a lot of experience on stage not only be a « you tube addict »
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
YB: – These last days i like to discover again some old things like Beatles, Animals etc or some old jazz guitarist like Kenny Burrel or West Montgomery …
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
YB: – I’m a French musician from Britanny and first i feel realy happy that my music arrives to you …My wish are really simple: Hope all kind of people will appreciate it … Right now i feel curious about that.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
YB: – New York 40’s for Jazz London 60’s for Rock
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
YB: – What made you decide to contact me??
Your mail was from Boston … and you speak about my Cd «Hard Groove (Diggin’ M Davis&R Brecker) released in Paris one month ago …. I m so far from you … but may be not that far finally in that Twenty one century ..
I wiil never forget it …..
JBN: – Yes, I live in the Worcester, MA.
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
YB: – Since the beginning i can say i have always been excited about Music. Year after year it has been enriching and challenging … It has always been a benefit for me .. To dive in the Music and specially Jazz for me it’s like to study the writers and painters from the Nineteen Century ….
Interview by Simon Sargsyan