July 20, 2024


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Interview with Samy Thiebault: Music is all about love: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Samy Thiebault. An interview by email in writing. 

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

Samy Thiebault: – I was born in the Ivory Coast to a Moroccan mother and a French father. Then I moved to France, next to the Atlantic Ocean. Being close to the ocean ended up playing a great role in my life: surfing is a very important part of who I am and even of my music. My father was an amateur pianist, and he played records by Duke Ellington and Count Basie for me. Quite early on, he encouraged me to play the saxophone (his dream instrument). I loved it!

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

ST։ – It’s a long path. At the beginning I was, and I still am, a huge fan of Coltrane. So I tried to imitate him as much as I could. For a long time, my sound was up in the high harmonics. Then I naturally started to listen to other saxophonists: Rollins, Gordon, other genres of music (Caribbean, for example) and I began to work on my low register in order to bring out darker feelings in my sound. To be more “down to earth,” you know…

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

ST։ – First of all, working my instrument is a necessity for me. If I don’t, I feel very bad. It’s a natural extension of my body, so I have to pay attention to it. I’ve worked on a lot of different aspects in my musical life. But I always concentrate deeply on a simple clave, and I try to develop it in all the senses I can. Of course, that goes hand in hand with intense work on my sound, and I always try to connect that with this practice. I try to be the most creative I can and at the same time to have a very clear and understandable language, even if it’s complex. Also – finding permanent rhythmic joy on my instrument, which for me is the basis of sharing.

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

ST։ – It’s impossible! My influences are part of me and my music. They hide in every note I play or compose, and that’s the way jazz music goes! It’s an oral art, so it’s based on the past inventing the future. I find that very beautiful and spiritual.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

ST։ – That’s a very important question. I mediated for many years, but I admit I don’t do it anymore. Actually, I discovered something as powerful as meditation, and very connected to music. It’s something from my childhood that I took up again quite intensely: surfing. It’s the same engagement as in music, and the same spiritual mood. You have to forget yourself and be in the moment in order to surf waves, but at the same time you have to be very conscious of everything. It’s like being in a trance. I try to go surfing as often as I can, and if I can’t, I exercise, and I spend a lot of time visualizing situations and moments and feeling them. It’s like meditation, but adapted to music.

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

ST։ – More seriously, it’s all about that. Finding the right place that mixes consciousness, knowledge, and culture, and a pure physical sensation of dance and joy. That’s why I compare surfing and music. If you don’t have a strong technique and intelligence when you’re on the waves, then you cannot surf. But if you only have knowledge, you’re also out of luck.  It’s really like music: you have to find the sacred place…

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

ST։ – Complicated question… No, you don’t have to give the audience what they want, but you don’t have to force them, either. I mean, the balance between creation, innovation, and sharing is the earth of art. Jazz is a language. So you have to be understandable. Sharing what is important is an essential move. But you have to share and you have to say something important: both are intimately connected. Art is popular because it’s rich. And Art is rich because it’s popular.

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

ST։ – There were three of us French guys in Miami, so of course we had to check out Miami nightlife after that, and I have to say that we did it well…

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

ST։ – By continuing to invent new tunes that we hope will become standards for the next 50 years! I mean, it’s already happening, all the young musicians are playing compositions by Marc Turner now in their jam sessions! Jazz is not dead, on the contrary. It has never stopped inventing himself, even if it’s no longer a world genre listened to by everyone, but who knows? Maybe it will be again in the future. In Paris, New York, and Caracas, clubs are full of young people with open minds, so I believe Jazz music will keep surprising us!

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

ST։ – Oh, that’s a question for a much wiser person than myself… I just try to do my best in my music and share it in the most honest way possible, and to love my family and friends without limits. If we can do that in our lifetime, then life may start to mean something…

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

ST։ – Make people listen to real CDs again, and not just streamed music!

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


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

ST։ – Music is all about love. It doesn’t have a precise message; it’s not literature or cinema or philosophy, we don’t use words. We use sounds and rhythm. So the message is both more abstract and more concrete. But basically it’s love and passion and pure creation.

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

ST։ – Here and now!

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

ST։ – Why did you dedicate your life to Jazz music?

JBN: – Because Jazz is my life, the meaning of my life ․․․

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

ST։ – By practicing my instrument! Thanks for these very interesting questions!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Samy Thiébault | Henri SELMER Paris

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