May 20, 2024

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Interview with Jean-Luc «Oboman» Fillon։ Jumpin’ with Art։ Know yourself: Video, new CD cover, Photos

Jazz interview with jazz English horn musician Jean-Luc «Oboman» Fillon. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

 When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of? 

Jean-Luc «Oboman» Fillon: – I grew up in the west of Paris, in a modest family; my father played the tuba in a local wind orchestra. Initially, I wanted to register for saxophone! But, there was no more room; I was then directed to the oboe; I continued the oboe because the teacher was really nice. Then, around the age of 15, my friends who had their place on the saxophone asked me to play with them but not on the oboe! They invited because they know that my father had a tuba!? So during the Christmas holidays, I learned tuba which I quickly mastered; then, finally, I took up electric bass on the advice of the big band guitarist. This is where I discovered Pastorius, Stanley Clarke… and a new musical world. I then started two careers in parallel: Solo oboist at the European Symphony Orchestra and bassist then double bass player in many Jazz and Fusion projects. It was only at the age of 33 (the age of revelation for me) that I decided to practice the music that I love the most – Jazz – with the sound that I prefer – Oboe.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

JLOF: – I immediately had a very precise idea of ​​the sound I wanted to achieve: a warm, flexible sound, more powerful than classical and at the service of Improvisation. I had a big advantage for that; I led a big band for a long time and I gave all my musical indications by scatting and singing. And then, I drew a lot of inspiration from trumpeters: Chet, for his relaxation, his breath, then Miles for his relationship to time and Clifford Browm also for his phrasing.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

JLOF: – I practice the oboe trying to be creative and musical from the first note. I work a lot to constantly improve the connections between my thoughts, my feelings, my current state of mind and the rendering on my instrument which must be the extension of my inner song. Of course, I also practice this on cycles of 4 or 8 bars to master my relationship to time and space.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

JLOF: – Yes, I have changed: at the beginning, I tried to play as powerfully as possible, but I understood that the oboe had limits; it is neither a sax nor a trumpet. I then sought to optimize my dynamics on the instrument; In my opinion, Charlie Parker is a model for that. I also reconsidered my first refusal to use hyper staccato; finally, it is sometimes very funny and refreshing to use the staccato proper to the double reeds. I remember when I played with my friends Mike Rabinowitz and Paul Hanson. We called it “playing in a chicken way”!

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

JLOF: – I need time to prepare a concert and even more for a recording; there is the technical aspect: I make my own reeds from raw reeds; it is always a complicated ordeal for an oboist. And then, you have to think about the elaboration of the compositions and/or the arrangements; then, work on the melodies, experiment with the harmonies to then give free rein to his inspiration. I also like to arrive well in advance at the concert venue to soak up the atmosphere. Sometimes, if possible, I love to take a nap and relax in the dressing rooms.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Oboman – Jumpin’ with Art, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

JLOF: – I am very happy with this new album “Jumpin’ with Art”; I like from time to time to immerse myself in the work of a musician/composer. Long time ago I recorded an album on Gershwin with my Big Band; later a record on Ellington music with Glenn Ferris called “Echoes of Ellington” then a record on Cole Porter called “Oboman plays Cole Porter”. For Jumpin’with Art, I thought back to my brief encounter in the dressing rooms of the Jazz Messengers in 1982 in France. It was an incredible moment; I’ve always loved Art Blakey’s energy. So I wanted to make a “groove” record; each title has a particular swing, I hope that is understood!?

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

JLOF: – All the musicians on the album are friends with whom I had already recorded and given a lot of concerts; I appreciate them very much and know their qualities; I try to make the most of the abilities of each of them.

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

JLOF: – Of course, we would like the music to flow innately; but, it’s a bit more complicated than that; I think we need to constantly go back and forth between the intellect and the soul. Of course, each musician has his own balance. But let’s not forget that even the greatest worked a lot; it took Debussy 3 years to write “Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune” and about the same time for Coleman Hawkins to prepare his historical version of Body & Soul.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

JLOF: – No, I seek above all to be in total harmony with myself and my musical desires. I think that if I’m happy and give what I feel deep inside me, in all truth, then there will be (I Hope) some souls sensitive to my music.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

JLOF: – In 2006, while I was bare-chested in the dressing rooms connecting my HF microphones and passing the wires over my skin, Glenn Ferris, my super French-American trombonist arrives and exclaims “Oboman”!!! Since then, I kept this nickname. Another anecdote; with my trio Aquarela / Jazz do Brasil, while we were opening for João Bosco and Milton de Hollanda at a Festival in Corsica, Joāo Bosco grew impatient; he heard music and thought it was a record and that we hadn’t started the concert; in fact, we had been playing for 15 minutes!!! ?

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

JLOF: – This is a difficult question; we can just try to be the most sincere and honest and show them that the musical art is a long heritage; sometimes, when some people see me blowing on a piece of wood, I feel that they are wondering and that it touches them. I also happened to record sessions for African music or even solos on a Hard Rock disc; It seems they liked it…

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

JLOF: – John Coltrane was totally inhabited and experienced music as a spiritual quest. I admire his approach and his talent, but I also think that life is not just about music; there is family, children, reading, travel and moments of sharing with non-musicians; philosophers, architects, economists, peasants, in short, I have always needed this balance; after very intense musical periods, I then need the vacuum….

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

JLOF: – If I could change one thing, I would set up Jazz Clubs in every middle and big city in the world where musicians would earn a decent living and where the very low entrance fee would allow a large audience to come and spend a good time. But, I know it’s an impossible equation unless Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Jeff Besos come to my rescue! Lol

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

JLOF: – I’m quite curious so I just listened to young London Jazz bands; interesting but not revolutionary; and then I spent the last weekend listening to Milton Nascimento: these Brazilians are very emotional ! And then, this morning, when I got up, I went to hear Mr. Fats Waller…. And yes, I am like that, very curious and open mind.

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

JLOF: – Through my music and especially my background, that of a musician who has a priori chosen the wrong instruments (oboe and electric bass) or the wrong music (Jazz), I want to say that everything is possible and that you have to pursue your path and find and magnify your difference; we are 9 billion individuals with as much diversity. “Gnothi Seauton” said Socrates (know yourself).

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

JLOF: – So, I admit that knowing the 1950s/70s in the United States would have pleased me! Otherwise, of course, the splendor of Versailles, Louis XIV and his court, why not… but you had to be on the safe side. Oboist in the king’s chamber orchestra with Mr Lully, yoooo!

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

JLOF: – Your questions are nice but tiring? They made me think and take time. But it’s nice to stop sometimes and take time. My question: Isn’t it too frustrating as a journalist to see so many great artists today so little known to the general public?

JBN: – Thank you for your answers. It’s more tiring when I communicate with completely unknown and bad musicians who imagine themselves to be legends. And in general, I do these interviews to get to know the musicians, their intellect and soul, so that I don’t make a mistake in choosing musicians for my European jazz festivals.

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

JLOF: – Yes, of course, I gave free concerts but only for interesting causes; on the other hand, I have always had at heart to ensure that the tariff conditions of the musicians’ fees are respected. Alas, today, many organizers are trying to take advantage of an abundance of supply to lower the fees.?

I would like that through this interview, the American Jazz public discover my work and especially, who knows, that American Jazzmen want to invite me in their project or even record remotely on some titles of their project. I am open to any collaboration.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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