May 23, 2024

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Interview with Gabriel Rigaud a leader of Octet La Nocturne: The soul, the creation is the basis of everything: Video, new CD cover

Interview with Jazz pianist and composer Gabriel Rigaud a leader of Octet La Nocturne. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Gabriel Rigaud: – I grew up in a tiny village in south of France near the Mediterranean sea, at the base of our holy moutain the “Canigou”. I started to play music with my very old friends, I was playing bass guitar in our Ska/Metal band, we were fifteen years old. I immediately and naturally assumed the role of composer, I spent a lot of time in front of my computer composing lots of verses and choruses for the band. Then at the age of twenty I decided to study the music seriously and I went to a Jazz Music School in Montpellier called “Le JAM”, I started to study piano and afro-cuban percussion. Since this moment I didn’t stop to play music, I got professional few years later, with a little bit of luck I guess, I met the right persons at the right moment. I still remember the first gig I got paid for. At the end of the night I was thinking “Oh God ! I had so much fun, I had free beers, people were applauding, and still I get 40$ more in my pocket…” I found a new direction in my life.

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

GR: – I started to study pretty late so I’m mostly working on my technical skills for both piano and drums, and as every musician knows (?) working on your technique makes your sound bigger and better. I think the music I’ve been listening all my life as something to do with my sound also. And then I think my sound is a balance between the traditional jazz that I have studied and the afro-cuban rhythm that I love most of all. I mean… music is rhythm, music is dance..

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

GR: – At the age of 26 I went to New-York for a couple of month. I discovered the Jazz at his higher level, just in front on my eyes. When I got back in France I had to isolate myself in the mountain to be able to work properly, with no distractions. Several hours of technics then few hours of drumming then improving the knowledge of the keyboard, voicing and all that stuff. Pretty classic way of studying music I guess. The secret is intensity, flexibility and regularity. I’m still working hard, still not satisfied of myself in terms of technique. A normal musician’s problem.

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

GR: – The place where I live. I quit the city to live in the small village where I grew up. This definitely changed everything in my life.

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

GR: – I have no particular rituals, I try to stay calm few days before when it’s possible. The irregularity of the conditions makes it impossible for me to engage any type of routine. I can still remember a concert we played with the “Octet la Nocturne”. It started at 11AM, we had slept only few hours the day before because of another concert and hours of driving (and partying). We got there very tired, late, with no warm-up. And yet it was a very good concert, we were all together, it sounded great… It’s hard to understand how this works.
But the more the band play, the bigger your sound gets, this is for sure. So if you want to be ready for a recording session, the best thing is to play several concerts in a row then you get to the studio right after. But it’s not always possible unfortunately.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Octet La Nocturne – High Octane, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

GR: – Well, this album is very special for the band because it is the first one. It is the results of several years of playing together. The recording session was pretty hard, 13 hours of driving, very high temperature in our house, not so much time to record and mix the album, we had to be ready. We won’t forget this record session for sure. Now we remember it with a smile. It’s been a very good “team building” session.

For me it is even more special, It is my first album entirely composed by myself. It’s an honor to have all those excellent musicians ready to play my music. It is so much fun!

Also it is a privilege to be supported by the label Odradek Records, a beautiful label by the way, a democratic, artist-controlled, non-profit cooperative, promoting new artists and fresh repertoire. Thanks to theme I’m here answering your questions, the album is available on all platforms, I am very proud.

Buy from here – New CD 2023

High Octane

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

GR: – You know in Montpellier, the place where I started to play music, we are all a big “Jazz Family”. There are people from the jazz conservatoire, old jazzmens, young ones, some play be-bop, some play old jazz, some of them play modern fusion jazz, and we are all a big family, playing together, partying together, in this small city. That is how I met the musicians of l’Octet la Nocturne. We haven’t been this same team from the beginning, half of the band has been staying all the time.

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

GR: – Oh, one of our first gig took place in a small village. In the only bar of the place. In front of few people who were here for the party, to dance and shout. We were here to play our “sophisticated” jazz music. It was the “women’s day” in France so we accepted the idea of getting all dressed like women, wearing dresses and wigs. The gig got crazy. People were dancing. There are beautiful photos of this moment. We had the energy of a rock band, very good memories.

Another day we needed money to organize several days of rehearsal, we had the idea to organize a “Petanque” contest. The french sport were you throw iron balls to get as close as you can to the little “cochonnet”. Thanks to one of our friend “Pizzetto” we were able to organize this event, to serve some beers during the afternoon, and to recover enough money to pay for the food and wine during our rehearsal days. Nothing is impossible, when the Octet needs money, the Octet finds money.

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

GR: – In my opinion the creative inspiration comes from the soul, maybe it comes from somewhere else and our soul is an antenna that captures the ideas floating around. The soul, the creation is the basis of everything. The intellect comes after, it helps you to translate properly your idea on your instrument. I personally believe in “the spontaneity”, meaning the things you think quickly before using your intellect, this attracts my greatest attention, especially when it’s about composition. Being soulful is the key I guess. The intellectual part for me would be learning the language of music, with all that it represents. The thing that makes you better and better year after year. It is necessary but not indispensable as you can feel the most beautiful music being played or sang by children who hasn’t been thinking of all this yet. Again this is just my opinion, but I think about this question a lot.

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

GR: – I like people in general, I like the audience very much and I want them to feel comfortable and have a good time. I always take the time to speak to the people in the room, to make them laugh. We are simultaneously giving and receiving something, it is a conversation, a sharing. There is no music without audience. Public appreciation is very important for me.

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

GR: – It is old in deed, but it is recorded. Thanks to this wonderful invention we can listen to almost all the jazzmen and jazzwomen since the invention of this music. I think this music won’t die. If there are all this musicians playing jazz music 60 years later I think it will be the same 100 or 150 years later. Beauty doesn’t get old.

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

GR: – I think I’ve started to answer this question when you were asking about the balance between intellect and soul. Well I guess the soul is related to the ego and the spirit to something greater so the question gets completely metaphysic. Wow ! That’s an hard question !

I believe in something greater, I believe that beauty is the proof, and I think that music is magic. Music makes everyone feel better, It throws you directly in your imagination, it is a very beautiful gift given to us. Sacred music of all religions is the most beautiful music in the world for me. Human music becomes so beautiful when it addresses a higher energy. We would need a whole conversation to answer this question.

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

GR: – If the super-production didn’t take all that space in the musical world people could be introduced to more varied music. The “Opening to the World” in music is still too limited because of super-productions. You know, It’s all about money. I would change this for sure. I would put some curiosity, humility and sensitivity in the music industry.

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

GR: – Lots of different things. Classical music from the romantic and classic era mostly, sacred music of India, electronic music, Italian and French old popular music, some jazz from the 50/60’s obviously… and several other things.

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

GR: – How far can it goes ? I would like to push the button to the maximum.

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

GR: – Don’t be too serious. Be smooth. Stay flexible. Life is magic. All those kind of stuff.

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

GR: – It was very nice to answer your questions, thanks for showing us interest. I would like to ask you the same question that you asked me about the balance between the soul and the intellect and we could also talk about this spirit thing, it is so interesting.

JBN: – Thank you for your answers. For me the soul is the most important thing in music. If you combine complex rhythms and time signatures with complicated harmonies the soul connection can be lost somehow.

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

GR: – I have given a lot of free concert during my career, and I’m very happy to play sometime without salary. Music must not be always related to money.

My expectations, you mean beside being very famous and very rich? I just hope that this interview and the support you give us will make people want to listen to our album.

Photos by Tommaso Tuzj; Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/

Octet La Nocturne - Odradek Records

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