February 26, 2024

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Interview with Alexandra Grimal: Nomadic musicians need to share their homes, their sound, their visions: Video

Interview with a bad musician, as if saxophonist Alexandra Grimal. 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? 

Alexandra Grimal: – I grew up between Egypt and France. My parents were listening to lots of different music, from pop to classical, contemporary, traditional, rock music … My brother is a famous classical violinist. I started playing the piano at the age of five. Then started the saxophone when I was thirteen. I wanted to play jazz, improvise and travel around the world. I thought if I could create beauty, maybe I could live from it. Very difficult task indeed. To respect myself enough to get paid enough, treated well and be on the biggest venue with a real soloist space to express myself and share with the musicians and the audience the pleasure of becoming only sound and be together as a unit, sharing thoughts, with no words, in a universal language.

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It felt that I had no choice, I had to be a musician. Like if very strong forces were pushing me. And I was practicing with an iron wheel.

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

AG: – I guess I met the right people at the right time. Very important players who came to me and said, ‘You have to find your own sound’. I am discovering it. I am very happy to question and discover who I really am as a musician. I am not the same as when I was
younger. I have searched so much, so many things, that I feel that I am standing on a very fertile ground now, ready for many unknown musical plants to grow around me.

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

AG: – I have been practicing so many languages among the years, you cannot imagine. The language of this very famous saxophone player, of this famous composer, etc., etc. So it took me time to digest all this and figure out that those were not my languages, even though those music filled my heart and guided me along the way. I am very thankful to those artists who created worlds where my heart belongs.

But now, my routine is mainly to improvise and work on extended techniques on the soprano saxophone. I have quite a lot of commissions as a contemporary music composer, which I am so happy about. As a player, I am looking for the truth. What I do not know, what I am becoming. I am trying to still get prepared for the unprepared, as Lee Konitz would have said.

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

AG: – I have changed a lot among the years. I became a wife and a mother. That really changed a lot of things. I have opened myself to a lot of music I did not know that I am studying at the moment. More in the contemporary experimental field, which I feel I belong to as well somehow. I am a strange mixture between classical and experimental, between folk and abstract music. So I am changing all the time. Increasing my knowledge and always discovering so much music.

Artistic encounters reveal things what one carries inside. That is the beauty of always growing. I feel like a musical chameleon sometimes.

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

AG: – Everything goes together. I do not really ask me this question. The more the heart is open, the best the music is. We are units. Not divided into pieces. That is my opinion. I have a very holistic vision of human beings, closer to the Asian concept I guess than to the European one.

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

AG: – I was very shy to look at the audience during all those last twenty years. Now, as a singer, I have learned to look at them. For the first time. I hope now that my music will go through. Probably, I am getting more and more ready to accept the love from the audience. Not so easy for a shy person like me, and probably not so easy to accept that I also need it.

I never really asked myself if I was ready to give them what they long for. I guess I do the best I can, but never try to manipulate the audience or play something in order to please or seduce them. I would feel fake to my inner self. I just hope that beauty and alignment will be like a powerful force of truth and freedom.

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

AG: – This is a very good question. I don’t know! Meeting jazz and improvised music is a matter of encounter and sensibilities. Maybe try to keep on playing and not get into a new lockdown. Maybe people push the doors and also enter by chance! Nomadic musicians need to share their homes, their sound, their visions. It is not a lonely practice. It is really important for society to keep the concert halls open. People need to meet and share emotions. That is the meaning of being alive.

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

AG: – Yes, music is a way of life. Musicians are very often related to life by their ears. I am. Music is a guide, it is always new, challenging, requiring complete honesty and pure heart. Always bigger than everything else. Requiring humbleness. We think we know, and the day after, we don’t! Music is part of the expression of ‘love supreme’. John Coltrane is a very important artist for me. Probably one of the most important ones.

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

AG: – I would love the younger generations to forget about styles, aesthetics, chapel wars and all those very stupid judgments about how music should be. Every music carries something different. We need biodiversity, curiosity, tolerance and open-mindedness. We need free minds.

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

AG: – Tom Johnson, Alvin Lucier, Dedalus Ensemble, Catherine Lamb, Sufjan Stevens, Japanese Noh theater music, traditional music from all over the world, music of my friends and colleagues, a big pile of records is actually waiting on the hi-fi: music to be discovered…

Interview by Simon Sarg

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, 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/

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