Interview with jazz soprano saxophonist Fabrice Alleman. 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 of? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?
Fabrice Alleman: – I was born in Mons, Belgium, in a very music-loving family with extremely varied styles: Jimmy Smith cohabited with Stravinsky, Miles with Klaus Schulze, Operetta with Yes and Genesis, Chet Baker with Nougaro and Jacques Brel… A permanent musical bath which surely contributed to make me say that music is music, without consideration of styles. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my older brother (soccer) but a heart murmur prevented me from doing so. My mother, probably seeing that I was sensitive to music (I asked her to record “les oignons” of Sidney Bechet on the radio, I was 3 years old…) registered me at the academy of music of Mons where they taught the flute. But the professor having died, I was registered with the clarinet…
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The saxophone will be later its prolongation… The music entered deeply in me, in my deep sensitivity during a listening of “Incantations” of Mike Oldfield, I was 13 years old. And when I was moved by a film, I would go up to my room and record on the family recorder what was going through my head… I found back these tapes… I would improvise blues… I never really decided to “be” a musician, life and others revealed me to myself. I learned from my teachers who I really was. It’s a neverending path but jazz, improvisation and composition have, over time, become my primary means of musical expression to share with listeners the emotions that bring us together.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
FA: – The sound is the first thing you hear from a musician, it’s his/her voice! Like a child’s voice, it evolves according to encounters, age, experiences, listening to the great musicians we love. The sound is the mirror of the history of one’s soul. Listening to others and to oneself shapes the sound over time. Like a sculptor who works his material, the musician, conscious of the importance of the message that his voice transmits, sculpts the sound material.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
FA: – First, I wake up my body and the instrument. Then I work on the sound, its capacity of emission, the harmonics, the relation between singing and saxophone etc. Playing a melodic instrument, I practice a lot the relationship between melody and harmony, melody and rhythm. For me harmony is a consequence of melody. I practice a lot on several different instruments: the piano, the drums and finally the saxophone where I develop my harmonic-melodicrhythmic vision. I have a system based on “colors” as I call them (I prefer colors to scales or modes but it would take too long to explain the reason here) which allow me to invent my own exercises without end. Each time it is a discovery.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
FA: – Not to change would be to annihilate time. The years shape us and often put us in front of choices that will partly condition our future. Reading, listening, sports, personal development of consciousness and the way we do it shape us. The ultimate goal is to be an integral part of the world in which we live, and to evolve every day into a more conscious person, more open to ourselves and to others.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
FA: – It is a moving balance, which changes according to the ircumstances, nothing is fixed. The intellect and the soul combine and challenge each other. The intellect allows us to understand, to know, to practice and to conceptualize the different aspects of music (melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, energetic, etc.), the soul allows us to transcend all these aspects.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
FA: – I think that when you play live, you never really know what each person is feeling or expecting, but I’m convinced that as long as you are musically honest, you reach the audience in some way. The emotional back and forth with the audience is a powerful engine for me that allows me, as the concert progresses, to give everything to make this moment as precious for them as for me.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
FA: – Standards are a part of jazz. Jazz has always been nourished by external influences, which has allowed it to evolve constantly while keeping all the acquired steps. One current does not push the other into oblivion, but the different currents coexist: New-Orleans, Be-bop, etc. Find the right entry point for what they like to listen to. In my ensemble classes at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, I always ask them 2 questions: what is the last album they listened to in its entirety and what they want to do or not do. From there, I take them into the depths of the soul of jazz and make them discover the history as well as the actuality…
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
FA: – The universality of music shows us to what extent we, musicians, are transmitters. Transmitters of energy, transmitters of life. Music passes through us, our prism, our history and makes us feel alive. In this sense, music shows us that we are both the one and the whole, the particular and the general, alone and together.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
FA: – I would say that people, especially political, economic, social worlds should realize the importance of culture in people’s lives and work to ensure it becomes one of the pillars of our societies.
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JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
FA: – All that falls to me under the hand, in the ears. We live in a time full of productions, so I listen and I feel quickly if it touches me or not. If it is the case, then I dive into the universe that I have just discovered.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
FA: – I am well in this time, it is mine, the one where my culture takes its meaning through travels and meetings with other musicians and cultures. It is a permanent discovery that enriches me wherever I go.
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/