1) In your last concert Barcelona, I could see how you are able to play songs Monk. This is extraordinary because everyone in jazz know how difficult is to play Monk well. Said this, what pianist do you think has influenced you most?
You’re right! Playing Monk in a personal way is a big challenge, because his voice is so strong. It’s hard to break away from. Monk is definitely one of my biggest influences, whether or not you can hear it directly in my playing. His search for a personal sound, his commitment to his own esthetic, and the profound structure that underlies all his compositions — these things continue to be very inspiring to me. Other jazz pianists who’ve influenced me over the years: Keith Jarrett, Art Tatum, Ahmad Jahmal, Bud Powell, Chick Corea, Brad Mehldau.
2) Your style do you think that is more similar to Monk, Oscar Peterson or Bill Evans?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer. I’ll leave it to the audience to judge. My learning has not consisted in trying to learn the style of one player, but rather in listening to many different great musicians and letting all those influences come out in my playing subconsciously. I will say that Monk and Bill Evans are much bigger influences on me than Oscar Peterson, though.
3) Reading your biography I am not sure if you are french and american, or both. Tell us something about your origin?
My parents are from Oregon, on the West Coast of the USA. They moved to France in 1978. I was born there in 1982, and lived in France until 2000. So I’m both French and American — I carry both passports and feel culturally close to both countries.
4) During the Jazz´s Classic times, plenty of players come to Europe because here there was more respect and interest in Jazz. Now, in a global culture, do you thing that there are many differences between Europe and USA towards Jazz?
It’s difficult to generalize about the American audience. In New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or other major centers, there’s a young audience that’s passionate about new developments in jazz. In many other parts of the US, it can be more difficult to reach young people; jazz is seen more as an old-fashioned thing. In Europe it also varies a lot from country to country, but I feel, generally speaking, that Europeans are more interested in looking for transcendence in the music they listen to that Americans. The dominant culture in America is commercial culture, so that has accustomed many people to expect nothing more from music than entertainment. However, these are only generalizations; I’ve had fantastic experiences with audiences in many surprising places in America, Europe or Asia… Every person is different and every place is unique.
5) Generally are you able to tell apart between American and European Jazz? I am right if I think that actually the differences are more between every autor (or genus) than between countries?
This is changing constantly. I used to feel like there was more of an emphasis in the US on technique and ability, whereas there was more of an emphasis in Europe on concept. But this has changed in the last 10 years. I see young players in Europe who are just as passionate about craft now as the Americans are. This may be a result of jazz education, or the fact that information is so accessible now on the internet. In any case, I’m optimistic about the future of the music on both continents.
6) You have stayed sometimes in Barcelona. Have you ever visited some other places in Spain? Have you played in other places in this country?
I have a real fondness for Spain — some of the warmest and most attentive audiences I’ve experienced have been there. On top of frequent visits to Barcelona, I’ve played Badajoz with my trio, Almuñécar with Pharoah Sanders, San Sebastian with Lee Konitz, Madrid solo… And I’ve visited many other places in Spain. It’s a special place.
7) Beeing half-freench I can expect your answer but, in Europe, what country do you think leads in audience, tradition and jazz-musicians?
I really don’t know — it’s constantly changing. I’ve been very impressed, for example, by the young musicians I’ve met in Poland in recent years. There are some very committed people out there. Of course France has a very long history with jazz, with an amazing number of jazz festivals. But Scandinavia is also an inspiring place with regard to the music, with a very distinctive point of view from both musicians and audience. There are great talents everywhere, especially now that information is so freely accessible.
8) Do you know many spaniards players of jazz, particularly pianists?
I know a number of Spanish musicians, but not too many pianists. I’ve been fortunate to get to record with Perico Sambeat and Marc Miralta on Alexis Cuadrado’s projects, and of course I know and love Jorge Rossi. I’d love to hear your listening recommendations!
9) From my point of view, your best cd is your interpretation of Goldberg Variations. It´s incredible how you are able to play some improvisations of Bach´s most difficult classic. Are you thinking about playing another classical jazz adaptation? It could be really fun do something about Liszt in Jazz! What do you think?
I like to follow my nose with my musical investigations. The Goldberg Variations project happened simply because I love that music and wanted to study it. Slowly, over many years, I started to learn more and more of the variations. Naturally I felt like using them as the starting point for improvisations as well. But it’s a project that happened on its own. I don’t have any plans as of now to adapt other classical works — we’ll see what happens. It’s important to me that any process like this be fully organic, not forced. Right now I’m more interested in exploring the possibilities of algorithmic music, bringing together my love of music with my love of technology and programming.
10) Tell us something about your last disc with Jo Wallfisch. Have you been at ease playing a vocal duo? What´s your opinion about this beautiful voice?
I’ve always loved playing with singers. My mom is an opera singer. She grew up singing jazz standards with her father, who was a jazz pianist on the West Coast. So I grew up playing standards with her too. The voice is the greatest instrument, the most powerful. Joanna Wallfisch is a big talent — not only a great singer, with a very pure voice and perfect intonation, but also a remarkably original songwriter. I’m proud of how the disk with her turned out, it has a lot of heart.
I was introduced to Lee by the great French pianist Martial Solal, who was a mentor of mine growing up in Paris, and who has recorded and performed with Lee many times since the 1960’s. Somehow Lee and I hit it off right away, and we’ve been playing, recording and touring together every since.
12) Do you think that, maybe, Konitz have been undervalued towards others saxophonists in jazz´s history?
I think it’s possible that in the eyes of the audience, Lee is less famous than other players like Wayne Shorter or Sonny Rollins. But in the eyes of musicians, I think Lee is as respected as anyone. I’m constantly impressed at how many young players come out when he and I tour together. He’s clearly one of the greatest inspirations for the next generation. I think that’s because he’s someone who has stood up for the ideal of pure improvisation, without compromise, his entire life, and who continues, at age 88, to search for the truth of the moment every time he plays.