quinta-feira, 10 de março de 2011

Artist Photograph: Emmanuel Pahud

It's quite possible that Emmanuel Pahud is the supreme flutist of our time. He is principal chair of the Berlin Philharmonic -- following in James Galway's footsteps -- and his solo concerts and recordings have been universally acclaimed. And though he may never attract the cult-like following of his Irish predecessor in Berlin, not even the great Galway has such an exquisitely pure, focused, and beautifully rounded tone. He's a stylish player, too, à la Jean-Pierre Rampal, and his recordings of Bach, Telemann, and Mozart show off his superb musicianship to good advantage. As his reputation has grown, Pahud has felt more comfortable branching out, exploring his interest in contemporary music (check out a mind-blowing disc of music by Sofia Gubaidulina) and in jazz, collaborating with pianist Jacky Terrasson on Into the Blue, his latest release. Andrew Farach-Colton reached the French-born flutist in Washington, D.C., where he was taking a few days away from his Berlin gig to appear as soloist with the National Symphony.
The Philharmonic Flutist Cuts His First Jazz Record
Barnes & Noble.com: How did you and Jacky Terrasson get together?
Emmanuel Pahud: Jacky was classically trained in Paris, and I've always been interested in other styles of music, including jazz. So, of course, I had heard of Jacky, because he's a great jazz pianist, and he had heard about me. Since we are both under contract with EMI labels -- Jacky's with Blue Note, and I'm with EMI Classics -- it was easy to make contact. We met up in Switzerland at one of Jacky's concerts, exchanged some ideas, and realized we could do something together based on French mélodies and use these songs as the starting point to improvising together.
B&N.com: Had you played jazz before?
EP: I hadn't -- at least not officially -- but we've started playing this music in concerts, so I guess that now I have made my debut.
B&N.com: How much of your playing on the album is improvised?
EP: I'd say it's 50/50. We prepared a set list for the recording sessions about one or two months before. Then we met up a couple of times and worked on finding the kinds of sounds, arrangements, and rhythms that we'd like to get on various pieces. In some pieces, I'm playing the original text while the trio improvises around me, and in others I'm improvising with them.
B&N.com: The music on Into the Blue is based entirely on classical compositions. How did you choose the repertoire? Are some classical pieces more difficult to improvise on than others?
EP: Oh, certainly. Some pieces are more adaptable to a jazz version than others. Something like "Après un rêve" by Fauré became a very soft track, like a slow swing, and it's a beautiful jazz number simply because it's a beautiful melody. "Bolero" and the "Pavane" by Ravel, however, are pieces where we really improvised. It's hard work for me, sometimes, knowing where to play what and finding the right spot to start an improvisation, because I haven't been trained in jazz. I'm growing into it through my contact with great musicians like Jacky, bassist Sean Smith, and drummer Ali Jackson. It's been such a fantastic experience for me.
B&N.com: There's a lot of humor in the album, too -- like the sudden appearance of "La Bamba" in Ravel's "Bolero" and the reggae version of Mozart's Turkish Rondo. It sounds like you were having fun in the studio.
EP: We had lots of fun! And now that we're playing this music together in concert on tour, it's getting to be even more fun. We're really going deeper -- using quotes from one piece in another, and we've added some new numbers. But even on the CD, flute players will be able to find some bits and pieces of Varèse, Debussy, and other composers whose names are not actually stated on the CD cover, because I use other material to provide a basis for the improvisations. I remember playing the CD for some of my friends, and they couldn't recognize the Four Seasons of Vivaldi, though they were violinists themselves! Yet, if you listen for a second time, you'll probably recognize the Four Seasons and realize there's something different going on. And then you listen a third time you might hear "Singin' in the Rain" in the middle of Vivaldi's "Spring." So, the hope is that every time you listen to it you'll discover something new. This was the challenge for us -- to do something that both met our artistic demands yet could also be very easy listening, in a way.
B&N.com: The first time I listened to the album, I was reminded once or twice of Rampal's recording of Claude Bolling's Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano. And I was delighted to hear that you put Bolling's "Véloce" at the end of the disc. Rampal's record was one of the granddaddies of crossover projects. Was the Bolling record an inspiration for you?
EP: Yes, I think this was one of the first crossover recordings; it was a huge hit worldwide, and there are some good pieces in there. In fact, the original idea was for us to revamp the suites and do a Bolling album. But Bolling's wish was to have a classical player play as classically as possible, as opposed to a jazz trio playing as jazzy as possible, and we thought that the way it was done on those original recordings was perfect. But it wouldn't work for us today; we wanted to do something else. And so the Bolling part of the record turned out to be just this one track, the "Véloce," and we put it in a shaker and made a wild thing out of it.
B&N.com: Do you listen to jazz?
EP: I do. We have this great jazz radio station in Berlin, and I have it on all the time.
B&N.com: What jazz musicians do you especially admire?
EP: Of the jazz flutists, I love James Newton, and there are also great tracks by James Moody, Herbie Mann, and Jeremy Steig, who recorded with Bill Evans. Then there's Miles Davis and John Coltrane. An album like Kind of Blue is just phenomenal. Oh, and I also love Joe Henderson, the saxophone player.
Plus, now I'm doing some big band music in Berlin with friends and colleagues from the Berlin Philharmonic and some jazz musicians. We recently had a big band concert in Berlin, so jazz is really a part of my life now.


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