The initial postulate was simple: five groups, one emblematic studio and 24 hours for each to imagine and record two unreleased tracks with one objective - the will to document a French jazz scene in the midst of renewal.
In these last few years, several innovative currents have shaken up the world of jazz and attracted new fans. They have bubbled up from Los Angeles, impregnated with hip-hop culture (Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin, Thundercat), or from London, tinged with African rhythms (Nubya Garcia, Kokoroko, Ezra Collective). Meanwhile, in France, a new scene is emerging, carrying with it more of a dancefloor-oriented sound influenced by electronic music - an obvious kinship with the French Touch explosion of the late 90s.
Historically, every movement has been assimilated to a certain neighbourhood, to specific clubs where late at night, young guns stayed up to imagine the jazz of tomorrow - the Cotton Club for the jazz of the 20s, Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem for Be-Bop, the Black Hawk in San Francisco for West Coast jazz, Birdland in New York for Hard-Bop or a lot more recently, the Total Refreshment Centre which has been the playing field for the new London scene.
In Paris too, this new sound is associated with actual venues, places which have allowed these groups to form, create a repertoire and forge an aesthetic - Le Baiser Salé for Monsieur Mâlâ, La Gare/Le Gore for Photon, La Pêche in Montreuil for Ishkero, La Petite Halle for Underground Canopy and also le Duc des Lombards and le 38 Riv’ for Alex Monfort; it’s in a live context that this music will always continue to evolve.
Keeping this “live” spirit, with all its spontaneity, was actually the guiding line for the elaboration of this Studio Pigalle compilation. Each take was recorded in the most organic way possible, bringing all the musicians together in the same room to limit post-production alterations before the final cut was assembled, in just one day, by studio in-house sound
engineer, Felix Rémy.
A feeling of urgency permeates a record guided by an artistic production taking care to crystalise the essence of this artistically free-range generation whose childhoods were rocked just as much by Bill Evans and Roy Hargrove as by J Dilla and Jeff Mills. One of the two tracks recorded is geared towards the dancefloor, and the other, more cosmic/ambient gives freer rein to individual interpretation.
There were therefore many possible ways of interpreting these guidelines for the five formations which number among the most distinctive on the current French musical landscape, and the occasion, for some, to rummage through their archives! With Transe (Mbappé) and Da Verdere (Vella), Monsieur
Mâlâ present us with two unreleased tracks issued from the very first rehearsals of the quintet reworked especially for this compilation. “Seen the aesthetic range of this group, it all worked out very naturally in the studio”, recounts keyboardist Nicholas Vella “Recording like they did in the sixties with all the channels live and working with small imperfections was a very interesting task, even when it came to the mix, we had to make do with the takes we had... “
“Our group is very recent, and with this session, in just two tracks, we had the opportunity to present the entirety of our musical universe,” says Photons pianist Gauthier Toux. “All too often, we assimilate this fusion between jazz and dance music to computers and post-production modifications. For “Dessine”, we kept the first take, and we must have recorded just three or four for the other track with more of a techno bent. In one day, we understood that we could play our entire repertoire live, from A to Z”.
“When the Komos label offered me this project, it immediately spoke to me”, remembers Alex Monfort “Straight away, I thought of “Since I Met You”, a track with a nine/four time signature which really is reminiscent of a new- soul groove, but with this extra cosmic vibe! I wrote the words to the chorus and Nina Tonji placed her voice on the track, adding her own verses. For “Tonight”, the up-tempo track, I wanted to head off in more of a hybrid direction inspired by Kaytranada or the Black Radio series by Robert Glasper. A cross-over between jazz and hip-hop which really does represent my world, and I also tried to place vocals centre stage (Emcee Agora)”.
“We truly resonated with the way Antoine Rajon imagined this compilation and the recording session”, confide Warren Dongué and Jérémy Tallon from Underground Canopy. “When arriving in this studio we felt as if we had gone backtothe70s! Inkeepingwiththespiritofthisera,heknewhowtoletus keep our spontaneity, without recording in too many takes, and that’s how we like to work”.
“We managed to adhere to the themes of the compilation without changing our instrumentation, we wanted to remain faithful to the sound of Ishkero on these new compositions and take them somewhere else” – says drummer TaoEhrlich -“Withoutaddinganyelectronics.Thesessionwassupervisedin a truly subtle and benevolent manner. From a human perspective, it was also a wonderful experience”.
Whether turned towards hip-hop, ethnic or electronic music, the artists featured on this Studio Pigalle compilation represent the eclecticism of a new generation in the process of writing the first chapters of its history. Open to experimentation, these artists continue to hold high an immutable love for improvisation and creation in the moment... another definition of the word Jazz!