Leo Tardin: Mr Gemini, the man with two personalities

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In the run up to his performance at Chateau de Chillon for Montreux Jazz on 13th July, Leo Tardin talks about his live project with Turkish percussionist Burhan Oçal, his latest solo LP Dawnscape and his band Grand Pianoramax   

Leo Tardin I got introduced to Burhan Oçal by the drummer of Grand Pianoramax, Dom Burkhalter, who’s a good friend of his. Burhan had been trying to get the band to play with him in Istanbul and we finally managed to organise it this time last year, so that’s how I first met him. Apart from being an amazing percussionist, he’s also an actor who often plays the villain in Turkish B movies. He’s a real character, full of mad stories, really quite unique. After the gig, the Montreux Jazz organisers and producers of Dawnscape heard that we’d played with him in Turkey and asked if we’d like to perform togther in Switzerland. It’s actually very similar to the early stages of Grand Pianoramx where it was only piano and percussion. It’s pretty easy to integrate percussion with piano because you can look at the piano as a percussion instrument that can afford space and freedom.

How does your album lend itself to being played in a duo format?

Leo Tardin Let’s see! We’re going to try this out in Istanbul for the first time. I know Burhan often plays as a duo with other pianists, sometimes even classical, I’m sure he’s going to blend in pretty easily into my music because it’s fairly rhythmical. There will be pieces where it’s only going to be me or bits with just him, then we’ll meet together on some others. I’m very flexible and confident that it will be a success.

Has the Dawnscape album done what you wanted it to do?

Leo Tardin It’s too early to reflect on this but it has definitely opened a lot of doors. One of the reasons for this is that it’s very flexible and light compared to a band that needs a lot of equipment, sound system, backline, hotel rooms and plane tickets. With Dawnscape live gigs can be organised fast and easily. This kind of freedom and flexibility is one of the great things about this project. Also the fact that this LP was co-produced by Montreux Jazz is helping a lot. It’s bringing a lot of credibility and making people take this project seriously. This is a very new project that needs to be established after having made a name for myself with Grand Pianoramax.

 

Leo Tardin

Leo Tardin

What was the reaction to you bringing out this new solo project that’s so different from Grand Pianoramax?

Leo Tardin It took a while for people around me to accept this, not just the other band members who worried that it might signify me wanting to deprioritise the group, but also the music journalists. I was surprised by the press’s reaction, it was at times very extreme – they either loved it or hated it. The music in this solo project is less radical than with Grand Pianoramax, but the reaction to the music has been more radical.  I feel that the journalists were comfortable to put me in a box as the piano guy who does hip hop, so when I came out with this romantic, dreamy, poetic stuff they were confused. Not all of them appreciated or understood the move. I was pleased when a few realised that it was something that took guts to do. But I’m happier this way because there are some things I can finally do with my solo project that I couldn’t do with the group, so I’m more relaxed in the context of the group and it brings a better vibe to GP as well.

When and what might we expect from Grand Pianoramax in the imminent future?

Leo Tardin We’re going to play the Paléo Festival, followed by Cosmojazz which is a really nice festival in Chamonix, open air at the foot of a dam. Then on the days off we’re going to work on some new music, a new EP that should be out in the first half of next year. The last LP, “Till There’s Nothing Left”, only came out a year and a half ago so it still has a bit of life in it, but we’re already working on new music and this has helped my band members realise that GP is as much a priority as my solo piano project.

 You are known as being a very polyvalent musician with different styles and projects. Do you agree?

Leo Tardin I’m not really doing so many different things, I’m just doing two VERY different things. but that’s about it. I think it has to do with my slightly schizophrenic personality. I can’t find one just project that covers the full spectrum of what touches me and the emotions I feel. That’s why I have these 2 very different projects. If you listen carefully you can hear some of my solo project in GP in some of the very emotional epic pieces, and little bits of GP in my solo project. I felt limited just sticking to one project, but I’d say that I’m more dual than polyvalent.

 Do you consider yourself a jazz pianist?

Leo Tardin That’s tricky. Calling me a ‘jazz pianist’ is a bit reductive and with GP we’re trying to get away from the jazz tag. We rarely play at any jazz festivals, (last year we played mostly rock festivals!) Jazz is where I came from but I don’t know how relevant it is today to what I do. When people ask me if I’m part of the Swiss jazz scene, I say I’m part of a group of musicians who are making noise and have some visibility outside of Switzerland, so in that regard I’m part of the Swiss music scene. The solo project has a few jazz overtones, but it’s far more influenced by classical, ambient and crossover music.  It could be the soundtrack to a movie. I want people to be inspired and travel in their minds when they listen to it. A lot of the pieces are very simple but with a rich emotional content that can reach people. Sometimes I find that jazz musicians are a little bit too focussed on what they can do with their instrument and rather than what they can make the audience feel.

Dawnscape is a co-production with the Fondation Montreux Jazz 2 & Balik Studios
Physical distribution by Irascible www.irascible.ch

Live dates:

13th July: Montreux Jazz Festival, duo w/ Burhan Öçal, performing Dawnscape: http://www.montreuxjazzfestival.com/fr/artist/leo-tardin
24th July: Paléo Nyon Festival w/ Grand Pianoramaxhttp://yeah.paleo.ch/fr/artist/grand-pianoramax
27th July: Cosmojazz Festival w/ Grand Pianoramaxhttp://cosmojazzfestival.com/fr/programme/artistes/grand-pianoramax
Autumn Swiss solo tour:
24th Sept: Eisenwerk, Frauenfeld
6th Oct: open lecture with students from CEC Emilie Gourd, Genève
11th Oct: Workshop EJMA, Lausanne
11th Oct: Ferme Asile, Sion
14th Oct: Rolex Learning Center, EPFL, Lausanne
25th Oct: AMR, Genève
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