Grand Pianoramax : SOUNDWAVE LP on Mental Groove Records

Update 02.2016: “Soundwave”, the fifth album of US/Swiss trio Grand Pianoramax will be released internationally on 29 January by the German Word and Sound label. Grand Pianormax will also be playing at Cully Jazz Festival on the 08.04.2016. Take this opportunity to read our review again!

photoaccueilsite2Reading over my notes taken while listening to the latest Grand Pianoramax LP just released on Mental Groove Records, the word ‘bouncy’ makes a frequent appearance. This may seem a trite concept to use when describing a band that over the years has become known as the Swiss heavyweight supergroup of post jazz, art rock and hip hop. But it does go to show that the aim of being “lighter, brighter, more fun” – to quote bandleader Leo Tardin – has been accomplished.

A fresh and spontaneous approach

Produced and mixed by ‘pugnacious’ drummer, Dom Burkhalter, the LP was recorded in his studio in an almost live situation with a fresh and spontaneous approach. “We wanted to keep it direct and imperfect somehow: upright piano with creaky pedals, old Fender Rhodes, analogue synths – a chilled attitude, nothing too perfect” explains Tardin. Following on from the Big Easy EP released last May, SOUNDSCAPE continues the “more accessible, less dark” theme that the band had already prepared us for. And why not? Nothing wrong with a bit of sunny Steely Dan-inspired melodies to help the foot-tapping along even when you’re an experimental bunch of musical giants.

There’s as much rule-breaking here as there is on the earlier ‘darker’ albums

But to define the LP simply in terms of fluffy adjectives is far from half the story. Yes, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a sun-roof-down drive along the south of France, but there are challenging twists and turns around every corner. Tempos come and go, unsuspecting chopped up beats hit you in the face, lyrics are sharp and cutting – in brief, there’s as much rule-breaking here as there is on the earlier ‘darker’ albums. Tardin is keen to emphasize:   “It’s actually easier to be dark and dramatic than it is to be simple but solid. This is not straight music, there’s experimentation happening on every track. ‘No Doubt’, for example, is essentially a disco track set to a very unusual 7/4 beat”.

Fans of his pretty, lyrical touch will not be disappointed

There’s a good ratio of vocal and instrumental tracks here, the latter giving space to more journeying on behalf of the keyboards. The old Fender Rhodes gets quite a bashing on ‘Tight Rope’ recalling a funky mid 70s Herbie Hancock/George Duke style that suits Tardin rather well and could do with further exploration in the future. Fans of his pretty, lyrical touch will not be disappointed, there are some gorgeous sweeping moments where being carried away on the wave of Tardin’s dexterous style is nothing other than a pleasure.

Charismatic experimentation and radio-friendly sparkle

But essentially, Grand Pianoramax are known for their foray into beats and hip hop which Black Cracker‘s edgy, poetic vocal style encapsulates so well. Totally enveloping and slightly less razor sharp than usual, his timbre is just perfectly suited to the jazzy, understated, choppy groove. Nothing in his lyrical content is ever over-done or insincere. The trio are famous for being a powerhouse live act, all bark AND bite, but on this album the slightly more laid back, crossover attitude is in no way a detracting dumbing down. On the contrary, warm and colorful like the cover, it’s an album full of charismatic experimentation and radio-friendly possibility.


Band line up:

Leo Tardin – piano & keyboards
Black Cracker – vocals
Dom Burkhalter – drums

Forthcoming live gigs:

28th Nov, 2015: Moods, Zürich, CH
27th Dec, 2015: Bee Flat, Bern, CH

Swiss autumn vibes

vinyle-musique-f15461T650-650x325Et hop, une petite playlist spotify qui met en avant quelques-unes des sorties les plus excitantes de l’automne. Rock, pop, jazz, rap, electro et même un remix en clôture: laissez-vous surprendre par cette sélection helvétique inédite.


Avec dans l’ordre:

  • Plaistow, “Mimas” extrait de l’album Titan
  • Evelinn Trouble, “Never Came around” extrait de l’album Arrowhead
  • Puts Marie, “Hecho en México”, extrait du EP Masoch II
  • Phall Fatale, “The Girls, the Beat” extrait de l’album Moonlit bang bang
  • La Gale, “Nouvelle Pandémie”, extrait de l’album Salem City Rockers
  • Grand Pianoramax, “A little more”, extrait du EP Big Easy avant la parution du nouvel album  du groupe Soundwave le 30 octobre
  • Verveine, “Premier” extrait du EP Antony
  • Aisha Devi, “Remix Mazdâ

Ecoutez, savourez et partagez!





Grand Pianoramax “Big Easy” EP


UnknownFor those of you looking for something intelligently springy to tap your feet to, may I suggest wrapping your ears around the new EP from Grand Pianoramax, (Leo Tardin‘s supergroup trio who have been making waves on the alternative post-jazz hip-hop scene for some years now). BIG EASY, released on 8th May on Geneva-based Mental Groove Records, celebrates a new chapter in the band’s progression towards a lighter, brighter, more accessible sound whilst still retaining all of their refinement and crystalline musicality.

Crossover potential

Whilst not exactly madly carefree, the timbre of their 5 track EP is certainly less abstract and heavily-laden compared to previous work released on ObliqSound Records. The title track, Big Easy, is a perfectly balanced interplay between crisp, bouncy beats, a husky poetic rapping style and beautifully pert piano melodies. It’s a track with crossover potential written all over it: elegantly catchy, radio friendly, almost lounge bar appropriate – not that it’s in any way banal, rather infinitely listenable. There are still three big personalities in the room, they are just less frantically busy than before, making way for a more spacious, relaxed production that succeeds in its aim to draw in a potentially wider audience. The “rough-hewn soundscapes” as they were once described have undergone a slight smoothing over. Drummer Dom Burkhalter and vocalist Black Cracker are still tremendous forces of nature, but their coming together is less of an urgent sound grenade going off in your face, more a measured invitation to a modern, urban sound that has time to unfold its magic.

Sleek lines, incisive statements

The accompanying video is an equally clever translation of the Grand Pianoramax world of aesthetics. Sleek lines, incisive statements made with arty humour all in a chiaroscuro setting, peppered with stylish handclaps, head nods and bursts of colour. It sums up all that is great and good about this band : three strong, contrasting elements craftily blended together into a faultless balancing act. Skillful execution prevails in sight and sound. Watch this video carefully – do we see better with our eyes open or shut?

Constantly pushing each other forwards

Leo is used to being asked about his split identity between solo piano career and Grand Pianoramax bandleader. Both projects are of equal importance to him. “With GP we are constantly pushing each other forward into new frontiers. Despite all three members living in different geographical locations, we work incredibly well together and make use of the space between us to develop creative ideas individually. My piano melodies often work as the basic framework around which we then weave our contributions to the form”. He admits to being very positive about the new label and the new releases. “The goal is clearly to touch more people, why hide the fact we’re looking to be more successful?” The EP is out now on vinyl and digital release, followed by an LP in early September this year.


Forthcoming gigs:

20th June: Fête de La Musique, Genève

29th  August: Auvernier Jazz Festival, CH
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