Insights into the 1st edition of the Montreux Jazz Academy

NB-DSC02809Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti, artistic director of the Montreux Jazz Academy, talks about the first edition of this exciting, pedagogical project where 12 young winners of the prestigious Montreux piano, voice and guitar prizes are further coached by 14 world-renowned mentors at the Sylvia Waddilove musical centre.

How did the idea of musical pedagogy evolve at Montreux Jazz ?


Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti I’ve been working for the Montreux Jazz Festival for over 25 years, primarily as artistic co-ordinator, but also as educational co-ordinator ever since Claude Nobs began the idea of informal musical workshops. Before my arrival in 1989, Claude had always asked key musicians to extend their stay in Montreux in order to talk, teach and interact with the audience, students and fellow musicians. He would announce the workshop details at the end of a concert for the following day, but this meant that only people present at the concert would know what, where and with whom it was happening. I started organising these workshops in advance, incorporating them into the official programme, which gradually made the workshops an important feature of the festival highlighting the importance we gave to the interaction between master and pupil. This eventually led to the 1st official Montreux Jazz Solo Piano Prize in 1999 where a selection of young pianists from all over the world came to Montreux be coached by professionals in the field. Voice and guitar prizes soon followed.

What was the approach to the Montreux prizes?

Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti We wanted to structure these prizes in such a way to avoid the competitiveness you might find in a sporting event, and instead create a nice atmosphere for the candidates. The young musicians coming to Montreux were treated as a group, made to feel comfortable, lucky to meet and work together, mostly of the same age and level but coming from different countries. At that time it was also an excellent way to bridge the gap between eastern and western Europe of the late 90s. It was important that the contestants be real, complete musicians, not just able to reproduce or repeat music, each had to submit their own composition or arrangement and give a lot of themselves.

When did you realise that musical coaching was not enough?

Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti Year after year, we began to notice a reoccurring problem. Despite the winners receiving money, a recording contract and a live show the following year at Montreux Jazz – a few months after winning the prize, they would call us up asking for help: “can we have the names of a good agent, manager, how can we find gigs, labels, PR, etc..?” It was clear that being a young virtuoso is not enough in the world of jazz and music, many of our young winners had no idea what direction to go in and how to follow up their prize-winning achievements. We soon realised that the chosen candidates coming from over 40 different countries needed a more practical form of training alongside their musical coaching. Hence the idea of the Montreux Jazz Academy was born – to help young musicians take advantage of the experience and connections of the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation, the Festival’s pedagogical wing, in order to maximise their self expression as artists and also help them build their career toolkits.

Describe how the Montreux Jazz Academy is set up.

Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti There are 14 mentors and 12 candidates, or ‘laureates’ as we like to call them. Nine of them are made up of the first, second and third place winners of this year’s piano, voice and guitar competitions. The remaining three are made up of the first prize winners of the previous year. The Academy lasts just over a week from 30th October to 5th November where the young laureates live, work, perform and learn during an intensive week of exchanges with international musicians and music-business professionals. Masterclasses are given on a daily basis on useful topics such as “Understanding the music business/ How do I get signed to a label? / Managing your online presence”. There’s no competitive atmosphere or prize at the end of the Academy, just learning, sharing and a big gala show on the last evening overseen by Lee Ritenour. What’s very precious for me is to have the laureates express themselves freely and get into the habit of risk-taking with ideas and possibilities, this is less present when there’s a competition at stake. After the Academy I know something will change in how they make music as individuals – and not just the laureates, the mentors have also been affected by what they’ve shared here. They didn’t all know eachother beforehand and it was wonderful to see the cross-fertilisation bubbling up between them during the duologs, live gigs and workshops.

How did you go about chosing the mentors?

Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti I chose mentors who already have a strong relationship to Montreux, first of all because it’s easier to have direct access to them, secondly because I needed to know their resources, what they’re capable of and how curious they are. For example, I chose guitarist Lee Ritenour as musical director of this edition because he has always taught in his career, he has a good relationship with the younger generation and knows how to raise everyone’s level. He’d already been president of a previous Montreux Jazz Guitar prize and had done an amazing job. From the USA we invited drummer Sonny Emory from Earth, Wind and Fire who has an amazing energy but is very different from the classical jazz drummer; saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who opened the first Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967 – a kind of godfather figure; star vocalist Patti Austin, president of the Voice competition a few years ago. We also had the pianist Yaron Herman from Israel, electronic genius Bugge Wesseltoft from Norway, Hammond B3 giant Macoto Ozone from Japan, singer Sebastian Schuller from France and our very own Eric Truffaz. Their interaction made it feel more like a laboratory than an academy, anything could happen! The relationship between instruments and machines was really explored which was very important to me as I wanted new musical territories to be looked at as much as geographical ones. Even Charles Lloyd got to experiment with the power of electronic music.

Does the Academy have a particular involvement with Swiss artists?

1459961_862670483754534_356142560921368328_nStéphanie-Aloysia Moretti The Academy is essentially aimed at aspiring jazz musicians on an international basis, but obviously we are happy to nurture Swiss young talent as much as we can. The exceptional singer/songwriter/guitarist Patrick Rouiller, (one of the star contestants on The Voice Switzerland 2013), was the only Swiss laureate selected for the Academy this year. However we were graced with some top Swiss musicians who took part in our live sessions in the evenings, among which vocalists Anna Aaron, Billie Bird, and pianist Léo Tardin – who was so enraptured with his jam session that he missed his train back to Geneva and ended up with all the other laureates back at the Waddilove centre. Léo, a Montreux solo piano prize winner himself, was blown away to see the high standard of practical teaching, backline equipment and tools on offer. “The best of the best in an informal setting” is how he described his time spent at the Academy.

What will the laureates take away with them? 

Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti Firstly, all the laureates have said that the practical learning has been crucial: how to get a gig, consider yourself a brand, understand the workings of the music business, etc… They feel more confident to go into the world as a musician and handle their lives. No school normally talks about the practical side but now at last they know what to expect. Secondly, they’ve all mentioned the importance of experimentation and improvisation as a group. They have been stretched beyond what they thought were their capacities, forced to explore new territories and been made to find new ways of expressing their art.

How will the Montreux Jazz Academy be next year?

Stéphanie-Aloysia Moretti I could be a bit more audacious next year regarding styles of music from further afield than just the western world. Maybe bring in mentors from India or the Orient and see what new musical perspectives they could share with us, teach us to feel music more with our guts and less with our brains perhaps…? But for sure the goal will remain the same: to maximise self-expression, risk-taking in each young musician and to teach them the practical tools for succeeding in their music careers.

Leo Tardin: Mr Gemini, the man with two personalities


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

Live dates:

13th July: Montreux Jazz Festival, duo w/ Burhan Öçal, performing Dawnscape:
24th July: Paléo Nyon Festival w/ Grand Pianoramax
27th July: Cosmojazz Festival w/ 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

Montreux Jazz Festival: l’art du solo

Le batteur Julian Sartorius et le pianiste Marc Perrenoud confronteront leur art du solo au Château de Chillon le 11 juillet. Tous deux ont accepté de livrer à  Swiss Vibes quelques-uns de leurs secrets de fabrication.
@Reto Camenisch

@Reto Camenisch

Pour le plus grand malheur de ses parents et pour le plus grand bonheur de nos oreilles, Julian Sartorius a la fâcheuse habitude de taper sur tout ce qui l’entoure depuis qu’il est en âge de marcher. Quelque trente ans plus tard, il a fait de cette pulsion profonde son fonds de commerce. Pendant toute une année, il s’est astreint à la délicate mission de réaliser un beat par jour où qu’il soit. D’abord publié sur son blog, son « beat diary » est sorti l’an dernier sous la forme de 12 vinyles accompagnés d’un livre de photos. Depuis l’homme à la batterie écume les scènes les plus diverses. Il joue au milieu du public au Festival Onze plus, tape sur les murs du Musée Rietberg lors de l’inauguration d’un nouveau pavillon et se risque sur la grande scène du Cully Jazz Festival.

 « Le plus important c’est l’espace »

Le 11 juillet prochain, il investira un haut lieu historique, le Château de Chillon, dans le cadre du Montreux Jazz Festival. «  Le plus important c’est l’espace », explique Julian Sartorius au bout du fil alors qu’il attend un avion pour Copenhague. Le jour du concert, je vais tester l’acoustique de la salle avec ma batterie. Selon la façon dont elle sonne, je prépare des accessoires différents, acoustiques ou non ». Dans sa tête les plans des morceaux s’enchaînent, mais la prestation n’est jamais deux fois pareille. L’homme-orchestre peut à tout moment changer de direction, imprimer d’autres couleurs, d’autres harmonies à son set.

« C’est juste toi et le public »

Après s’être fait connaître comme batteur de Sophie Hunger, Julian Sartorius est devenu un amoureux de liberté d’improvisation, même si et surtout si ce travail est plus accaparant. « Quand tu accompagnes quelqu’un, tu peux compter sur l’autre ou le suivre, quand tu es seul, c’est juste toi et le public.». Julian Sartorius propose également dans le cadre du Montreux Jazz festival un duo « totalement improvisé » avec Benoît Delbecq (Montreux Palace, mardi 8 juillet).

 « Je préfère travailler sur les mouvements »

02 Marc SoloForcément l’exercice du piano solo est plus connu que celui de la batterie solo. Marc Perrenoud le conjugue pourtant à sa manière. « Plutôt que de travailler en improvisant sur un base de 32 mesures comme cela se fait dans le jazz, je préfère travailler sur plusieurs mouvements, à l’instar dans la musique classique ».

Solo de batterie versus solo de piano

Pour pousser l’exercice plus loin, le pianiste, dont le dernier CD en trio « Vestry Lamento » a séduit les critiques de New York à Paris, aime prendre pour point de départ une technique ou une texture. Il peut ainsi choisir d’improviser à partir d’octaves ou s’amuser à retranscrire au piano un solo de batterie. A chaque son – la grosse caisse, la caisse claire, les cymbales – il associe des notes, créant ainsi d’autres formes rythmiques sur son instrument. Le but étant bien sûr de prendre un maximum de risques, de chercher à ce que le résultat soit à chaque fois différent.

 « Ne pas se laisser dépasser par ce qui est entrain de se passer »

« Lorsque tu joues en groupe, tu cherches d’abord la résonnance, l’osmose. Le groupe trouve alors sa propre énergie et se met à fonctionner de façon autonome, un peu comme une meute. En solo, tu dois entrer en connexion avec toi-même sans aller trop loin. Tu ne dois pas te laisser dépasser par ce qui est entrain de se passer, garder un temps d’avance, garder le contact avec le public. Tu dois être en permanence ultra-concentré. Il ne peut y avoir que très peu de déchets. »

Les pierres millénaires du Château de Chillon et la féérie du lac au crépuscule ne pourront qu’inspirer la batterie insolite de Julian Sartorius et le piano expansif de Marc Perrenoud. Ne ratez pas ce moment d’exception !

Julian Sartorius solo/ Marc Perrenoud Solo, Montreux Jazz Festival, vendredi 11 juillet, 21 h.

%d bloggers like this: