The latest album from French composer and pianist Christophe DelValle is titled ‘Shared Moments’. It is an interesting collection with some compelling collaborations so when Christophe recently took time out to talk with JazzReview the first thing on the agenda was to discover the motivation that lay beneath the music.
JazzReview: Your album is fantastic; what was the inspiration behind it and are there any anecdotes you can share regarding its creation?
Christophe DelValle: Each of the ten songs I composed is part of a story. It is the story of a life. For example, the tune ‘Prison de Femmes’ (which in English translates to ‘Prison for Women’) relates to a concert I gave in France for women who live in prison. It was a very emotional moment for me and the other musicians who were involved. ‘Le Port de la Lune’ (‘Moon's Port’) is another name for Bordeaux, the city in France where I live while ‘Intuition’, which features an excellent performance by Eric Marienthal, is a sensitive song about the importance of playing with the silence. ‘Chorevo me Chara’, (translated from the Greek to ‘I Dance With Joy’), is a tribute to Greece, a country that I love and where I have given many concerts. Likewise ‘Moana’ (which means ‘Ocean’ in Tahitian) is also a tribute, this time to an island where I have previously lived.
JazzReview: When did you make a decision to have a life in music?
Christophe DelValle: When I was 5 years old. I had my first piano lesson. I said to my mother: "When I grow up, I'll be a pianist!" I studied classical piano for ten years and one day, while I was student in art school, a friend led me to discover the Blues. It was a revelation! I had found my music! When I was eighteen years old I was continuously playing Blues at home and then I found a job in cabaret as a pianist. I had to improvise for four hours every day and it was then that I first discovered Jazz. Later I played with Jazz musicians and became aware of other musical genres such as Bossa Nova, Folk and Salsa.
JazzReview: A pianist's life is in front of an audience performing. How do you feel when you are in front of an audience?
Christophe DelValle: When I play onstage I am in an incredible state of happiness. It's a great moment because my fingers express the emotion I am feeling. I am not "in front of" an audience but in harmony with it. Often I play in a duet with double bassist Patrick Manet and together we have a real complicity. The public is very attentive to that.
JazzReview: Who were your musical influences when you were first developing as a musician?
Christophe DelValle: Classical in the first place, then Blues, Folk and of course Jazz. I love the little bands of say two or three musicians. I find the same intimacy when I listen to Eric Satie or Claude Debussy. My Jazz is a mix between impressionist music and improvisation. I love miscegenation in music. Like when the Tunisian Anouar Brahem plays with the Englishman John Surman, it's a great moment. I think Jazz is now world music and a lot of musicians build a new world of music with Jazz. Anyway, it's with this idea in mind that I decided to play with two American musicians. Also, with the CD, Nina Millet's parents are natives of Argentina and Patrick Manet's parents come from Poland. They retain the depth of their origin when they play.
JazzReview: You have gathered together some wonderful musicians for the CD and confronted them with very challenging material. I must say that the music is full of joyful energy. How did this come about?
Christophe DelValle: It took quite a while but I was never in a hurry. I absolutely wanted to play with these musicians and I was very patient in my wait for them to become available. I was very happy when Eric and John accepted my offer to record with me. The French musicians had already accepted. The greatest difficulty was organizing a schedule. Each musician was giving concerts everywhere in the world and it took some time to find the right dates. But, if you want to do something with love, everything is possible.
JazzReview: How did you go about selecting these musicians?
Christophe DelValle: Bass player Patrick Manet is my friend and I have played with him for twenty years. It was natural for me to make this CD with him. I listened to Nina Millet in a Tango concert nine years ago. She was only fifteen years old and I was very impressed by her sensibility on the violin. As for trumpeter Patrice Dif, I recorded with him fifteen years ago and I loved his style, very simply and sensitive. He made me think of Chet Baker. Concerning Eric Marienthal and John JR Robinson I must say that in the beginning it was due to Myspace. It's a very good way for musicians to meet. I knew Eric's career, with the Chick Corea Elektrik Band and Yellowjackets, and I loved his sound. I also got to know John by listening to his playing with George Benson and Quincy Jones.
JazzReview: If you had to select one song from the album, which one would it be?
Christophe DelValle: Your question is really difficult because I put my sensibility into each song. However, I can select four songs: ‘Le Port de la Lune’ because Nina Millet on violin is really fantastic. She is a classical violin player and her expressivity in that tune is exactly what I imagined when I composed it. Patrice Dif on ‘Bugle’ brings a true jazz spirit. When Patrice plays he has a kind of timidity which is perfect in the moment of the song. Also ‘Intuition’ because Eric Marienthal plays incredibly well! When I heard the recording for the first time I was completely enthusiastic. What a feeling! What a great musician! He understood my music right away and the way he plays is exactly what I expected. A great collaboration! ‘Moana’ is also right up there because it's like fireworks. We all play together as we would if on stage. The swing of Patrick Manet is fantastic and John JR Robinson leads the band with a wonderful groove. The CD is mixed in two parts: The first eight songs are meant for the soul and the last two for the joy. For these last tunes, John is awesome.
JazzReview: If you had the opportunity to meet a pianist or composer, past or present, in the music industry, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Christophe DelValle: I am dreaming of meeting two great pianists, Keith Jarrett and Michel Petrucciani. Unfortunately, Michel has now passed away but Keith Jarrett is, for me, the best jazz pianist in the world. I love his sensibility, his expressivity and his touch on the piano. When I listen to him, I feel real emotion. He plays just the right notes, I mean he doesn’t play too many phrases and in fact his playing is totally in the spirit of Miles Davis. "Why play so many notes? Just play the good notes." For Michel Petrucciani, it's another feeling. I love the Blues and his way of playing it is really enjoyable. He had this special groove that makes me travel into his universe. I wouldn’t need to ask them anything because when they play I understand what they say. The music is a language of the heart. It is often useless to explain its feeling with words, except in an interview of course.
JazzReview: What is your next project?
Christophe DelValle: I have just finished editing this album so that’s a little early to say but I plan to record a solo piano album and I hopefully another with Eric Marienthal and Patrick Manet.
JazzReview: Thank you very much for the interview Christophe.
‘Shared Moments’ is a CD you do not want to miss. It is recommenced for jazz lovers everywhere.