Monday, August 26, 2019

Fred Nardin -An Opening to Look Ahead

© Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Look Ahead, along with its fitting entitled predecessor Opening arrived at the editorial offices of JazzProfiles recently courtesy of Fred Nardin, the pianist whose trio is featured on these recordings.

Frankly, both recordings haven’t been out of any of the CD changers in office, home or car since their arrival and probably won’t be in the foreseeable future because the music on them is enthralling, energetic, and exciting.

Fred, along with bassist Or Bareket and drummer Leo Parker has pushed the sound and the feeling of the piano-bass-drums trio in new directions, which is a considerable achievement given how often this format has been employed throughout the history of Jazz.

The music are these recordings is dense and as such not for the casual listener. There’s so much going on all the time that if you let your attention lapse while listening to it, you will literally be lost and unable to find your way back into it.

Like so many other aspects of the cultural and communicative arts these days they are brought into new eras and new dimensions by artists and craftsmen, the level of technical mastery on display in Look Ahead and Opening is astounding - rhythmically, melodically and harmonically.

Sometimes, you just shake your head in disbelief at the virtuosity, the scale of the musicianship and creativity which Fred, Or and Leon are able to muster and sustained. 

What was also apparent to me as I listened to the Nardin trio is that these guys really don’t sound like anybody else, although I must admit that on some of his original compositions - not surprisingly - Paris Memories - a hint or two of the approach of the late, great Jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani does come to mind. One can also detect here and there a small smattering of Herbie Hancock inflected phrasing from the Inventions and Dimensions period at Blue Note.

Of course, you can hear the Jazz tradition throughout the work of the trio, for example, the collective improvisation model favored by the Bill Evans trio, in the bluesy cadence that underscores the melody to Just Easy, which the group really locks in with Leon using a stick over the snare to “knock” the beat forward.

Young Jazz players use a lot of notes in their solos.

This tendency seems to be a part of the joys of first expression; the thrill of discovering that you can play an instrument and play it well.

Kind of like: “Look what I’ve found? Look what I can do? Isn’t this neat?”

Another reason why these young, Jazz musicians play so many notes is because they can.

They are young, indiscriminately so, and they want to play everything that rushes through their minds, getting it from their head into their hands almost instantly. 

Their Jazz experience is all new and so wonderful; why be discerning when you can have it all?

If such abilities to “get around the instrument” were found in a young classical musician romping his or her way through one of Paganini’s Caprices, they would be celebrated as a phenomena and hailed as a prodigy.

Playing Paganini’s Caprices, Etudes et al. does take remarkable technical skills, but in fairness, let’s remember that Paganini already wrote these pieces and the classical musician is executing them from memory.

In the case of the Jazz musician, playing complicated and complex improvisations requires that these be made up on the spot with an unstated preference being that anything that has been played before in the solo cannot be repeated.

But often times when a Jazz musician exhibits the facility to create multi-noted, rapidly played improvised solos, this is voted down and labeled as showboating or derided as technical grandstanding at the expense of playing with sincerity of feeling. 

Such feats of technical artistry are greeted with precepts such as “It’s not what you play, but what you leave out” as though the young, Jazz performer not only has to resolve the momentary miracle of Jazz invention, but has to do so while solving a Zen koan at the same time [What is the sound of the un-played note or some such nonsense].

Pianist Fred Nardin plays lots of notes on Opening and Look Ahead
At only 31 years of age, it’s hard to believe that he has this much talent.

But the technical facility of Fred and his colleagues Or Bareket on bass and Leon Parker on drums is applied in the service of the music, to make it interesting, challenging and a statement of artistic expressions.

These two recordings represent a tour de force by Fred and his colleagues and they expand the vocabulary of the piano-bass-drums trio exponentially into new territory in terms of both composition and improvisation. 

Power and speed, touch and delicacy, unique phrasing, unusual twists and turns, Fred’s music is full of what Whitney Balliett said was the essential nature of Jazz - it’s “sound of surprise.”

It also full of powerful, pulsating swing.  The virtuosic control that Fred, or and leon have over their respective instruments allow them to really lock in and drive the rhythm. The music just flows, effortlessly and results in cascades of exciting music chorus after chorus. 

If you are a fan of the quintessential piano-bass-drums trio format and are looking for something new and different then Fred Nardin, Or Bakeret and leon Parker on Opening and Look Ahead will put a smile on your face.

Here’s the press release developed by Simon Veyssiere at Accent-Press and distributed in the USA by Michael Bloom Media Relations which contains a wealth of opinion and information on Fred and his latest CD - Look Ahead.

Two years after the revelation that was Fred’s first CD Opening, which was awarded the Django Reinhardt Prize from the Académie du Jazz, Fred Nardin is back with the bass player Or Bareket and the drummer Leon Parker for the Fred Nardin Trio’s second album, Look Ahead.

« You can be both  - as intellectual and as soulful as you want -  and the swing beat is powerful but subtle. I think you have to devote yourself to it exclusively to do it at that level, '' Mulgrew Miller, DownBeat Magazine. 
A pianist bred on experience(s) and tradition, Fred Nardin has only one aim in life: to play as well as he can, just as long as it swings. Reasonable but determined, passionate and enthralling when it is a question of tackling the great masters - Kenny Barron, McCoy Tyner or Mulgrew Miller –every day Fred Nardin gets a little closer to his objective, and Look Ahead is the resounding proof. 

Co-founder of The Amazing Keystone Big-Band, chosen sideman for Cecile McLorin Salvant, Bria Skonberg, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Natalia M.King, Stefano Di Battista, Jesse Davis and Gaël Horellou, regular feature « After-Hours » at the Duc Des Lombards in Paris : Fred Nardin is everywhere where jazz is happening but it is with the trio of the album « Opening » that he was really discovered in 2017. On the Bass: Or Bareket, a promising youngster from New York, brought up between Buenos-Aires and Tel-Aviv. And on the drums, a reference: the immense American Leon Parker. 

« Melody in the middle of the trio » Télérama 

« Fred Nardin sets a very high benchmark, an explosive cocktail » Libération 

« Swing, depth, a lot of humility and already gutsy coming from a little giant.” Jazz News 

« I had this idea in mind for a long time” says Fred Nardin. I knew that to play with Leon would necessitate maturity and having something to say in order to get to something worthwhile. At 30 years old I said to myself: OK, let’s go for it, it’s time » Having met in the cellar of the Sunset/Sunside in Paris in 2008, Fred Nardin came across Leon Parker again in New-York in 2016. « he introduced me to Or in his Harlem apartment and it was there, as soon as we had played the first notes that I knew that we would see it through to the end! ”The cornerstones of this instant trio: time, desire, pleasure, a certain taste for tradition. “ We like it when it swings. When it really swings well, and it’s no laughing matter! » If the affinity with Or Bareket is exemplary, it is really the quasi-filial relationship between Leon Parker and Fred Nardin which makes all the difference. « Leon has played with Mulgrew Miller and Kenny Barron and I have listened to a good deal of his recordings with Jacky Terrasson. Transmission takes place in this way. Having him in the trio is fantastic but you have to be present, and ready to respond, otherwise you will be unstabilized. Leon is very demanding, very charismatic, he has taught me an enormous amount. We spent entire weeks working just on the mental, being in the music at every moment: connected. In the beginning: he debriefed me after each rehearsal or concert, it was not simple but it was very constructive. At such a level, it’s no longer a game. There is no bullshit”. 

In order for a group to work and for the music to be of a high level it must be played. After the tour « Opening » in 2017-2018, Fred Nardin, Leon Parker and Or Bareket immediately got down to work at the Meudon Studio with Erwan Boulay at the console. The same place, the same team, but in a mode: further, higher, stronger. « We are a family ». What touches me is the idea of developing a sound of which we can say: this is this trio. that What was successful on “Opening”, I am keeping it. The rest, I am trying to improve it. In between the two there were concerts: it’s tighter, there are more risks taken, it’s more playful! In two days, the trio recorded eleven pieces of which one solo per musician, in a live and spontaneous atmosphere. “« They got themselves into concert mode, they were motivated and they went straight through everything » says Erwan Boulay. 

Which is where the impression of freshness, urgency and emulation comes from, in« Look Ahead », which really is a response to the ambition at the beginning: more precise, more playful, even more elegant. Then there is this writing by Fred Nardin in the great tradition of the standards (« Just Easy », « Memory Of T. »), this phenomenal interplay which cuts through « One Finger Snap » by Herbie Hancock taken at an incredibly mad tempo, the intelligence of a pianist, lyricism of the double bass and the exceptional joyride of a drummer, all recorded by a sound engineer who also was looking to be as close to the emotion as possible, “as if there was a microphone on the tip of his sticks”. 

If « Opening » was a revelation, « Look Ahead »capped it brilliantly as episode two. Since then, Fred Nardin, Or Bareket et Leon Parker have already got together in New York to prepare for the future development of their unusual adventure in today’s Jazz world.: Dig again and again the same groove, until they find the musical truth: as a certain Mulgrew Miller had a habit of saying, long before them. 

BIOGRAPHY: Jazz is an astounding language. It enabled a kid born in 1987 in a small town in Burgundy to meet a giant born in the country of Blues, in Greenwood, Mississippi, sixty years ago. The kid is Fred Nardin. And the giant Mulgrew Miller, the most underestimated of jazz pianists, a guy who played with Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Tony Williams pulled on the same thread aset tiré sur le même fil qu'Oscar Peterson. « He was tall, with huge hands ! A giant on the stage and in life ». That’s how you make a connection between Bradley’s in New York and Chamilly, 20 kilometres from Chalon-sur-Saone (France). Brought up in the 1990’s, Fred Nardin, is a little bit generation Y going backwards, the millennial who went in the opposite direction: « My dad had a dance band which toured the region and my mum took me to see it on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. I loved it ! And then one day, I asked my parents if I could have a go at the piano ». When he discovered jazz, Fred Nardin made it into an obsession « it was the only thing I listened to and read ». From morning until evening, playing the piano, sifting through phrases and instrumentalist’s solos ». In between his first classical and boogie piano lessons and then his entry into the conservatoire, the boy took things in the right way: Armstrong, Ellington et Basie before Roy Hargrove and Michel Petrucciani. “I was lucky to learn as part of the flow of history, the way in which you should play this music ». A well-marked path which led him as far as McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Barron (« the  synthesis of everything I liked so much »), Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Red Garland and Cedar Walton... without forgetting Mulgrew. 

After having practiced his scales at the Conservatoire in Chalon, Fred Nardin entered the CNSM of Paris in 2007, the year of his nineteenth birthday. It was the saxophonist Sylvain Beuf who helped him get started. He graduated with a diploma in 2011. In the meantime, Nardin toured the clubs of his region: l'Arrosoir in Chalon, le Crescent in Mâcon, le Hot-Club and la Clef-de-Voûte in Lyon where the future members of the Amazing Keystone Big Band were building up courage: Jon Boutellier (saxophone), Bastien Ballaz (trombone), David Enhco (trumpet) and all the others. « In the beginning, we formed a little jam combo to liven-up the restaurants during the Vienne Jazz Festival. It was a bit of a joke to start off with, but it caught on, and it became the core of a big- band! We said to ourselves that we could usefully make use of all the arrangements that we were working on with François Théberge at the CNSM of Paris, and we started playing them at the Clef-de-Voûte on Monday evenings, with other scores specially written for the occasion, a bit like the house orchestra of the Village Vanguard in New York does”. Today the AKBB gives more than 40 concerts per year, from « Peter and the Wolf... and the Jazz » to «We love Ella».” « It’s instructive. A huge weight to learn how to composer, to arrange, work on the form of pieces and lead projects ».

In Vienne, it was the programmer Jean-Pierre Vignola who put their band on the track of Cecile McLorin Salvant, a young Franco-American singer who was to carry off the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition in the United States. « We went to see her at the Duc Des Lombards with Jon Boutellier and we were gobsmacked. It was impressive. With Patrick Maradan (double bass) and Romain Sarron (drums), we accompanied her on her concerts then the promo for her recording « Woman Child ». For her, I arranged «Le Front Caché sur tes Genoux» which features on the album ». 

So, this is how at the beginning of the 2000 and teens, Fred Nardin began to achieve his goal. In 2013, he and Jon Boutellier go public with « Watts » their first recording as a quartet. Jon, overtook him : « We have the same references. When we were younger, we went down into the cellar where his dad’s collection of 16.000 recordings was stored (Jean-Paul Boutellier, the founder of the Vienne Jazz Festival)! We spent whole evenings listening to them and then put them on a computer, because iTunes and YouTube didn’t yet exist. Jon has an incredible jazz culture for a thirty-year-old guy. In the blindfold-test he is just about unbeatable. '' Boutellier, Nardin ? Same combat ! : a no-bullshit, approach to jazz and the desire to be as sincere as possible. 

And so we are back at the starting point, the day when Fred Nardin, the young pianist from Burgundy, was able to approach his American heroes for real, starting with Mulgrew Miller « It was at the Beaupré Piano Festival where I was playing with Cecile’s quartet in the first part of his trio. 
He had listened to the whole of the balance and the whole of the concert, a really adorable man. Mulgrew, McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton, Benny Golson ? All those guys, I saw them, I spoke to them when there were concerts or masterclasses. I remember a piano four – hands with Kenny 

Baron, an extraordinary chance! That really leaves a mark when you are a young musician ». Based in Paris for twelve years, Fred Nardin and follows the example of his elders and has got into the habit of « doing the job », just like he has always wanted to, as an enthusiast : « I go out, I go clubbing, I do jam sessions, I meet people”.And going through the non-exhaustive list of artists he has accompanied these last few years (Didier Lockwood, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Jesse Davis, Stefano Di Battista, Scott Hamilton, Evan Christopher, Joël Frahm, Nancy Harms, Joe Sanders, Jacques Schwarz- Bart, etc...), You can identify certain consistencies, certain spiritual and aesthetic affinities, draw up a profile which would be definitively anchored in the jazz tradition. Not by chance, consequently, that Dred Nardin should come face to face with the immense drummer Leon Parker, ten years ago, in the cellar of the Rue des Lombards. Leon Parker, henceforth member of his regular trio... Yet another direct link with Mulgrew! 

Before disappearing in 2013, the pianist with the hands of a giant had let go in the columns of the magazine DownBeat : « Today, a lot of musicians learn the rudiments of classical jazz, think that they have done it, become blasé, and decide to go on to something else : reggae, hip-hop, blues, a little soul here, classical music there... But, rather than do a lot of things quite well, I have the intuition that you have to dig more and more until you attain real knowledge : the true essence of music ». And it is precisely that, that Fred Nardin has attempted to accomplish since, in remembrance of a handshake.” 

Fred Nardin in ten dates : 
1987 : Birth in Saint-Rémy (Burgundy). 
2007 : Enters the CNSM of Paris. 
2008 : Meets the drummer Leon Parker. 
2010 : The debut of The Amazing Keystone Big Band. 
2011 : Accompanies Cecile McLorin Salvant. 
2013 : Recording of « Watt’s », Quartet with Jon Boutellier (feat. Cecile McLorin Salvant) 
2016 : Debut of the trio with Leon Parker and Or Bareket in New-York. 
2017 : The trio’s first album: « Opening ». Wins the Django Reinhardt Prize of the Académie du Jazz (French musician of the year). 
2018 : Victoire du Jazz « Group of the Year » with The Amazing Keystone Big-Band. Present on the Boxed-set « At Barloyd’s » with 9 pianists from the Parisian jazz scene including Alain Jean-Marie, Franck Amsalem, Laurent Courthaliac... 
2019 : Second album album: « Look Ahead ». 
Translation : Christopher Bayton 

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