30.04, Beursplein/place de la Bourse, 2 pm
INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY : Jazz Station Big Band (conducted by Stéphane Mercier) vs. Swingalicious Big Band
Who is… Stéphane Mercier?
After his studies at Jazzstudio in Antwerp and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, Stéphane Mercier (°1970) moves to Boston without skipping a beat, where he enrols in the Berklee College of Music.
In New York, he finds his way around and stays in the capital of jazz for seven years. He crosses paths with various musicians who will earn an international reputation later (Mark Turner, Seamus Blake, Matt Penman, Avishai Cohen…).
With Magali Souriau’s big band, he even records an album at the legendary jazz club Birdland (‘Birdland Sessions’).
In addition, he also has his own ‘Flor De Luna’ for the Fresh Sounds label, well-known for Kurt Rosenwinkel and Brad Mehldau.
After an intermediate stop in Paris, he returns to Belgium where he founds his own bands.
The invitation initiated by Michel Paré to join the Jazz Station Big Band will play an important role in his next career moves as a saxophonist and a flutist but most definitely as a composer.
On International Jazz Day, Mercier leads the Jazz Station Big Band in a genuine big band battle against the Swingalicious Big Band.
Meanwhile, he is also active in other genres. So, for instance, he features on the new CD by Bai Kamara Jr (‘The Mystical Survivors and Some Rare Earthlings’) for which he has also written the arrangements.
... your favourite spot in Brussels?
Undeniably, the Jazz Station. It is my second home. Not only because I go to concerts there but most of all because it a true meeting place with an absolutely fabulous team. You can easily do interviews, rehearse free of charge and I have also been recording some demos in the place. It is first and foremost the home base of the Jazz Station Big Band which I am now conducting since its founder Michel Paré has taken a step back. In New York, I played with different big bands in the company of Jeff Ballard, Aaron Goldberg and Chris Cheek to name just a few.
… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?
‘I Long to See You’ by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels. It is the best proof that at seventy-nine years of age, the saxophonist is consistently exploring new horizons and he is doing it in the company of an extremely motley group of instrumentalists including Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland, Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz. He even invited Willie Nelson and Norah Jones. It is all far from conventional if you ask me. Just like Wayne Shorter he keeps on reinventing himself. Or like Johnny Cash who at the end chose a much more pop tinted path. I have enormous respect for artists of that calibre.
… your fondest memory of a recent concert?
That was definitely trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s performance at Flagey last year. The musicality and the well-constructed compositions prevailed over technical prowess. Not a single note was superfluous. I hadn’t been so impressed since my stay in New York.
… your favourite quote of the moment?
I love quotes. I have recently jotted down a phrase by Quincy Jones, which, if I am not mistaken, I have heard from Charlie Haden some twenty years ago: « You can never be a better musician than you are a person » If you want to grow as a musician, first, you have to do it as a human being. The music will then follow. I know I am repeating myself but this is exactly the reason why I have such great respect for musicians like Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and others of their generation. They keep on looking and evolving as human beings.