“I am not cut out for a humdrum life. My goal is to keep on looking and discovering on my own terms.”
13/02 MikMâäk @ Marni Jazz
10/03 Mâäk Quintet + Bakanaï @ Théâtre Poème
30/05 Mâäk Quintet & MetX invite friends @ Brussels Jazz Weekend
31/05 Mâäk Quintet @ Brussels Jazz Weekend - Les Lundis d’Hortense
21/06 Mâäk Quintet + Bakanaï @ Fête de la Musique dans les Marolles
Who is… Laurent Blondiau?
It is sometimes hard to imagine where he finds the time and energy but with trumpeter Laurent Blondiau, new ideas and projects seem to be popping up continually. What mainly commands respect is that he sets the bar high at all times and also lives up to the expectations. Here are a few of his latest accomplishments.
Acting as a hub for all his musical adventures, the quintet Mâäk (formerly known as Mâäk’s Spirit) released its ninth CD last year. A recurrent theme across its repertoire is the delicate balance between improvisation and musical score, consistently tuned with African (trance) rhythms.
Since January 2014, there is also MikMâäk, a work in progress of sorts... For the occasion, Mâäk has seen its ranks joined by no fewer than sixteen world-class musicians. Last summer, the ensemble performed on stage at the Gaume and Middelheim jazz festivals. Before recording its debut album on 16 and 17 June at De Werf (Bruges), the group has a series of concerts planned at Marni.
Since last month, a brand-new initiative has seen the light of day. The existing Electro Project (including João Lobo and Giovanni Di Domenico) is backed up by five African dancers from Burkina Faso. The first successful try-out has been completed just recently. Burkina Faso is also the country where alongside saxophonist Toine Thys, Blondiau set up ‘Les Ventistes du Faso’. The project includes training sessions for wind instrumentalists (trumpet, flute, saxophone, trombone, tuba) during which they also learn how to maintain and repair their instruments.
In addition, Gaume Jazz 2013 witnessed the première of a duo with bassist Yannick Peeters. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive, so much so that next month, the duo will already take part in the whole-length JazzLab tour, with a stopover in the Brussels outskirts.
But that’s not all: Blondiau is regularly active in France where is part of the Andy Elmer Octet and of Stéphane Payen’s new quartet. And at the end of the month, he will appear on the stage of the Opus Jazz Club in Budapest along with the Gadó Gabor International Quintet.
In view of the above, one thing we can be sure of is that Blondiau’s musical activities do not know any border or boundary. But then again, he is also one of the most fascinating and surprising figures on the current jazz scene.
... your favourite spot in Brussels?
I would like to mention two spots which in fact complement each other. Since I juggle multiple projects at once and I am often out on the road, I need to take a breath of fresh and clear my mind every now and then. For me, the best place to do just that is the Forêt de Soignes. I prefer to leave the walking trails, cut through the forest and walk among the trees. In contrast, I like to meet up with friends for a nice chat and a fresh pint of beer. My favourite spot is Brasserie Verschueren in Saint-Gilles. To top it all, the place attracts a playful mix of easy-going clients, who are always in for a chat. As a result, conversations range over a number of very diverse topics.
… your fondest memory of a recent concert in Brussels?
I have seen many good live performances but they do not really blow me away, you know, leave me dumbfounded. That being said, just a couple of weeks ago during a concert at Bozar, I have been bowled over by the performance of Argentine piano player Martha Argerich who was playing (amongst others) with Russian trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov. The concert included a concerto for piano, trumpet and strings by Shostakovich. Argerich’s manner of leading the orchestra from behind her instrument is simply mind-bloggling. Also the way in which she sometimes holds notes and hence dictates the rhythm, left a lasting impression on me. She has been living in Brussels for some ten years now but only plays on very few occasions.
I would also like to mention Jean-Paul Estiévenart’s concert with his trio end of November last year at Théâtre Marni. The way he lets his music wander, tell stories and take unexpected twists, this is in my view what adventurous jazz should sound like.
… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?
During one of my recent travels to Burkina Faso, I purchased the work of Tata Diakité, a Malian female singer. Her keen sense of rhythm and her astonishing voice are particularly highlighted by the authentic sound on the CD. The songs almost sound like field recordings, a fact which accentuates the connection to her roots even further.
Another recent purchase has been the ‘Cello Concerto No. 1’ alongside the ‘Violin Concerto No. 3’ by Saint-Saëns, the kind of music which takes you into another world straightaway.
… your favourite quote of the moment?
I live at the back of house. The front part was once a shop with a large window. On the window, there is a sticker with a quote by German composer, musicologist and philosopher Theodor Adorno: “Among the dangers faced by new art, the worst is the absence of danger”. This may be interpreted in various ways. A first-degree interpretation would be for instance to state that there is nothing worse than a dull, monotonous life. You can take the thought one step further to the point where, in life, you can choose to abandon all friendly confines and set out on paths less travelled and keep on exploring, or not. The latter is essential to me. Without the drive and motivation, I would be totally frustrated. Mind you, it should happen the way I want it and on my own terms. I am well aware that I have to take some restrictions into account but then again, these constraints result from choices that I made deliberately.