Tous les articles par Jacques Schwarz-Bart

Becoming associate professor @ Berklee

I recently came across a short discussion with my friend Christophe Jenny, from le Bananier bleu, about my new position as associate professor at the Berklee College of Music. Here is how it went.

Teaching at Berklee

Christophe: Hi Jacques! So you have finally been taken on to teach at Berklee. Of course it is very particular to you, first because you’ve been studying yourself at Berklee, and second because it is a prestigious institution. How do you feel about that?

Jacques: A couple of years ago, I was approached to do a master class at Berklee College of Music. It was a great joy, because I wanted to reconnect to my alma matter for a while, out of share gratitude: Berklee turned me into a professional musician and really prepared me for the long and fulfilling career I’ve enjoyed.

Unbeknownst to me, several key faculty members had been following my work all along, and even had classes studying some of my compositions. I finally came to Berklee last February. And a few months afterwards, I was informed by the co-chair of the ensemble department that two full time positions were open. After sending my application, I thought it would be quick process. When I saw months go by, I was convinced that someone else had gotten the nod. I was surprised to be invited for a day of interviews and tests in August. They informed me that I was among five candidates left after the screening of two hundred applications… Then I learned that I was hired shortly before the beginning of the fall semester, flew back to NY from Paris, and took the first train the next day to Boston to sign my contract…

Christophe: What is exactly the content of your teaching? And how do you approach this teaching? Do you have a method? Is it all about the feeling, the playing, authoritative?

Jacques: I teach ensembles. I’m helping young musicians turn little dots on a sheet of paper, into music. I guide them through their learning for the music, with my words, my body language and also by playing with them and demonstrating different ways to play a melody and improvise. Finally we work on arranging the pieces and putting a personal stamp on it…

For this first semester, I mainly teach Jazz music, but I also direct the highly coveted Neo Soul ensemble, for which I just finished auditioning 12 students out of 70. Next semester, I will start teaching Caribbean jazz, which will be a historic first in the school.

Christophe: You have already started to teach. How is the contact with the students? And with the job?

Jacques: All is going for the best. My students are talented and studious! I even have a few rare gems that inspire me every time they play… Teaching comes to me naturally. It’s just the continuation of what I’ve been doing for two decades: lead group of musicians and impulse an artistic direction to an ensemble. I also get along really well with my colleagues, who have greeted me with open arms and shared their invaluable knowledge with me. My only difficulty was conciliating the concerts that were already booked and had me leaving from NY instead of Boston. But for the foreseeable future, I know what to do!

Christophe: How do you insert this new adventure in your musical life?

Jacques: Teaching is also learning. I have to live up to what I’m trying to teach… And also I’m inspired by my students, and their individual voices. In the meantime, my work as a creative artist endures. I just have to be careful to manage the booking of my concerts towards the end of the week on the days that I’m not teaching. I see new beautiful musical adventures on the horizon!

Red Sea Jazz festival interview

Red Sea Jazz interview for the Jerusalem PostFollowing my recent concerts at the Red Sea Jazz Festival, Barry Davis, from the Jerusalem Post, has been writing down a long interview we made prior to the festival.

Blowing every which way, at the Red Sea Jazz Festival

By BARRY DAVIS / The Jerusalem Post / 1.28.2016

Run your eye down the list of acts lined up for the forthcoming winter edition of the Red Sea Jazz Festival (February 11-13) and you may very well stop, if not balk, on one name in particular. Jacques Schwarz-Bart is pretty impressive moniker in itself, with seemingly manifold cultural derivations, but it is the description of his artistic enterprise that is the real attention grabber.

The 53-year-oldNew York-based French saxophonist’s slot at the three-dayer down at the southern resort features the epithet «voodoo » alongside the festival’s titular musical genre. Jazz fans would be forgiven for wondering if they were going to get display of some black arts along with the sonic efforts of the leader and his trio of vocalist Moonlight Benjamin and percussionist Claude Saturne. Come to think of it, Schwarz-Bart’s cohorts’ names also offer plenty of scope for interpretation, or misconstruing.

« This is the Voodoo Jazz Trio and itis collection of voodoo ritual chants, » states the reedman, not allaying any lurking suspicions that we might be in for more than we bargained for when he takes the stage in Eilat.

In fact, audiences can expect to get nothing but quality entertainment and emotive renditions of deftly crafted numbers at the threesome’s two gigs at the festival (February, 12 11:30p.m. and February, 13 5:45 pm).

“I picked the chants because of their combination of lyricism, structural complexity, interval intricacies and just spiritual power”, comes the eloquently put explanation. « We have performed these songs without any harmonic support. This is as naked and sober as it gets, with two voices and percussion. »

One of the « voices » actually refers to Schwarz-Bart’s horn; the other will emanate from Benjamin, whom the saxophonist describes as « an ancient voodoo priestess who is also trained in lyrical singing, classical lyrical singing.

« Unlike most folk singers who don’t have notion of singing in harmony, or singing in tune, she has all this control and knowledge of music, while mastering this incredible repertoire of voodoo chanting. That is often uplifting and source of light. »

By all accounts, we are probably also in for something of an eye opener.

« I realize that most people have never heard voodoo chants, » he notes. « Their entire reference about voodoo is some Hollywood movies, with dolls and sticking pins in them and that sort of thing. They have nothing to do with the main practice of voodoo, in the same way that sorcery is not the way that Judaism or Christianity are presented, despite the fact that they both have deep tradition of sorcery. The West has been trying to put spin on black culture for longtime. That’s nothing new. »

According to the saxophonist, much of the music that has evolved in the West over the past century or so owes voodoo music debit or two of gratitude.

« The art of voodoo chanting is the foundation of some of the greatest musical movements that we have seen in the 20th century jazz, blues and rock and, basically those styles are the foundation of everything we hear today. There’s no pop singer that doesn’t use blues. There is no folk singer, no Third World singer that doesn’t use the blues. Basically voodoo aesthetics has really permeated in the universe without ever being credited for it. »

Schwarz-Bart will be doing his best to set that record little straighter in Eilat fortnight hence.

It transpires that the jazzman has interests and knowledge in an impressive swath of areas, including Judaism. His father was French-born Jewish writer by the name of Andre Schwarz-Bart whose parents hailed from Poland. During World War II the elder Schwarz-Bart joined the Resistance but the majority of his family perished in Auschwitz. He later wrote novel called The Last of the Just that traces the story of Jewish family from the time of the Crusades to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The work brought the writer prestigious French literary award Prix Goncourt, which has been awarded annually since 1903 for « the best and most imaginative prose work of the year, «and in 1967 the novelist received the Jerusalem Prize from mayor Teddy Kollek.

Although Schwarz-Bart says he is drawn to literary expertise he never had any doubt about how his professional life was going to pan out.

« Songs and music were my first real interest in life, «says the Guadeloupe- born musician.

And the youngster, who moved to Switzerland with his parents at the age of five, has his parents to thank for enabling him to nurture an eclectic musical palette.

« I wore out their entire vinyl collection, » he recalls. « They had records with music by Prokofiev, Mozart, Charles Mingus, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and the gospel group called the Golden Gate Quartet. »

That was augmented by live performance of locally-fetgeendres.

« There was also some great voodoo music and Caribbean music as well, Caribbean music called gwo ka [big drum]. »

« The hand drum was my first instrument, » he recalls. « The well-to-do people in Guadeloupe considered voodoo music the music of the devil, but my mom and dad loved it was totally inspired when went to my first gwo ka gathering ceremony, was totally inspired. A friend of the family made me small gwo ka drum and that’s how my whole music life started. »

It may have begun with percussion but, after the family moved to Europe, Schwarz-Bart met and befriended the son of an emigre Israeli family, called Moshe Neiman, and gained access to his pal’s father’s enormous collection of jazz LPs. The youngster duly taped as many records as he could and took up the guitar.

“I got all my harmony understanding from guitar, which later turned out to be crucial when started playing saxophone. »

There were still more twists and turns to be negotiated along the long and winding road to where he is today. He maintained his guitar-playing endeavor into his teens, but eventually embarked on much more conventional career direction. He enrolled in law and government studies and was heading for safe job in the service of the French government before he decided that music was, after all, his life. The epiphany occurred, naturally enough, in Guadeloupe, when Schwarz-Bart was 24.

« I was on vacation there and friend of my mother’s had saxophone. I was fan of jazz saxophone players like John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins. I asked her if could try it. »

It was love at first blow.

The young man also made strides at an incredibly rapid pace.

« Funnily enough, within five or 10 minutes I could play melodies. Nobody in the room believed I had never played the saxophone before. As matter of fact, one of the guests there gave me gig the next day. »

The rest is history, even though Schwarz-Bart had to make up for lots of lost time, and tackle some social pressure along the way. He enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston at the relatively grand old age of 27 and took quite lot of flak from his much younger fellow students.

« Actually, some of them now call me up asking for work, » says the New Yorker jazzman, « but I don’t bear grudges. »

Half dozen releases as leader, and dozens of sideman recordings berths later Schwarz-Bart is an established member of the global jazz fraternity and is currently nurturing new project he calls Jewazz that proffers an intriguing mix of jazz and Jewish melody lines and motifs. It is safe to say that the saxophonist’s shows at Eilat should keep the members of the audience suitably riveted.

For more information about the Red Sea Jazz Festival: http://redseajazz.co.il

Première of my new Jewazz Project @ the Jazz Gallery, Fri. Jan. 15th

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Let’s celebrate 2016 together in style my people!

I’m delighted to announce the première of my new Jewazz Project, to be held at the Jazz Gallery on Fri. Jan. 15th, 2016. The Jewazz Project is a jazz interpretation of Jewish liturgical chants, many of which carried the spirit of a people through 5775 years of history. Those songs are therefore « charged » in more ways than one… Some of them have moved me to tears during my childhood. As a tribute to my father, I proceeded to select the ones which melodic contours would support a harmonic treatment, while opening spaces for improvisation. When I started working on this project, I observed that the world of jazz, while continually exploring Jewish folk music with the development of the  Klezmer genre, has left Jewish sacred music untouched. Yet I feel that this music carries a universal message far beyond its religious context. And I’m hoping to celebrate that message with all people of the world…

For this concert, I’ll be surrounded by Tony Tixier (pno), Desmond White (b) and Curtis Nowosad (dms). Two sets are programmed, at 7:30pm and at 9:30pm. You may buy tickets here: http://www.etix.com/ticket/v/3525/the-jazz-gallery?cobrand=jazzgallery

The Jazz Gallery: http://www.jazzgallery.org/
1160 Broadway, 5th Fl
New York, NY 10001

Oseh Shalom is a Prayer of peace. It is said to Cole from the story of two brothers who helped each other unbeknownst to either one… And when they finally found out, they weeped in joy, as they discovered the true meaning of brotherly love. The place where they met is believed to have been chosen to build the temple of King Solomon.

Stephanie McKay @ Joe’s Pub for the benefit of NYers Against Gun Violence

joespub_013I’d really like to invite you come hear the wonderful Stephanie McKay & the Call, this next Saturday Nov. 14th, 7pm, at Joe’s Pub NYC. She’ll be performing for the benefit of ‘NYers Against Gun Violence’ association (NYAGV), and I’ll be her guest. NYAGV is setting up ReACTION, an Education Fund’s school program for youth living in New York City communities plagued by gun violence.  ReACTION helps students resist guns and gun violence through hands-on activities and a year-long curriculum focusing on personal responsibility, group interactions and community engagement.

As you surely know, Stephanie McKay is a singer, songwriter, musician, and collaborator, hailing from the Bronx, New York City. Her career has spanned over 20 years, during which time she has collaborated with artists including Anthony Hamilton, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Talib Kweli, DJ Spinna, Toshi Reagon and Big lovely, Katalyst, Tricky, Carl Hancock-Rux, Kelis, myself and numerous others.

She was featured on the standout hit “Forget Regret” from Roy Hargrove’s Grammy-nominated RH Factor (alongside such luminaries as D’Angelo, Anthony Hamilton, Erykah Badu, Karl Denson, Pino Palladino, and Common) and completed a world tour with keyboardist Amp Fiddler, as well as Drugs, which also included members from the legendary Parliament Funkadelic.

Her debut solo album McKay (2003, Go! Beat/Polydor/Universal) produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Tim Saul, was released in Europe and garnered major critical acclaim. In the UK, The Independent called the album “…the best soul debut since Macy Gray” and Black Beat referred to McKay as “…the savior we need to drag rhythm back to its roots.” Two singles, “Tell Him” and “Take Me Over” and two videos were released from the album and received heavy rotation on the radio and MTV Europe.

Her follow up album Tell It Like It Is (2008, Pias/Muthas of Invention) was released worldwide and McKay went on to perform at such premiere European festivals as Glastonbury (UK), North Sea Jazz Festival (Netherlands), and Solidays (France) as well as two national tours in Australia (with Amp Fiddler and Katalyst) and an unprecedented seven-night stand in Greece.

Equally at home on the stage or in the studio, Stephanie performs regularly in the Northeastern United States and Europe, and is a frequent guest vocalist with collaborators including her husband Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Boca 45, and others.

After a multi-year hiatus, Stephanie returns with a much-anticipated new collaboration and expected 2015 album release in the works.

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Stephanie McKay @ Iridium

Stephanie McKay @ IridiumI’m proud to invite you to a great evening of jazz and soul music
with my beloved and magnificent

Stephanie McKay

She will be leading an all stars band
featuring Aaron Goldberg (pno), Ben WIlliams (b),
Jonathan Barber (dms) and myself on saxophone.I’m looking forward to seeing you at

Iridium Jazz Club

Broadway and 51th street
New York, NY 10019Next Thursday September 24, at 8pm & 10pm

First images for Creole Spirits coming documentary

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The Creole Spirits project is now on its way. The residence held in Guadeloupe in April has naturally confirmed the fusion between the musical traditions of Cuba and Haiti that Omar Sosa and I are currently referencing. This first concert at the Centre Culturel de Sonis has been welcome with overwhelming enthusiasm and has taken the audience on a journey within the mystical depths of Voodoo and Santeria. This residence also gave Franck Cassenti the opportunity to catch the first images of his coming documentary about the project, “Retour aux sources” (Back to the roots).