Interview with Cécile Andrée: I am really deeply concerned about the environment: Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Cécile Andrée. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Cécile Andrée: – I grew up in the East of France, a village not far from «Metz». A rural surrounding. From as long as I can remember, I’ve always sang. I started dancing early, 3 years old, with my mom : she was teaching Eastern Europe folkloric dances (Hungary, Romania, …) . I think that gave me a strong taste for rhythm. Then at 7, a choir came to my village : they were singing and dancing, it was magical to me, those polyphonies. I fell in love this very day with polyphony, and I was sooooo eager to sing in that choir (they had a children, a teenagers and an adults section). I had to wait 3 years to audition and enter this choir. From 9 I learned piano in a music school, but couldn’t go to the conservatory, it was too far for my parents to handle. I started learning the guitar as well when I was 14.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

CA: – I grew up listening to The Beatles and French music. Jazz came into my life quite late. But discovering this aesthetic was a revolution to me : this liberty in a frame, to do or sing whatever you want! So then, as an adult, I took jazz lessons in a conservatory near Paris, and lots of masterclasses. Three persons (among them two Americans!) were really important to me for the vocal part: Michèle Hendricks, Norma Winstone and Roger Letson.

When I started to sing professionally, I had not discovered jazz yet. So, vocal jazz came naturally afterwards: I wanted to have and feel this liberty on stage in my projects. However, my project is a combination of all my influences. So it is jazz with «pop» feels, especially through the use of looper or harmonizer for the voice … I need the polyphony to be there, always.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

CA: – That is a hard question to answer : we are a sum of influences, and especially with singing, maybe always copying unconsciously someone else we admire. That was the case when I was a teenager : singing really loud in my bedroom trying to use this belting technique that is not mine and will never be !

So now, I’m experiencing different sounds. I’m still listening to lots of music, but I think I found my voice, seriously, I’m on my personal singing way and really happy about that. I love long notes without vibrato. Short and precise notes as brass. What drives my sound is trying to get a feel in each of it. Being honest and coherent. I love thinking the voice as an instrument (that is why it was a choice not to use too many words in my project). I think I allow myself to sing as I wish on the moment…

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

CA: – Taking care of the voice is really, really, important : when you are tired, you can hear it! So I have small routines now : exercises with straws (made of metal or bamboo;) ) , stretching the tongue… Tongue is the key for rhythm :).

I try practicing some yoga every day: singing is with the body! And then obviously, singing every day …

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

CA: – Thank you for the comments in the question, you’ve listened carefully!

I grew up with consonant harmonies. With jazz I discovered the beauty and chills of dissonance… So on purpose, there are especially augmented fourth.

I think the next project will experience the second (minor and major) that I just adore right now. It give me thrills.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

CA: – As musicians we each have a special color. When Brad Mehldau is playing Radiohead, it is Brad Mehldau. So I think the most important is to choose the color of the musicians playing with me. When I saw Ben Rando playing his project « true story » I knew he was the pianist I needed: open minded, soft and surprising. Sensitive. Just like Cédrick Bec & Olivier Lalauze.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

CA: – I love your questions. I really try not to intellectualize when writing … So I’d say 10 for intellect 90 for the soul!

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

CA: – When people come to see me today, they are discovering my music … I haven’t reached the point when the public is asking me my old stuff 😉 ! I am far from traditional jazz, however I do sing some standards. A flower is a lovesome thing’ for instance or ‘Peace’. I need the whole thing to go into the same direction.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

CA: – A studio session session with contrabassist Michel Zenino making me improvize on Aspire from Kenny Wheeler – the piece on which I wrote «Canopy» – The harmony is really tough, I was discovering the piece. I wouldn’t love hearing the result:) despite Michel’s « you see , when you want » in the end!!

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

CA: – Well … I chose to cover Radiohead and Sting so maybe I am not the best person answering this question ! But using the old with a new approach might be the key… (And be always open minded ! That is the essence of jazz to me!).

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

CA: – When playing music, singing, you can be no where else than in the present. And present is life. Past and future are merely «concepts».

I am wondering every day what the meaning of life is. So I might not be able to answer, but I am searching. My answer so far would be ‘peace’’s lyrics: «when you find peace of mind, leave your worries behind, don’t say that it can’t be done … With a new point of view, life’s true meaning comes to you … And the freedom you seek is won. Peace is for every one.» Finding inner peace, be able to spread it…

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

CA: – More diversity on the medias, so people get really more curious and opened ears, and love discovering people live. Not sure about the US, but in France, the big medias don’t play much music, and when they do, it is always the same type of music…

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days? Tons of projects, there are so many talents in this world!

CA: – Some names of the current listenings : Théo Bleckmann, Shai Maestro, Emile Parisien, Aksham, Kurt Elling, Lou Tavano, Cécile Mc Lorin Salvant, … and always Bach.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

CA: – That is tough … I use the lexical field, it is because I am really deeply concerned about the environment, the climate change, the biodiversity. Like a ‘call’. I am doing «forest jazz» on purpose:).

More spiritually speaking, maybe my personal quest and therefore message is ‘inner peace’.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

CA: – Obviously I have objectives: develop my skills on stage, my vocal skills, create and develop lots of projects with incredible musicians … But I fight every day to be in the present time …

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

CA: – Which piece did you prefer and why :).

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. Middle biggest!!!

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

CA: – Thank you for making me think deeply on music and creation. That makes me believe people are concerned about these questions, that makes me happy and wanna go way further.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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