lunedì 20 ottobre 2014

Interview with Noël Akchoté by Andrea Aguzzi at Blog Chitarra e Dintorni

1 - The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?

NA : I guess it all started like most of us, which in fact means that I have absolutely no idea why and how. How I have some memories, like my mother is from Belgrade (ex YU) and as a kid I was going for holidays to my grandparents there over a month or so, and their neighbor had two sons who have had a hit in the 70's, they had left the house since long, but left two very 60's solid electric guitars that fascinated me totally, this was better than anything else (super heroes included). And this woman kindly let me to go sometime and play those guitars I was in heaven and could stay there for hours just playing one string at a time extremely gently, almost like some sort of ritual, or something sacramental, I would never dare bang those strings hard, it would have been a profanation. Later on where I lived in Paris was a local record store with all in it, LP's and Singles, all sorts of instruments, and an electric guitar in front often. It happened that in the kindergarden and later on small classes, I got friend with the grand-son of the couple who ran that store and so after class we would en up in the store waiting for parents and that's where things got serious for me. I took my first guitar lessons in that store, with the grandfather who did teach rudimentary lessons of about any possible instruments. I got from my parents an classical guitar, a n Aria Pro II, that I totally worn out until quite late, until I got a more serious and electric guitar. I was 8 when I started, with the Carulli Method, and all those exercises to stretch your small fingers still back then, I remember crying because of the pain it did in my left hand too. After a year or so I moved to the local classical conservatory where I had a funny teacher, an amazing flamenco and classical guitar player but who went through the Algerian war and ever really came back. He had a sort of inner violence to himself, and would often be pissed off by beginning pupils, and stopped you to start to play incredible flamenco, but that was it. Next to hit I had classical music theory and solfège lessons with an old blind single woman who used those sad harmoniums to make you sing scales and then dictées musicales and so on theory, harmony, etc. then my godfather was a close friend to Jimmy Gourley and Kenny Clarke and I was so insisting to get more lessons and jazz lessons that we asked Jimmy who didn't want to teach me but sent me to a very good teacher Jean-Claude André (he made few methods and some albums too, with Hal Singer and else swing on Futura-Marge Label), and took me under arm and thought me a lot. I had to learn a Big Bill Broonzy Blues, some Charlie Christian lines, a bit of Freddie Green comping, and he gave me two cassettes that I still have and that changed my life one had René Thomas (Chet is Back) on A side, and Jimmy Raney (In Paris) on B side. The Other had Pat Martino (Live!) on A side and John McLaughlin with Miles on B side (not Jack Johnson but those times). I torn out those two K7 playing them from one side to the other constantly. Also in Belgrade, for some post-communistic reasons, the national record company (Yugoton) had just incredible licenses and those records costed nothing (for me as french), with my pocket money I got BB King, John Scofield with Dave Liebman, Sonny Terry, Lou Donaldson, Monty Alexander, John Lee Hooker but also Scorpion, Blue Oyster Cult, etc plenty of new music to discover for me. And this goes on and on, I could tell hours of anecdotes (like when my parents took me to hear first time Baden Powell solo in the Brazilian in Paris club Le Discophage, I was standing less than two meters from Baden and it knocked me out totally after I wanted to play Bossa Nova too, or when Castro del Marin Paco de Lucia album came out and I had seen him on TV, same I had to play flamenco, and we had an incredible Rock TV program on sundays for some reasons at that time where i've seen Suicide Live (Vega/Rev) and Lou Reed live in NYC with Robert Quine which is clearly the first free player I ever heard and loved immediately, etc), but by 13 years old I was so hungry for music (reading all possible magazines, line per line, watching all gear adverts, equipment reviews, live reports, reading all transcriptions etc, taking all possible sources I had, that I came across a summer masterclass of all styles jazz guitar and this was : Philip Catherine and other jazz musicians I didn't know yet including my soon to become main private jazz guitar teacher Philippe Petit (the next sessions of those masterclasses I also attended had Tal Farlow, Mickey Baker, Roland Dyens, Michel Haumont, Joël Favreau, George Brassens lead guitarist...). I'll stop here cause I could continue for about as long as a whole book.... and be far from finished (lol). Yes I learned the hard way and was very hungry to learn as much as I could so I soon learned a bit of piano for harmony and voicings, I always practiced drums seriously and studied all main jazz drummers (their ride, bass tom, snare, hi-hat etc Paul Motian, Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Jo Jones, Billy Higgins, Shelly Manne, Big Sid Catlett, Mickey Roker, Max Roach, you name it …). Then while practicing guitar I went through a few major crisis feeling i'll never be able to make it tried to switch instrument, so I tried Saxophone, Trumpet (to come closer to Chet and Miles, feel how they did that sound), Violin, etc... everything but not vocals. Bass and Drums have been a longtime question in fact. I always played bass and upright but I did not have any double bass so I made myself a piece of wood with a bass string on it that use to accompany records with a lot. Ray Brown and Major Holley were always Semi-Gods to me, then Charlie Haden and Eddie Gomez, then Steve Swallow and Jaco Pastorius. And many many more. When I started to gig with 14 years old in bars and cafés etc restaurants or hotels, there were often better guitarists (older too) than me so I had to sit on bass. I used a Japanese Vantage electric Bass (later on made fretless by Jacobacci brothers) that I was playing upright, and I got a one meter high or so Yamaha Bass Amp that I was putting the bass on and played all that way, standards mostly but of hits that people wanted and you had to play, eventually some wanted to sing or the boss often and you had to comp for them. I feel way better since with the guitar so that I only kept of those experiments Bass and Drums (not enough unfortunately).

2 - What was your musical training, with which teachers have you studied and what impression they left in your music?...

NA : I guess I answered first half above already. My main teacher ever was Philippe Petit, and then I attended all sorts of masterclasses or was hustling for private lessons other artists especially as in those days we had plenty of clubs that would had musicians weekly, meaning from wed. to tues, would be same group and they stayed in some hotels above often so were rather free. This is how I got the chance to study with Joe Diorio, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, John Abercrombie, Dave Liebman, Mike Stern, Marc Ducret, Christian Escoudé, Philip Catherine, Charlie Haden, Richie Beirach, Alan Silva, Steve Lacy, Barre Philipps, and many many more. Usually once I had met them I would follow them hardly everywhere … like Philip with Chet for example or Christiab Escoudé which is to me still so incredible and i'm afraid really underrated. Christian is maybe to me after René Thomas and with Philip the strongest european and french certainly player. What did I actually learn from them? That's a good question in fact, I don't know yet I think, i'm still trying to figure out... Maybe I looked most for a challenge, to be facing such incredible players that would by their own playing and kindness often throw me back to where I was at the time which will create an incredible and sometime painful experience that in return would make me want ever more to learn and progress (i'm very dubious about that word progress but let's say get better at your own game here). I learned that I wanted so much to play, and that no one else as incredible as they were was going to be me, nor that what they had found would really help me. I learned that I had to be me and find what this means and how it plays. Later on when I was in my late 20's I had the same need and this was my reason to try to confront myself with the likes of Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Marc Ribot and others just to be somewhere put in front of my own wall. Not at all as any sort of battle cause it wasn't at all the point, but to confront myself with much more advanced players. I still have the same goals somewhere in fact. I'm thinking since long now to ask John Abercrombie for a duet, but i'm afraid to do so. I'm not really sure I can face that yet – I'd Love to though and maybe time as come for me to dare ?

3 - What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?

NA : Hum.... that's another whole full question. Genres and Categories are to be filed under Beliefs or Wishes I guess. Now Musical facts and practice if you face them just for what they are, say, do, shows you that all those categories are maybe sociologically valid but musically irrelevant. From a pretty orientated background maybe but Derek Bailey in his Improvisation book, stated that basically the first musical gesture ever and since ever is to improvise. Improvising is a term I don't like to much because it has a kind of negative assumption, like “as opposed to not”. To me the main line in music is about being : Played or not totally Played. Its close to what classical music uses as interpret (and not classical music only but as i'm talking instrumental music here). You can play many type of texts in one's life. You can play your own text and therefore not need nor want to score it for example. I play my own text since a while now, but as I want to discover it further I do not state-write it. You can play someone else's text too whether by accompanying he or she, by playing in someone's band, or playing with someone, in all those cases it will be you playing the others approach or pace, or area. But it'll remain you playing. Then you can play-interpret a score and depending on what's the score, which style, period of musical history you will face a rather open but precise score (say medieval to baroque) or a fully framed score (say romanticism and further since). Such a predominance of the written object (call it scores) is historically a rather small moment of the whole musical history (though not minor at all). I'll give you an example : I do not think JS Bach did really wrote any scores in his life, he mostly notated music. I mean here his head was full of very precise musical lines and ideas and thoughts that he daily practiced and played, but notation was just a data there. This emphasis on notation is basically a 19th century thing that ends with the next century (to me 1970's). I do not think it will stay in future, and if you look at it, writing-reading is under 5% today of the whole musical daily practice and production. Its a western thing too mostly (this even when non-western cultures trying to westernize it). If you look at it every serious players since the last 3000 years at least was always a serious improviser as well. And this isn't anything particular, its to make an image a side effect, the same as all serious Chefs have incredible instincts to pick up what's most interesting daily fresh product on their local markets at 5 AM. I only reject one thing probably is this area that has solidify in the last 30 years and that claims to be specialized in improvising, which to me isn't true factually. What happens is a lot of people started to make awkward noises, or reject (but also ignore by all means) any of the standard musical elements such as harmony, rhythm, functions, etc. and developed a new style-genre-area, which works as any other styles and social groups today (hip-hop or metal, jazz or electronica etc) and is today knows as “improvised Music” (often melting with experimental music). Those do not improvise more than any others really but found and fixed certain musical elements and facts that makes them recognizable to themselves and circles around, but the same way as any other genre. There were some small arguments when for example Jim O'Rourke tried to pin down Evan Parker or Fred Frith that for example Evan doesn't “improvise” that much (and would be dixit a common jazz player). I liked the question but not the answer in fact. I think Evan is just an incredible Evan Parker and no one else ever sounded like he does, and I put him very very high in the instrument and even jazz history. But I don't take one thing, its this moral value put into improvising. Improvising is a normal thing that we all do, or should. I heard Chet Baker taking 30 choruses in clubs on a Blues and I played and listened a lot to Evan too, and they both play incredibly but have their own and differently rooted maybe languages. They both play variations of their own. If any values needed I would put it on the subjectivity, on how someone plays his own, how deep he found his own voice. Whether a classical music interpret, a traditional player, an electronic artist or any. I like a lot (and generally I think Derek in his own words said so incredibly clearly and simply to the point what's there), Derek Bailey's answer to what is improvisation for him : “More Playing per m2”.

4 - I know that you like very much Sonny Sharrock, to me Sharrock is one of the most underrated guitar player, but his music was so great and records like “Guitar”, Black Woman, Faith Moves and Ask the Ages are simply great, I really enjoyed your tribute “Sonny II” for Winter&Winter .. have you ever met him or played with him? How much did he influenced your music?

NA : Sonny was an incredible natural born player to me. Also somewhere he incarnated the whole american music history (from Rag Blues Pickers to Evangelists, To Swing, Free, Bop any and all 20th century Music and Guitar Music). Sonny is the first and last Free Jazz guitarist ever I feel. By Free Jazz Guitarist I mean someone next to Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Sunny Murray or Pharoah Sanders (and others of course). Someone who freed the instrument like no one else did before, and probably due to historical moment : since. To me Free Jazz meant not so much playing outside of all rules until then, but Freeing the Jazz literally. Questioning where jazz had arrived at this point (hard bop more or less), and bringing it in a same move to its next chapter, while returning to its roots. Most free jazz greats had a very rooted approach, in some ways Ayler is like Buddy Bolden, Ornette, Don Cherry, Shepp, Cecil all played a freed version of earliest swing & new orleans jazz in fact. A very common move in fact, to jump to next, you better root yourself to before and make the big step above today's situation. I take a lot of my influences in origins in fact too, for example the strongest minimalist player i know is clearly Freddie Green, the first avant-free-rock “downtown” guitarist maybe Slim Gaillard and so on. With Sharrock the question of skills in jazz totally blew away, those are not only technical questions but often moral ones. He literally freed the instrument from absolutely all before common usage and approach of it. He just played, with such a force and intensity that you thought his guitar would implode and disintegrate any moment. I've seen him live first time with his band (the more pop-rock one with two drummers like on Live in NYC album or Seize the Rainbow and Highlife, they played two nights in Paris New Morning Club, it was close to empty, very spare audience but i came both nights and literally swallowed every single second of it, like a fan basically, coming there mid day see if any chances to grab a soundcheck or talking to them. On Stage he had Two Les Paul and a Marshall, i soon understood the other Les Paul was in just in case he broke strings in fact. I told this many times I guess before but he had on top of amp a box of standard Fender Picks, in Heavy and X-Heavy gauge, that he regularly took a handful and put in his mouth, and every maybe 20 seconds the picks were torn apart, like stroked by a shark or something totally incredible, almost like a hurricane .... as he threw out all around those picks, i grabbed about 10 of them in the pause and put them in a frame. Each of them where damaged differently, like each was a different guitar stroke or line. Those Picks has a strong influence on me yes, and so Sonny did. In totally different way but that has somewhere similarities some years later it happened again to me with Derek Bailey who also was incredibly rooted in Guitar Origins.

5 - What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises

NA : Sonny Sharrock was maybe the very first player that strongly questioned me about this error topic. When I was in the learning process I wanted to watch how every single guitar player that I liked was technically holding his instrument, pick, right and left hand, body position, fingerings, hands etc anything clothes and pedals, cables and gear, strings and picks shapes, all So I took as many LP's as I had with close Pictures of the Guitarist and put them in my room like a gallery, like staring at you too, which made a sort of judgement-picture. At This time I was mostly trying to control a C Major Scale in its 7th positions from low to high on the neck, meaning also looking all possible ways to finger it, how to group and split the G/B strings change of interval etc. I was working hard and pretty desperate I would ever be able to do that fluently one day. And then came that Sonny Sharrock Monkey-Pockie-Boo album ( where basically Sonny was doing everything but NOT what I was trying so hard to master. That was incredibly transgressive and even disturbing to me. But it teach me incredibly well somewhere unconsciously, it made me aware of the error as not just something wrong but a open window on reality and somewhere truth too. It opened my ears to the whole 380° of the guitar, it pointed out the mental gap between your own moral idea of the good note and the reality of the playing. I had already questions and doubts about certain players playing amazing lines but with sometime a real harsh unpleasant sound, like people having a too strong pick or heavy right hand and pushing too much, this creating a pretty noisy or ugly sound. And I wonder if they were even really aware of that. Certain Gipsy players for example in France or even my teacher, had sudden moments where they wanted to stroke hard and play fast and this would result not in a fast line but in some kind of very harsh muddy loud noisy piece of cake in the middle of their solos, that to me was pretty much ruining it all. Jack Wilkins for example has this still (no offense at all, I really love them all). Anyway all that made me strongly aware of sound and how sounds live. For example if you play a C note (say D string 10th fret), you cannot think of just a C, because where this one is placed on the neck, on which chosen string, with which finger you will lay it (will make a difference if index or pinky), will not only produce a C but all sorts of adjacent wanted or unwanted noises, sounds, resonances. You will also have to start to think about how long, how modified (tremolo, short, long, vibrating etc) you want it, how loud, how much weight etc. which will end up if you're strictly objective in a concrete fact that your C note will trigger at least more than half extra sounds or noises to the whole result. I got aware of that and of more as I practices and studied later on, like for example there is still today this strong fantasy or expectation in scales for many younger or beginner players, almost like a religious belief that scales are the clue to playing well. But scales do not produce any music until you do make them sing or play. A scale is a just a commonly agreed data file in a given (our western) system. I got aware of that pretty early: the best choice of notes on this or that changes, would be ruined if not properly articulated rhythmically. Say a 9th on a 7th chord can be nice color but if you missed that 7th chord by one bar and your supposed to be a 9th falls on the next chord it may just turn totally else and totally wrong. So that I got soon aware that things weren't so much about their maths and theories but about what you were going to hear and play out of it. And from that point, this idea of error started to turn into another idea : its only you playing (no one else ever will play you, this even if you're the biggest Pat Metheny or Alan Hodlsworth dedicated fan).Today after close to 35 years of playing, I came freer with many technical aspects so that I can just play and not think anymore, so that error idea is irrelevant, but is always probably an unconscious proposal trying to come through. There is no error there are unclear or undecided enough ideas maybe. A Mistake only comes when you're unclear about what you hear, and come to a crossroad and didn't really decided where to go, then you may end up in the middle, or in the woods. There is this kinda ancestral saying that I heard many people telling (Joe Diorio in a masterclass first time), which goes : when you hit the wrong note, repeat it twice, it will become a style. What makes the difference between a noise and a sound is its source. If you hear noises as sounds, other will hear sounds only. A Sound is always and necessarily a projection from someone (or something at first if you're more into experiments, but the source will have to be handled by someone at some point to come alive). Human produces both noises and sounds by nature, even not being musicians at all, its our choice to hear them or not.

6 - I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer? The risk of a musical "globalization"?

NA : You're talking about politics in fact here. Where Arts is always an exception. There are indeed 10, 20, 3000, more... players today. But maybe not.... Maybe today, what you call Globalization (I don't have better word either), is only the fact that social networks internet etc allows them to be visible where they would remain private before. I have a strong sense to history maybe because I also very early found out history repeats constantly - “New” is an old thing”. We had (my generation and I guess other ones around) that incredible fantasy of “Year 2000”, we went through nothing happened and so after a bit of time will probably come the 3000' fantasy too. Although I have to be careful with one thing which could also come from aging (can't say yet, i'm 45, born 68), and that is : the more I enlarge my historical horizontal knowledge (the more I experienced different and else musical moments through the last 3000 years), the more I have the tendency to think we're only gong through a fatal regression. When you read de Machaut, Binchois, Chantilly Codex, visit Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Gesualdo even who's pretty much a modern young man already, etc. its getting hard to point out what our last 500 years really brought anew. It takes us close to probably how I see and feel about things. I said above I love so much John Abercrombie, and I really so much do, but I don't do because John would be such a unique radical creator, BUT because he really is such an incredible incarnated variation of a lot of materials we know from history already. It resumes to life in fact, how one makes the same absolutely unique and his own. James Burton isn't playing anything new on the paper, but no one ever did before that way. Same for all, Jaco and so on. I see in fact Globalization as the best antidote to niches. I guess i'm a liberal in the original sense of the term (something that has been pretty rarely tried since). I prefer Market to Culture. The Market got people like Scofield or Frisell to play the essence of themselves in a form that is clearly framed, where Culture never had clear goals besides their political usage of arts on short terms – I know i'm talking something pretty out and that will be argued if not just harshly rejected by mort “our” friends but here I stand (get back to me, if not just for insulting). Market challenges creativity much more than Culture which often kills it in the egg. If you think (and its very easy to doubt about), that globalization (its again such a vague term), ruined certain hierarchies of knowledge, I think facts are against us. Today I have access to much more than when I was looking for it back 30 years ago (and I know and understand the usual comment to it that when you had to look for it you learned way more than when its all freely laying around as today, Ok I take this point but I think its just us, a one way, and many other ways are … as they say : all roads leads to Rome …). What I started to experience with younger people say between 15 and 25 today is that Because so much more (really 98% is) is around today, by some unknown to us logos, the ones who want to look for whatever they ignore still will actually crush by “chance” on way more hyper-linked series (series of musics, videos, links etc). Internet and Globalization did not invent anything, what it does is hyper-show what was always. I'll tell you an anecdote. When Minimalism came back in improv' scenes during mid-end 90's (Call It Onkyo or Lower-Case or etc all post AMM), in had a real difficult moment with it (obsessional or personal too probably, though I still think its really bad, just hope it's been useful for some), I got quite concerned about it and the messages I was perceiving of it (basically linked to what will solidify in 911 and its total shelving)
Anyway, I was so pissed about all that, that I tried to find clues and hooks to get out of it, and I once asked ( we were touring in japan, I remember well we on a quay waiting for the train to Osaka) David Grubbs about : how do you feel historians and musicology will remember this moment in say 30 years from now ? - David's reply is still ringing in me, he said : they won't be any need for history to be made by then because all will be available constantly and therefore any need to file or select will be pointless. True I guess. Today its incredibly positive to me. It wasn't back then at all (lost a lot of angst in general).

7 - Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?

NA : I'm going to be probably pretty paradoxical here. If I had say 200 000 $ to spend on promo, I feel I could make some sort of semi-hit of mostly anything, and I would love that (really : René Thomas for example). Now I only believe in content on the other side (one clearly not excluding de facto the other for me). I really feel that whether you get known, coverage, get media and networks promotion, makes no difference at all on a midterm. What does is Content only. So if I had those 200 000 I would promote incredible and underrated contents (don't laugh at me now – lol). I made quite serious amount of money doing things you never heard of, but I never enjoyed myself so much as now, while hardly not making a living on it. Times have changed that's an obvious thing but not the only one reason for that I think. Its true that when I started you could always easily work a lot and enough to sustain yourself without needing much if not any promotion or visibility at all (loads of local gigs, lot of anonymous gigs too, jobs, functions... but nice ones). Today it seems you need to be much more visible and you can be quite visible but it will necessarily affect your condition, and not really change your situation (*there's an evident link to Gesualdo here that I should not forget to develop later). Basically creating and its needs and daily life will never possibly a job. Market or Culture are, creation never was never will be. So that you swing between those two. Yes I guess the days where Freddie Green could be the incredible artist he is but spend all his life and career (died on stage even) during 52 years in the same Count Basie Orchestra (he even survived Basie and continued after Basie's death in) are obviously gone but... Art has no price. Its not a cheap line, when I started to record Gesualdo I Had no money, no Label, mostly no one understanding it, but I had to do it. So I did. When I started to arrive in the french jazz scene as a sort of young “modern jazz” guitarist, I remember well, there were hardly 5 to 6 people in (Philippe Deschepper, Gérard Marais, Claude Barthélémy... Marc Ducret, Nguyen Lê, then more avan would be Jean-François Pauvros (my hero), Jean-Marc Montera, maybe some more or contemporaries but hardly not 10 altogether). Today its about 50 in working top shape just in France, and if you open up to people with talents but or teaching or in between, you'll reach 300 easily. If we wanna talk worldwide I would say 300 000 invested knowledgable people, 10 000 serious players from which close to 100 are seeking for the top 10 (and we're only talking a niche area like avant-modern-jazz-improv guitar, that sells at max 1000-2000 copies when full worldwide promotion). Yes I invested in myself the last decade or so, and am my own self promoter. I guess its like people making cheese and selling it from milking the cow to sticking the etiquette. What Globalization (you called it) made possible is that everyone does it, but the cake didn't grow. Its like 10 000 people on the same cake that did not really feed 10 to 15 individuals 20 years ago : yes. Ideally (business-wise talking), I'd wished i'd be alike Bill Frisell, yes. The freedom to be your own and be respected for and given enough simple opportunities to work for your living as such. On the other side i've noticed that for such people it came rather late, I mean being established enough to be just able to name your next project and hope for it to be viable financially. I'm “only” 45, they are between 65 and 70 (somme just turned 60). I get a lot of reactions and feedback to my work since sometime. Especially since I started my own Downloads Catalogue and way of working. Maybe in the word Communication is two sides, one being the marketing term we all know, and one meaning just communication : share, exchange, learn, give, take, give back, pass it on etc. I'm probably in between and wrong with spending a bit of time trying to let my things be known publicly. I was more together I would only stick to works, but I somehow like that aspect too, talk to people, share, etc. Its generally a question for me at the moment whether try to re-socialize and play gigs in the existing as it is circuit, or leave it all totally and go into some far away castle just work and not communicate anyhow but through strictly works (and no comments to it, or open e-door). I don't know, we will see.
* The Gesualdo point I made is that due to his condition as noble folk he couldn't really be a artist and his works remained intimate somehow, and not dressed to its times and functions as they did often for official composers.

8 - Which composer (or which historical movement) do you think is easiest for the non-musician listener to appreciate? Do you think they enjoy pieces that are more technically difficult or just more "flashy"?

NA : You may divide music in two parts, some say good and bad, other this or that, I think that the two main parts are music that can reach anyone whatever their forms are, and others that are directed to groups of interests, club members and niches who wants to affirm their difference using music for it. But this applies to any époques, style, moments in fact. Monteverdi until say 6th and more seriously 7th madrigals, is maybe not flashy but arse-licking-power openly. Its all written up to please and shine, its a lot of cheap repetitions and cheap tricks etc. I have some people like that I never really got, where my question to its supporters would be : why in the hell should I listen to that rather than other more direct versions of the same ? I can think of Frank Zappa or Robert Wyatt for example. I sometime think that John Cage is more interesting to non-musicians than to players, and Pierre Boulez too but a different way (his texts and scores are often deeper to read than to hear). But its a lot of paradoxes too. Some people think that this and that is vulgar but none of them sets vulgarity the same place. I don't find Céline Dion vulgar at all (nor actually Paris Hilton although ok its a more dangerous line to go with her but), and I find total porn a lot of experimental-improvised music the last 15 years. Who Am I to judge? Virtuosity always had its fans for example and not all is worth really. I remember in Austria amongst cool people seeing themselves as really special and tasty a lot of people who were so in love and found themselves so mirrored with Deep fried american Country, and the same people would kill if you played them their own country music like Tyrol and Schläger, but objectively, both versions are 99% the same. Same over conservative, misogynist lyrics, same “a man and his gun” thing, same racist things (past my valley are all foreigners who don't get our heimat-love) etc. Its not because its fast and flashy that its bad in fact. Alan Holdsworth isn't flashy I think but he's dead-fast. Its very difficult to tell I think really. So I really think that there is music than can speak to all people at any time and others who needs your agreement before you even heard it. Sonny Sharrock always got a wider audience than free-jazz or even jazz areas whereas maybe Derek Bailey did less even his audience is not strictly improv'. It generally takes a long long time to hear things I feel, I need to listen again and again the same because the more I do the more I hear anew. I'd give you a counter example now, for some reasons I came in music at a time where Fusion and Jazz-Rock were all over and big (Paco De Lucia, Meola. Coryell, McLaughlin would play huge theaters still), and I have a real taste for it (I can go really deep, as deep as Uzeb and Yellow Jackets, not stopping until you reach maybe Kenny G., and even, i'm not sure of that). For me I can agree of a special esthetic there, than can really be repulsive to many people especially today (it wasn't back then, FlashDance was top cool and hype), but I really love it, and I assume its really corny cheesy but still. So for most cool people this is openly what they call (I don't) commercial crap (you selling yourself to a fantasy they have of the bad nasty capitalist). Well : i'd love to have a real fusion band today (I mean muscles rhythm section, 6 strings bass, percussions, 2 keyboards and an Alto Saxophone) and play very very smooth music, some kinda Barry White Jazz … and if I would do this supposed to be easy listening music would probably be a real scandal for most critics and jazz audiences. So what to do?

9 - Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …

01 – René Thomas w. Chet Baker – Chet Is Back (recorded in Roma)
He is probably the most incredible Jazz Guitar Player ever for me. His voice, flow, freedom and intelligence of speech never ceased to not only amaze me but teach and open me. With his own cuisine of Django and Raney, he really opened the instrument, and particularly the presence of guitar in jazz, to one of the strongest voice in jazz. Generally certain european players had a strong influence on, probably too because I asked myself early about jazz and being a european. To name a few People like Eddy Louiss, Daniel Humair, Jacques Thollot, Jean-François Jenny-Clarke, Christian Escoudé were and often are still an influence today.

02 – John Abercrombie (in fact almost any album with John teaches and moves me but for example : Witchcraftduet w. Don Thompson Its almost pointless to try to explain but Abercrombie is really the modern jazz guitarist that touches me the most deeply and intimately. John is someone that each time (and I do very regularly, never stopped to since 30 years), surprises me totally. How he goes through music, the neck, how he phrases and paces-pulses, his dynamic and shape of phrases, how wide he made the range of the instrument, which also means how he fingers and physically places himself.... I love them all Scofield, Frisell, Goodrick, Metheny etc but John has something that speaks to me like none else. I don't know a single album with that will not return me in the next 10 seconds of his playing.

03 – Bill Frisell w. Jan Garbarek – Pathprints (in Fact I went back through all early ECM catalog last couple years from Metheny to Garbarek, Weber to Rypdal etc that unique moment and sound in music) I have a strong moment with early Frisell lately (and I love his actual works too), I've first heard him live with Paul Motian first 5tet (w. Ed Schuller and Jim Pepper), and his playing changed our ears totally since. But that early 80's Moment where he Played his SG Jr. with Pro-Co Rat was very unique, again I love beginnings. Bill is also someone that has this extremely rare tone in the finger. One note of Bill Is complete Frisell each time. He uses rather simple materials in fact, based on classic guitar voicings sometime stretched or very focused like his three notes famous cluster-voicings. But his playing is always rather simple theoretically (I mean as oppose say to Scofield's alterations). He opened all of us incredibly, and somehow he helped us through the journey of the end of jazz guitar, if I may say so. To me one side of Bill is that he is obviously the “last great jazz guitarist”, in the vein of the Freddie Green, Charlie Christian, Jim Hall, Barney Kessel, Larry Coryell and Pat Martino (and many more), like he closes that long slice of history and therefore I guess opened to another one where all your influences can be equal, whether country music, blues guitar, folk or rock, or any other that build you. His original 4tet (Baron, Driscoll, Roberts) was a major break in Music, alongside to Paul Motian Trio which also is probably the last Historical group (again to me here, i'm not interested in talking the end of this or that, but just watching at the transitions between historical moments, objectively I guess).

04 – Johnny Guitar Watson – Love Jones – This is the very first album that made me aware I was so attracted by Guitars, I bought the 7'' when it came out late 70's early 80's – before my father played a lot of classic swing jazz at home and this this album I came clear to me all this music was from the same root Johnny Guitar Watson is the first one for me, but I could have named others that rings in me a lot still like James Burton, Clarence White, John Fahey, Albert Collins, B.B. King, Bden Powell, and so on and on.....

I got to meet Philip when I was 13 years old in a Summer Masterclass sessions over a week with my soon to be teacher Philippe Petit, and Philip's playing was just so so incredibly sensitive, emotional, strong and soft, also resuming our european approach like rarely. I talked to Philip long for the Gesualdo project trying to convince him to join, but he turned 70 and wants to improvise mostly today, more than just read music. Philip is one of those forever influences for me that I need to dive in and then forget to better come back again later, like maybe René Thomas, Derek Bailey, Larry Coryell or Jaco Pastorius.

I could have name many other albums but this is an evident side of me : jazz guitar.

10 - What are your five favorite scores?

NA : This in an interesting question, because I don't think I know what as Score really is yet. I've always been reading a lot of music daily and scores too but generally any notated music in any styles and sometimes formats or forms (from Tabs to Standard Notation, Beginners Methods to Studies, Transcriptions to Fac-Simile, Jazz, Fingerpicking, Rock, Blues, Metal, Baroque, Country etc All Guitar Music, or Bass too). I have a sort of fascination for Methods and particularly Beginners ones, always very excited to see how one approaches the fundamentals of the instrument. It's difficult for me to tell you what's my favorite score because I never used so far any scores as an interpret in the classical sense of the term I guess. All I do is read music, sight read music, and this even (especially I should say) when recording early music lately. To me a score is a tool basically and nothing else, the finality, goal of it is to recreate this particular music notated, but the notation is just a convenient common accessoire in the this process of playing music. Its the same way that I never really understood the division made between Composed or Improvised. I see only one division and that is between Played or Not (How, How Well, How Subjective, Incarnated, Made Alive etc). But OK, at the moment my favorite scores are of two kinds : one is 14th century music (Machaut, Binchois, Cordier, Ars Subtilior etc), because I found in this writing all answers I probably was looking for long. This music isn't classical music at all, its somewhere “Pure Music”, very alive and incarnated on one side and extremely symbolic, loaded with signs and universal symbols on the other side. Maybe the same way when you go to Vaticano museum and visit all the rooms until Capella Sistina, the works there are not about esthetic beauty but about the power of their messages. A time where art meant something … had a strong metaphysical function too and not an isolated niche practice. The other scores that I read a lot at the moment are double bass transcriptions from Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Wilbur Ware, Steve Swallow, Jaco Pastorius, Jerry Jemmott, etc.

11 - With who would you like to play? What kind of music do you listen to usually?

NA : Hum... I have a very particular way to listen today, and MP3 and Ipod have been incredibly useful for that since. I concentrate or details, lines, sounds, moments in complete works of a given artist and mostly guitarists. I have certain all time favorites list of players that I dive into complete recordings and listen again and again same slices (often same as when I started music), a bit like a philolog or librarian digging details into collections and archives. Otherwise I listen to Pop mostly, for many many reasons, one being that Pop music often resumes our times the best, swallowing all other sounds in the air plus being an incredible team production a bit like hollywood movies, a collective work from extremely achieved people each in its own area. I do sort of go through new music around just to inform myself, but I need some distance often to hear it. As for people i'd like to play with, in fact I should say people i'd like to play more with. I've been blessed to be able to play or study or meet with most of my heroes in fact. I could have said Miles and Ornette like many but its not even really so true today. I think today I would like to play with people I didn't already met and know, younger players like the incredible 15 years old Augustin Brousseloux for examle (but we play together already and share a lot ), Or Charlie Rauh whom I feel very very close to even we have different stories but we can share a lot lot of basis and views . I come from early jazz and know that music really well and deeply, but until my late 20's Jazz guitar had sort of shadow my whole global guitar views (even though I always listened to all sorts of guitar music from rock to pop, classical to world). Its only by then that I fully got aware of the fact I had because of jazz phrasing quite ignored the fact that Guitar is an Open E Natural Instrument. And after that I sort of went away from my actual jazz scenes, I felt it wasn't really happening anyway, and started to play and look with all sorts of different artists and music traditions, which got me a bit in conflict with the jazz scenes. People didn't got it I think there, my whole range of interest were rather a negative hard to get thing for them, but its only since some years that younger generations came to me for whom it was not only normal but rather very positive. There are people i'd love to play more with like Joey Baron, Kenny Wollesen, Bradley Jones, and one forever hero, Bern Nix. Many others too I guess. For many reasons (one being that I started to gig with 14 and did intensively for close to 20 years), I stopped touring much and doing all sorts of live collaborative projects in the last decade, wanting to only concentrate on my own works (and not always play live also because for one hour of playing live you need to give away 23h of your whole day and I have a lot lot that I want to be done in a day). But time may come sometime soon that I set again 2 or 3 live projects and want to tour more again. I would like to have 2,3 setups or groups that would be with people I love and that would allow us to construct on longer terms, not in one genre or style or context also but like a base, some sort of homeland. It would take I guess too long to express here but i'm really very excited about present times, probably also because I came with a sort of real good feeling about my own, having done a lot until now that sort of raised like my own world-home-house, it frees you a lot. And since some years I see a new chapter of the world map and music that starts to raise. Something finally Next and not Post anymore like for example has been most of the jazz scenes the last 15-20 years I feel. Really Looking Forward to that Coming-up. I think I can contribute something there...

12 - Your next projects? When we will see you playing in Italy?

NA : well a lot lot lot as usual and more ….definitely a lot of early music more to continue, and the 5 Guitars project also with more repertoire that I want to be played. One obvious all ready is to play Machaut in Reims (Champagne and where he was from and wrote the famous Messe de Nostre Dame for). More Guitar Duets series to be recorded soon, more loops and samples funk-fusion-electro-dub too. Some albums in preparations like a Tribute to Masayuki Takayanagi for New Atlantis Records (I only started and as for every single tribute album I want to go through all existing materials first, it helps me a lot see angles not from darkness or blindness). Our duet with Hans-Joachim Roedelius to be recorded again and anew as soon as possible I hope, Our Last Tour Live and Studio Recordings with Polish Duet Mikrokolektyv to be released. And many many more that I can't tell because I work very fast so that I often can not tell from a day to another. As for Italy well... i'd come when you like me to :) 

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