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Preview/ interview: Stephane Kerecki

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Macadam is the opening track on Stephane Kerecki ‘s CD Houria (Zig Zag Territoires). This live version was filmed at the New Morning club in Paris The four players here – Kerecki’s regular trio with Tony Malaby – are about to do two UK dates – Pizza Express Dean Street on Tuesday June 15th, and Dean Clough in Halifax on Thursday 17th.

John Fordham in this morning’s Guardian reviews Kerecki’s CD, gives it four stars, draws attention to the variety and wide range of influences, and calls Kerecki “one of the fascinating European jazz prospects of the 21st century.”

I spoke to Kerecki by telephone this morning. Kerecki has worked as leader of his own trio with stable personnel since 2003. Houria, the word is a name in Arabic meaning freedom, is their third CD.

Parisian Kerecki got to know trio members Matthieu Donarier (soprano and tenor saxophones) from La Baule, now living in Le Mans, and Thomas Grimmonprez (drums) from Lille, when all three were students together at the Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP). The influential figures there were drummer Daniel Humair, saxophonists François Jeanneau and bassist Jean-François Jenny-Clark .

Kerecki’s musical hinterland incorporates many other influences than jazz. “Jazzis what I play, what I listen to. But I like a lot of things, a lot of things affect me: free improv, rock, african music, a capella. I’ve played a lot of simple music, sometimes one just needs that.” says Kerecki.

Choral music marked him early – one of the tracks on Houria is a hushed Messiaen’s O Sacrum Convivium. Alternatively, to hear drummer Grimmonprez hitting a heavy rock backbeat good ‘n hard, try the track Palabre.

African music has also left a strong imprint. “I was lucky to be in the band of Djamel Allam from 1996 to 2000.” Allam, an Algerian singer and bandleader is a real star in France. “What marked me as a musician was playing those 6/8 rhythms. Great to absorb and digest them, like food. Quite a few more people are doing it now, Bojan Z has done great things with it, but still there’s not much jazz based on ternary rhythms.”

Kerecki was particularly eloquent and thoughtful about what bandleading has brought him. “I’d been a sideman for years, played all kinds of different music in different contexts, for Djamel Allam, in big bands, all over the place. But it was’t enough. To really flourish, to develop my own identity, I knew I wanted, needed to lead. What is special about the bassists I admire and listen to the most- Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, and above all Dave Holland – “l’identite le plus grand”- is that they have defined who they are. Dave Holland can play in any context, and you know it’s him. I needed to define my own musical identity. I’ve done that through leading. Leading defined what i was, and how I reacted to others.” He’s come full circle: “It’s helped me to appreciate – and to be appreciated -being a sideman again.”

It’s a strong voice. Tuning, presence sound fabulous. He seems a nice guy. I’m looking forward to hearing him live.

Pizza Express Dean Street, Tuesday June 15th.

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