|Pascal Schumacher at the 2014 Luxembourg Jazz Meeting
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
For more than a decade, Luxembourg vibist Pascal Schumacher has been one of his country’s leading musical exports. He will be playing in the EFG London Jazz Festival on Tuesday 17th November 2015 at 6pm on the Barbican Freestage, before the concert by Manu Katché and Ibrahim Maalouf. Stephen Graham interviewed him on tour via email.
Pascal Schumacher’s style is a unique amalgam of jazz, classical and rock influences with a physicality to it a world away from the more polite chamber jazz reputation of his chosen instrument. He’s performed in duos with pianist Jef Neve and worked in trio mode with Lebanese percussionist Bachar Khalifé and this year he has released two albums, Afrodiziak, and Left Tokyo Right, the latter featuring the band he will be appearing with at the London Jazz Festival
Schumacher began by talking about his Left Tokyo Right line-up which features pianist Franz von Chossy, drummer Jens Dueppe and bassist Pol Belardi. “The new face in the band is Pol Belardi. He joined the band in October 2013 and brought a new sound with his electric bass. Since the moment when Pol joined we began to work on the new material for the album Left Tokyo Right. I wanted to give the music a new fresh blast and therefore I had to change some of our older formulas. The presence of a fixed sound engineer was one of these new moments that helped a lot in shaping a renewed Pascal Schumacher sound.”
Schumacher has interesting things to say about what he feels is the modern role of the vibes in jazz. “I don’t think vibraphone when I imagine music or when I go on stage. I know there is a serious vibraphone community out there which is extremely busy with the instrument, who work hard to push the technical limits of the instrument. This isn’t my cup of tea at all. For me it could be any instrument. I just want to transport emotion and it turned out that the vibraphone became my means of transport. The vibraphone was an extremely important instrument in jazz in the 1940s when Lionel Hampton was a world superstar, considering the fact that jazz music was the pop music of that era. Since jazz has lost its popular status the vibraphone lost as well. The next fatal moment for the vibraphone was when in the 1970s Harold Rhodes invented the Fender Rhodes an instrument that quickly became very trendy and often replaced the vibraphone in music. Maybe over the years when the Rhodes became extremely common a certain ‘renaissance’ of the vibraphone could be noticed. During my student years my personal vibraphone hero was David Friedman. My current heroes are of course no longer the same as they were 15 years ago. At this very moment I am very impressed by the different worlds of musicians such as Olafur Arnalds, Francesco Tristano, Bachar Khalifé, Nils Frahm, Max Richter and Sven Helbig.”
This year has been a busy one for the vibist during which he has released two albums and started working on a new one. “2015 has also been the year of the world premiere of my first Concerto for Vibraphone and Orchestra. All in all I consider myself as a very lucky person since I really can realize so many of my ideas, being surrounded by a great bunch of people that trust me and support me on my way.”
Schumacher also teaches classical percussion and jazz vibraphone at the Conservatory of Music of Luxembourg. But what does he most try to impress on his students? “I try to teach them a wide open spectrum of musical ideas and hope to provide them with the necessary means to enjoy music in any possible genres or ways. It is always a new challenge, since every single student has a different background, a different way of facing musical problems and my mission is to understand as quickly as possible what they are up to and feed them with the best next steps for their own musical evolution. Humour in music and in life is elementary to me and that’s my personal ingredient that I try to pass over. Too many musicians take themselves too seriously.”