NEWS/ INTERVIEW: French guitarist Tom Ibarra wins inaugural 2017 LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award

Tom Ibarra – First ever winner of the LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award
Photo credit: Alain Pelletier /Ibanez Guitars

It has just been announced that 18-year-old French guitarist TOM IBARRA has been selected out of a total of 270 applicants as winner of the first ever LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award. More details of the prize and what it brings are below. 

In anticipation of this announcement, Sebastian interviewed Ibarra by email:

LondonJazz News: Congrats on the award! Where are you from and where do you live now?

Tom Ibarra: I was born in Hyères Les Palmiers, a little town of the south (near Saint-Tropez), but the last area where I lived is the South West of France. Currently I’m studying music at the Music Centre of Didier Lockwood (CMDL) near Paris; this is my second year living here!

LJN: We understand it was your grandfather who first instilled a passion for music in you. What music did he introduvce you to?

TI: Exactly! Initially, my grandfather really loves the blues and jazz but I was not very comfortable with that kind of music at the age of 6. I was listening to Joe Satriani or Jimi Hendrix! I turned to jazz when I was 9/10 when I heard Wes Montgomery for the first time.

LJN: Your biography describes you as self-taught. Have there also been phases when you were taught?

TI: Yes my grandfather was my first music teacher. But when I was 11, he had some troubles with his hands but still giving me advice. Then I learnt by myself before to go to the Music Centre of Didier Lockwood at the age of 16.

LJN: How old were you when you first played in public?

TI: I think I was 7 or 8! I played in a pub of the city I lived in.

LJN: Is there a guitarist for you who stands above the others like a God?

TI: Not really, I’m not a huge fan of guitar players even if I love Scott Henderson, Pat Metheny, Julian Lage… I prefer piano players such as Keith Jarrett, or Bill Evans who really inspires me. But I think my biggest jazz hero is Miles Davis!

LJN: And your musical heroes in general?

TI: I like a lot of kinds of music but I mostly listen to classical music (Bach, Ravel, Chopin, Fauré, etc…). In my opinion Bach is the greatest!

LJN: How old were you when you first won a prize? 

TI: I’m not really sure about that but I think the first prize I got was a SACEM price in 2013 (I was 13) at the Saint-Ouen Jazz Musette Festival near Paris. Then I won a second SACEM price in 2014 and in 2015…

LJN:  What do you think of as the biggest gig of your life to date?

TI: Maybe with Marcus Miller and his band in Saint-Emilion Jazz Festival in 2016, but I can also say Andernos Jazz Festival because there were about 2000 people! And I can’t forget Jazz in Marciac festival in 2017…

LJN: What age were you when you started composing. We understand you don’t read/write music. Is that true?

TI: I always wanted to play my own music since I started music but I composed my first proper pieces at the age of 11. It’s right that before I didn’t write my compositions, I just recorded them playing every instruments (piano, bass, drums). But since I started to study at the CMDL last year, I began to learn music theory, and it’s easier to understand what I compose, even if I still don’t read the music correctly!

LJN: You made your first album at the age of 15. Has your band remained stable since that time?

TI: Yes,  on which I played guitars and keyboards. I was with the same band until this summer, but for my new project, it is a new group now!

LJN: And what will be your next album to be released?

TI: We recorded Sparkling last August with drums, keaboards, bass, saxophone – and I play the guitar fortunately! All of tracks are some compositions of mine with two big guests on two tracks! I produce and drive that new album which is coming out in January 2018. We all are very excited! We included a lot of influences in my music but I won’t say more for the moment…

LJN: How did you meet Marcus Miller?

TI: I met Marcus at the Saint-Emilion Jazz festival in July 2016. I was playing there too and the festival’s director wanted to see me playing with him, and he did it! I really thank him…

LJN: What projects do you have in the next 12 months?

TI: We are focused on the new album, its promotion, the tour and more. However I have some video projects with guests for social networks.

LJN: What are your other interests away from music

TI: I like to play tennis, to read and a lot of other things!


THE PRIZE: As winner, Tom Ibarra will be appearing at 2018 festivals such as Nice, JazzOpen in Stuttgart, Umbria, Heineken Jazzaldia in San Sebastian , Kongsberg, Cheltenham and Leopolis in Lviv/Ukraine. He will also receive a full year of PR and marketing support.

JUDGES: The final round judges were US record producer Brian Bacchus, Jamie Cullum, Karen Frivik, Sebastien Vidal and Mikhail Fridman (Chair).

SPONSOR: The backer of the LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award is Mikhail Fridman, businessman, philanthropist and huge jazz fan. Press release: “Besides being a frequent visitor of Jazz festivals around the world, Fridman is also the founder of the Leopolis Jazz Festival (formerly known as Alfa Jazz) in Lviv.”

PRODUCER: LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award is produced by Air Artist Agency Ltd in London, director Burkhard Hopper.

LINK: LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Awards website

Categories: miscellaneous

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