Photo credit: Takako Yagi
Anders Helmerson is a Swedish musician with eclectic taste and a track record of exciting material. With influences from progressive rock, jazz and everything in between, Helmerson’s new album is the latest in a series of original projects. The Anders Helmerson Trio consists of Helmerson’s compositional genius and piano as well as masterly playing by drummer Christian Grassart and bassist Thierry Conand. The trio’s distinctive sound is sure to bring them success as they tour the clubs and festivals of France and the UK this summer. Anders spoke to Brianna McClean:
LondonJazz News: How would you describe the Anders Helmerson Trio?
Anders Helmerson: It could be described as a crossover genre of traditional piano jazz, rock, and neoclassical music. The term trio might have sounded a bit old-fashioned 10 years ago but today piano trio music has become more accepted. It’s contemporary and a bit trendy.
LJN: What is the history of the trio? How did it come to be?
AH: On my previous album, Triple Ripple, I worked with drummer Marco Minnemann and bassist Bryan Beller. It was truly a great experience to work with them but they are living in America and I was looking for musicians closer by. I was looking around the UK first but did not find anyone suitable. I think I tried over 20 different bass players. Then I made contact with MIDEM in France and I was advised to collaborate with the drummer Christian Grassart and the bassist Thierry Conand. We’ve been working together ever since – it has resulted in an album called The Quantum House Project which is about to be released.
LJN: Can you take a moment to introduce us to the other members of the trio?
AH: Christian Grassart is a professional drummer who does jazz, rock and metal. He has been drumming since he was 13 years old and he accompanies renowned French artists such as Patrick Bruel, Norbert Krief of Trust and Patrick Rondat. Thierry Conand is a professional bass player, guitarist, arranger, composer and music teacher. He has been working with a number of artists including Lea Van Sky and Luc Ramirez. He is originally from Nice, France.
LJN: How do dynamics work within the trio? How do you work together?
AH: I write the music and do the arrangements. My music doesn’t have much improvisation, most of it is written on a score. Mostly, when I present the music to the musicians, they will put their own interpretation into the music. The result is often different from my original ideas, which is great. I think I have a strong vision of what I want to produce in terms of timbre and expression. The musicians tell me I’m crazy and maybe that is true. You need to be a bit crazy to spend all your time writing music.
LJN: What has been a highlight of the trio so far? Do you have a favourite composition or performance?
AH: I think the highlights are still to come. We are in the process of starting to playing live and I am looking forward to that, I’m very exited. I don’t have a favourite tune. Sometimes I think my music is like Vivaldi, he was known to have written one symphony in 500 variations just because they were so similar.
LJN: What are your creative inspirations?
AH: I grew up with fusion artists like Zappa and John McLaughlin, and jazz musicians like Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson. I have learned to love other pianists I did not know before such Aaron Goldberg and Marcin Wasilewski. I am interested in Herbie Hancock, in particular his compositions and his fingering. But I think my music is closest to Hiromi. She is the one who opened the door for this genre, crossover piano music.
LJN: We hear you will be playing in various clubs in Paris and London as well as some festivals this year. Do you have a gig you are particularly looking forward to?
AH: Yes I am looking forward in particular to playing at The Cap Ferrat in November. I have lots of fans in southern France. That is going to be great!
LJN: What are your hopes for the trio?
AH: My hope is that I will have more time to write good music. I am now working with some fabulous musicians and that is a true blessing. I hope this project will go far!
LJN: Why do you think the trio deserves a space on the scene?
AH: Our music has the possibility to give an audience something that is more than just entertainment. In my view it has a spiritual facet. The music is lyrical and compelling – poetic and intense. Mostly, I hope that the joy we feel will have an impact on the listener. (pp)
The Anders Helmerson Trio plays the Vortex Jazz Club, London, on 4 September.