|Alex Scheuerer’s album launch at Pizza Express Dean Street
L-R: Alex Scheuerer, Paul Michael,Mike Horne, Chris Whiter
Photo from Alex Scheuerer’s website
Jazz guitarist Alex Scheuerer talks about writing music, finding inspiration and his roots following the release and launch of his new album, Between Heaven and Earth. Feature by Daphne Bugler:
The jazz notes from Alex Scheuerer’s guitar still hang in the air of his London flat as he says hello, and I suddenly realise I’ve interrupted him practising. He tells me he is preparing a new cover song to debut at a jazz club on Friday. It’s Paper Doll by John Mayer. I ask him how this fits in with his style, and he assures me it’s going to be a jazz version, full of improvisation and funky riffs. He’s transcribed the song completely by ear in an afternoon…
At 27 years of age, Alex released his first album Between Heaven and Earth on 31 March. He’s been writing it for almost two years, finding time between his hectic schedule as a session musician and jazz performer to create his own music. The album had its debut with a gig at Pizza Express Jazz Club. His album is full of original compositions as well as two covers. It’s fun, relaxing, and a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
“The album came about because I have been playing a lot of other people’s music at the moment, but I felt like I wanted to do my own stuff, and so I started writing,” Alex explains in his elegant Swiss accent. He moved to London from Geneva in 2010 in order to attend music college (BIMM). “Music school is where I found jazz. They had a jazz course and I realised how it opens the possibilities of my playing a lot more. I felt like there was so much more to learn from jazz and I am still learning today. I love the music and the freedom of it.”
For Alex the attraction of jazz is in its emphasis on collaboration. “You are never really sure what’s going to happen when you start playing with other people because you create music on the spot and it’s all about improvisation. I really love that feeling.” Couldn’t that lead to tensions though if people change what you’ve written? “Maybe sometimes when you’re recording,” he explains, “but if we play live you want people to explore.”
Alex started playing guitar at a very young age. “I guess it will be 20 years next month… I started with music theory and then studied classical guitar at the Geneva Conservatory. At the beginning I didn’t really like it though,” he says, clearly finding the irony. “I like the classical guitar now, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do and I just wasn’t passionate. When I became a teenager I picked up my first electric, and I started playing every day. I played as much as I could, honestly 5-6 hours a day. I started with blues and rock, but it wasn’t until my degree that I got into jazz”.
Between Heaven and Earth contains a wide variety of songs. “I draw on so many different things when I’m writing”, Alex continues. “London Flavour, the second song on the album, is about meeting musicians in London and has a much more funky vibe, while Between Heaven and Earth, the title track, is for my mother. She is originally from Lebanon but was forced to leave the country due to the Civil War in the 1970s. I wanted this song to reflect her journey.”
“My friends don’t really like jazz music,” the guitarist added. “The song Flirting With Sounds is for them. They have a strange taste in music if I can say so,”, he laughs. “I wanted to write a song to show them jazz can be modern and good and interesting. It has a drum and bass feel and they actually liked it. It’s their favourite song on the album.”
One of the covers Alex chose to include is Diamonds by Rihanna, an unusual choice, and featuring London-based French-Morrocan singer Najwa Ezzaher. “I was really inspired by Robert Glasper,” he told me. “He does unique arrangements and I love his playing. If I could collaborate with anyone it would be him, and that’s what this song says.”
It’s only up from here for Alex, and the jazz scene in London does truly seem to be coming back into full swing. “Guys like Tom Misch, Submotion Orchestra and Jordan Rakei are really bringing jazz back by incorporating elements of it into their music. You can hear it in so many venues every night now…”
So where does Alex want to play? What is his dream venue? “I would love to do the Montreux Festival. We’ll have to see how it all goes won’t we.”
Daphne Bugler is a Freelance Journalist in London and can be found at @daphnemb96