Frank Woeste is a pianist, composer, arranger and producer living in Paris, France. In addition to leading his own groups, he has performed with Ibrahim Maalouf, Mark Turner, Nasheet Waits, Sylvain Luc and Gretchen Parlato. This week he is on tour in the US with DADA PEOPLE, the collaborative quartet he leads with Dave Douglas.
Frank took some time between shows to discuss his recent musical experiences as well as some future projects:
GLM: You perform regularly in the French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf‘s group along with DADA PEOPLE drummer Clarence Penn. Having logged so many hours on the road, what is it like to play with Clarence in a different context?
Frank Woeste: It is great! Clarence Penn is a very versatile drummer and he’s always adapting to the situation and not afraid to try new music. I like playing with him also because he’s so interactive. He’s supportive but also always making suggestions musically. So despite the fact that we’ve played a lot together, it stays unpredictable in a good way!
GLM: Your video series, “The Libretto Dialogues” features duets with some wonderful musicians, including Lage Lund, Tigran Hamasyan, Mark Turner and Seamus Blake. How did the series come about and what have you learned from played with this broad range of musicians?
FW: I organized a masterclass cycle at my recording studio, the ‘Studio Libretto.’ I started with Larry Grenadier. We were playing together with Ibrahim Maalouf’s ‘Wind’ project and I got several calls from bass players because they wanted a lesson with Larry! So I decided to organize a masterclass with Larry on an off day of the tour. We recorded a duo song and filmed it to document it. We put the masterclass and the duet on Youtube got a lot of good feedback, so now every time an artist did a Masterclass at Studio Libretto I’d ask if they want to record a duo before and that was the beginning of series!
What have I learned? I’d say I have learned that sometimes it can be good to make music in a context where there’s a certain urgency. For the dialogue series we rarely have more than thirty minutes to record and film. And usually one of us doesn’t know the song coming in and since we’re in the same room well it is what it is. There’s no editing possible so you have to really be in the moment!
GLM: You’re on tour with DADA PEOPLE this week. Having touring Europe in the fall, how has the music changed since the original recording through live performance?
I think the music is progressing in a good way because we know the compositions better now and we can stretch out more.
GLM: How would you compare and contrast the jazz scene in Europe and the US?
I’d need pages to answer this and there’s no general answers as the scenes are made up of individuals that are unique and the term jazz is pretty broad today. But I’d say American musicians in general are probably more rooted in the jazz tradition and history than European musicians, which is natural, I guess. European musicians often search for inspiration outside a pure jazz context. That might be local folkore or classical music, etc.
GLM: Do you have summer touring plans? Any new projects happening?
I’ll be touring this summer with my band Pocket Rhapsody. That album is out on ACT Music with Ben Monder and Justin Brown. I’ll touring with a European line up this summer. I’ll also be touring with Ibrahim Maalouf.
There’s a new co-lead project called ‘Reverso – Suite Ravel’ I recorded with American trombonist and composer (and Greenleaf artist! ed.), Ryan Keberle, featuring French cellist Vincent Courtois and drummer Jeff Ballard. The music we wrote is inspired by Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin”, a suite for solo piano composed between 1914 and 1917, in six movements based on those of a traditional Baroque suite.
Not many composers have inspired jazz musicians as often or as intensely as Maurice Ravel who ironically was one of the first 20th century classical composers to acknowledge Jazz as a valuable inspiration. During his US tour in 1928 Ravel said, “You Americans take jazz too lightly. You seem to see it as a music of little value, vulgar and ephemeral. In my point of view, it is jazz that will give rise to the national music of the United States.” The album will come out in October on my new label Phonoart Records in Europe and on Alternate Side Records in the US. We’ll tour Europe in November and the US in December this year.
Dada People has been made possible through the French-American Jazz Exchange, a joint program of FACE Foundation and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with generous funding from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Institut Français, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication and Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique (“SACEM”).