The All Stars Festival took place from June 25th to August 3rd at the legendary club The New Morning in Paris. No surprises (look at the name of the event again), the programme was purely made up of stars: Charles Lloyd, Lucky Peterson, Roy Hargrove, Avishai Cohen, etc... They were playing successively throughout the month of July, giving high quality gigs!
This high level festival was, for me, the perfect opportunity to meet superstar saxophonists, and also to see some old friends :). Here is a report of these crazy last weeks!
July 4th - The Herbaliser
I first met the saxophonists of The Herbaliser two years ago during the Jazz à la Villette festival. It was a very important day for me. We were just starting the Syos adventure and I wanted them test mouthpieces before their show at Le Cabaret Sauvage. Unfortunately, the band had trouble with the Channel tunnel and was stuck in a traffic jam. They ended up arriving at the club at 8:00 pm, just one hour before the show. They couldn't do the soundcheck because the audience was already there, they had to eat something... Okay, not the best start. But at 8:20 pm, James said "Hey Pauline, we shall we test the mouthpieces then?". I gave them a few mouthpieces, and they both found models they loved. We checked the time: it was 8:45 pm, we had just enough time to take a picture together and I went to the side of the stage. 9 pm, the show began, and the two saxophonists played Syos mouthpieces!
From this day on, we have been working with James Morton to improve his mouthpiece and to make it even closer to his expectations, allowing him to get the "Funky Sound" he likes so much. And it was a great pleasure to hear him again, two years later in the New Morning atmosphere. And I can tell you he rocks with this mouthpiece!
July 24th - Joshua Redman
Okay, I don't have to introduce Mr. Joshua Redman to you... You can imagine my face when he answered my text, telling me that he wanted to test my mouthpieces ;)
So I met Joshua Redman backstage at the New Morning. He was playing the same evening as Billy Hart (but his name was bigger on the bill!). We talked a lot about his tone, his preferences for very focused sounds but without the brightness that often ensues, which can be a little troubling at first (it's like the sound of John Coltrane). Then we tested several different mouthpieces, and his feedback was very interesting. Finally we found a mouthpiece that was just right, with a small chamber (which is appropriate to get a more focused sound, you can read the article on the saxophone mouthpiece chamber), and a fairly low baffle which provides the resistance that Joshua likes. And the result is very cool, you can hear it for yourself:
We're going to work together again because Joshua needs even more resistance (he found all the Syos mouthpieces to be too free-blowing) and I didn't have the perfect one with me that day. So, to be continued...
July 26th - The Skatalites
Let's see another great legend, but in a complitely different style! The Skatalites is THE reference band for all those who love Ska. They are the Fathers of this genre. And on this very very hot Thursday, I had the chance to meet the saxophonist who had been touring with them for over 8 years: Zem Audu. It was the complete opposite of Joshua Redman, we tested a lot of mouthpieces with large chambers because he likes big sounds with a fat lower end. We chose a high step baffle to get the projection, and the result was an extremely powerful mouthpiece, so powerful that we called it The Monster. Zem Audu not only plays Ska but also jazz music. His Syos mouthpiece remains very flexible so he can also show us the "quiet" side of the Monster, playing a track from his last album Spirit. And by the way, you have to listen to this album, it's fantastic!
July 27th - Kyle Eastwood
After losing 3 litres of sweat the day before, I'm coming back to the New Morning to meet Brandon Allen, a British saxophonist who plays in the Kyle Eastwood quintet. With Brandon, we created a blend between Joshua Redman and Zem Audu, because we opted for a mouthpiece with a medium chamber and with a medium baffle too. And to mix things up a little, we explored soprano mouthpieces. Brandon Allen wanted to have more power while keeping a very dark tone. The best soprano mouthpiece for the job? A mouthpiece with a very large chamber and a curved baffle. And it was so right that he played the mouthpiece that the evening for the show!
This is the end of your little summary of the All Stars Festival. Thanks a lot to James, Joshua, Zem and Brandon for these really cool times together. And let's meet again for the next festival: Jazz à la Villette :)