Whether playing with his twin brother Pascal or heading up his own projects, saxophonist and composer Remy LeBoeuf is always looking to expand his music in new directions. This Thursday at The Jazz Gallery, LeBoeuf will convene a band made up of close musical friends who haven’t played in this exact configuration before. LeBoeuf was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the group and his many concurrent projects.
The Jazz Gallery: You’re hitting The Jazz Gallery with Gilad Hekselman, Shai Maestro, Matt Clohesy, and Peter Kronreif. What were the circumstances of your putting that quintet together? Is this your working band?
Remy Le Boeuf: These are all musicians I’ve played with in various contexts over the years who have stood out to me as very natural interpreters of my music. In addition, they are all excellent improvisers who aren’t afraid to take risks and engage in collective musical conversation. We have all played together a fair amount over the years, though not in this context until now.
TJG: Tell me a little bit about the music you’ll be bringing. Are you doing most of the composition? Is this new music for you?
RBL: All the music is original, and some of it is new. I’ll be premiering a couple pieces I wrote while in Connecticut last month at the I-Park Artist Residency Program. I’ve always dreamed of having a little cabin in the woods with just a piano and a fireplace. Not only did that dream come true, but I had one of the most productive months of composing I’ve had in a long time.
TJG: Gilad just finished his composition commission for the Gallery, and he had Shai Maestro on that project. Have you worked much with the two of them?
RBL: After running into Gilad listening to or performing in nearly every show I saw last Summer, I asked him join me for a gig at the 55 Bar. I loved the chemistry with him in the band. Since then I’ve been looking for more opportunities to play together. I first met Shai back in the days of IAJE and have always enjoyed talking to him at shows. Later on we ended up playing a few jam sessions together, the most recent of which was this past Spring. After hearing him bring out so much beauty in my music while sight-reading one of my tunes it was very clear to me that I needed to set up more opportunities to play together. Shai has an uncanny ability to be immediately familiar while interpreting someone else’s vision, a skill that takes much maturity and understanding.
TJG: I read that you’ve been working on a project with poet Sara Hughes, and that you worked on the project during an I-Park Artist Residency. How did you meet Sara, and what’s the nature of the new project?
RBL: It’s funny you should mention Sara, we are working on a duet right now and I just spoke to her earlier today. Sara is a poet and English Professor at Middle Georgia State University. When we were first introduced at I-Park we discovered immediately that we are both identical twins. With my interest in literature, her interest in music, and our shared experience collaborating with our respective twins we began working together almost automatically. We don’t have a specific goal in sight at the moment, but we have written half a dozen songs together in the last month and we both intend to take our collaboration further as we get more familiar working together. I’ll be performing one of our songs on Thursday, but I won’t be singing it…
TJG: What made I-Park so productive for you, and what specifically did you take away from the residency? Did you develop some new approaches, work through some new material, get some listening in, or something entirely unexpected?
RL: The environment and community there are very creativity-inducing. It is a huge park in the woods of Connecticut where I lived with 7 other artists in various fields for a month. We enjoyed meals together, collaborated, and shared ideas every day while focusing on our work without distraction. The space is also filled with the art installations of past I-Park Fellows. Someone made a “floating living room” (boat) complete with desk and chair in the middle of a lake. There is nothing more peaceful than composing at a desk while floating on water, listening to bird calls and the wind in the trees. I wrote several songs with Sara, worked on my Suite for solo saxophone, and chipped away at a piece for big band called “Sibbian” that is dedicated to my brother and sister. It will be premiered next year at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
TJG: As if there weren’t enough exciting things to ask about, I see that you just participated in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. Do you have a big band project?
RBL: That’s correct. I am working on a few commissions for big band right now and I expect to release an album and put together a band called the “Assembly of Shadows Orchestra” in the next year or two. Although I never intended to pursue big band composition, some opportunities happened upon me and I now find myself addicted to the writing for large jazz ensemble. Last Summer I received a commission to write “STRATA” for Keio University in Japan and I had so much fun throughout the process that I decided to join the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. Since then I’ve written more pieces and received a few grants and commissions, one of which will take place at the Jazz Gallery Next year.
TJG: You and your brother Pascal still play together, most recently at the 55 Bar, and as winners of multiple ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards. Are there plans for a Le Boeuf Brothers release soon? Do you have any recordings coming up?
RBL: Our next Le Boeuf Brothers album will be out on New Focus Records on October 14th. Entitled “Imaginist,” it is a collaborative project with JACK String Quartet. The term is a reference to the early 20th century Russian poetry movement, Imaginism, which is based on montages of arresting images and metaphors. In addition to ourselves and JACK Quartet, the project features Ben Wendel, Justin Brown, Peter Kronreif, Ben Street, Martin Nevin, and Narrator Paul Whitworth. We will be touring the release in November 2016 throughout the US and Canada.
TJG: Tell me a little more about Imaginist—what’s the collaborative process with Pascal like, and how are the two of you jointly approaching a single album?
RL: This will be our fourth album together and I feel like we get better at working together each time. As is usually the case, Pascal and I wrote the music for this album independently of each other, and it isn’t too difficult to discern the differences in our writing styles. As people and as composers, I’d like to think that we are very much the same while also being quite different.
Saxophonist Remy LeBoeuf plays The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, July 21st, 2016. Mr. LeBoeuf will be joined by Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Shai Maestro on piano, Matt Clohesy on bass, and Peter Kronreif on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission ($10 for members). FREE for SummerPass Holders. Purchase tickets here.