Power Twins Unite: Francois and Louis Moutin
That was pretty much what I felt as a response. And also, the thing is after a while being in Paris, being a French jazz musician on the Parisian scene we were treated—all Parisian musicians, especially when they are young—are treated like local musicians and don’t get the respect they deserve. Even Jean-Michel [Pilc] was totally ignored by the French press and the French jazz business until he came to New York...That’s really one reason he and I came here.
And the second reason is through all these years I was performing in France and I had these occasions to play with great American players...who kept telling me, ‘Hey, Francois, you really should go to New York and see how it is because you’ll like it.’ I came to see at last, in maybe ’95, and I immediately loved it. I felt like—what’s missing in the Paris scene, at least at the time I came to New York, was this fluidity that jazz musicians do sessions everyday in their apartments. That brings a real thing where people can meet, and have their music played. I mean, after just one month in New York I could really do jazz sessions with a lot of great musicians, meet a lot of people, play music from other people, have other people play my music. I felt a great deal of enthusiasm and eagerness to play everyday from everyone here in New York. Then I started to have gigs. I really felt great and decided to stay.
AAJ: Was it difficult at first to play without your brother?
FM: It was. I was missing it. That’s true. But it was a good thing also. It helped us to pass a point musically. At one point, before I came here, our playing together was only determined by our symbiotic relationship. Because we played less together for a couple years, we went in different directions and met a lot of different people, so now that we play a lot together again it has become different. There’s still this symbiotic dimension, but it has acquired its right place and we came back into surprising each other more and that enriched our playing together. Not only in the music, but in the everyday life.
AAJ: I want to go back a little. We’re talking about your relationship with your brother, growing up together. So going back to your childhood, what’s the worst thing Louis ever did to you?
FM: Why do you want to know that?
AAJ: It could be funny?
FM: It is. It’s a funny story...there was this time when we were playing, I think we were ten years old or so, and we were big Oscar Peterson fans. We kept playing these duets. We were playing every day at home, and he was playing piano and I was playing guitar. I was a big fan of Wes Montgomery at that time. One day we were playing over a blues and his solo became too long to my ears and instead of being quiet and not saying anything I said, ‘Hey, can you end it so I can do a solo?’ And that made him very mad—this is so funny—so he stood up and punched me in the face.
FM: When we talk about it now we are laughing. But actually, he broke one of my teeth. We keep that as a symbol. Then, not long after that, I saw that Oscar Peterson was playing in Paris and I told my dad and asked if we could go...That was the first time I saw Ray Brown playing live. I was amazed. That changed my life. Seeing Ray Brown play with Oscar Peterson, I think that night I decided I would be a bassist...He was so swinging. There was so much pleasure listening to him and seeing him play. That’s what put the virus in me.
AAJ: So maybe it’s a good thing your brother punched you?
FM: I think it is. That’s true. It turned me to play bass. It helped me find my vocation.
But you know, all these things. Twins growing up together is a beautiful thing. Of course, I don’t know what it is not to have a twin brother. The benefit was to have always had this partner all these years, to [have] this feeling that you have this person you can always fit with...
AAJ: It’s such a special relationship. You can hear it, I think, in the music, that there’s some other level of understanding that you share.
FM: I wouldn’t be the musician I am without having had Louis there. Playing with a twin that I love. It’s true. I wouldn’t have been able to play jazz with someone since I was five years old. Which is different. When you approach an instrument at home and you are the only one, and you’re working on it by yourself I think it is less fun then having someone there who wants to do the same, wants to have fun like you. I think it is less painful.
All About Jazz: How did you and your brother become so involved with jazz?
Louis Moutin: As children, in the sixties, we had the chance to have many jazz records at home. From the earliest jazz (I was personally a big Fat’s Waller fan when I was six years old) to Miles, Coltrane, etc. We also had a natural instinctive relation with this music.