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Interviews

Louis Sclavis: Maps of the Mind

By Published: August 13, 2012
"The promoters today are a little bit afraid," Sclavis ventures. "They are afraid of many things. They don't trust the public enough. The public is able to understand and to listen to every kind of music. Promoters think the public is a little bit stupid and doesn't have a lot of culture and needs something very simple with very famous musicians. But this is wrong. In every country, at every festival. there is a public that is curious and ready to take a risk to hear something new and to hear something different. But the big festivals in Europe continue to program always [pianists] Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
and Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
. There are two big festivals in France, and it's always these kinds of musicians who play there. It's a pity, because it's good to have a mix."

Sclavis' complaint will no doubt resonate with the more outré groups who feel they haven't got a snowball's chance in hell of getting exposure at the big jazz festivals, but Sclavis refuses to fall into the trap of self- pity. "When you play this music, you can't complain," he says. "When you decide to play this music, you know that you will have to fight and fight all your life. To today's musicians, I say, 'Don't complain, fight!' If you begin to complain, this is the end. And you shouldn't complain because you made this choice. Nobody obliged you to do this. So, it's important to fight for everything. Every morning when I wake up, I fight. But I don't complain."

While Sclavis doesn't lack fight, he also remains utterly realistic regarding the sociopolitical and socioeconomic climate in which musicians—like everybody else—have to work. "Twenty years ago, the political and social situation was very different," says Sclavis. "We thought that the future would be better, and today everybody knows that the future will be worse," he says, laughing. "Today, the mentality is that everybody is a little bit afraid to lose their job, and the arts situation is connected directly to the political and social situation. We are not in the clouds in the sky. We are in the reality, and the reality today— especially in Europe—is very bad. The promoters are also in this world, and there is less and less money from governments in all of Europe in the arts. In France, the government has cut almost 25 percent in the arts. The situation is quite difficult, so I think we have to fight some years more."

Louis Sclavis L'Affrontements des pretendentsAfter 40 years composing for duos, clarinet trios and jazz quartets, after decades exploring improvisation, composing for cinema and multimedia projects, the question arises: what musical ambitions remain for Sclavis? "I am ambitious when I meet new musicians," Sclavis explains. "I want to continue this trio but in a new project with the percussionist Keyvan Chemirani, an Iranian classical percussionist. We did a concert with him this year, and it was very good.

"I never have big project ambitions," expands Sclavis. "I don't dream of playing with 30 musicians or anything like that. I just need to meet one musician, and if it's a good one at the right time, for me, it's perfect. Not only musicians, because I work a lot with comedians, with writers, and I also do photography. I have a new exhibition in September with my photos, and I am quite excited about this. My father was a photographer, so I've been into photography since I was born. It's like composing music, for me," he explains. "The last two ECM CDs, Sources and Lost on the Way, are my photos. I am very proud to have my own photos on ECM covers."

As with every other project Sclavis has turned his hand to, photography presents another challenge, another leap into the unknown. "It's something new for me. Perhaps I am more proud of this than the music," Sclavis says, laughing. He's probably kidding, but who knows? They'd have to be some damned good photographs, that's for sure.

Selected Discography


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