Take Five With Remy Le Boeuf
Remy Le Boeuf was born in Santa Cruz, California, and in 2004 he moved to New York City where he and his twin brother, Pascal, perform regularly with Le Boeuf Brothers-a modern jazz group known for blending jazz with classical, indie-rock, and electronic influences. On their latest album In Praise of Shadows (Nineteen-Eight Records), the Le Boeuf Brothers expand upon the jazz tradition by continuing to sculpt their compositions after the initial recording process, using modern production techniques, sampling, and layered arranging/ recording methods.
Remy received his Bachelors and Masters of Music degrees from the Manhattan School of Music while unofficially studying philosophy and anthropology at Columbia University. In 2011, he received a Chamber Music America (CMA) New Jazz Works Commission to write a chamber work based on "A Dream," by Franz Kafka. In addition, he received a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) Astral GrantYoung Jazz Composer Awards, and has won Independent Music Awards in both Jazz and Eclectic categories.
Alto saxophone, oboe, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone.
Teachers and/or influences?
Teachers: Dann Zinn, Dick Oatts, J. Mark Stambaugh.
Influences: Wayne Shorter, Brian Blade Fellowship, Charles Mingus, Björk, Dave Holland Quintet, Danilo Perez, Sufjan Stevens, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I knew I wanted to be a musician when I was 15 years old and I got invited to play in the California All-State Jazz Band. I made a lot of new friends (some of whom I still play with), I got to play music on a higher level than in my ever before, and more than anything this gave me the confidence and courage to pursue jazz music seriously. I was fortunate to have grown up in a community with so much support for jazz education.
Your sound and approach to music:
I see music as a language of emotions and I do my best to converse within that language with the musicians I share the stage with, in order to give the audience something that speaks to them. I approach my identity on the saxophone as something synonymous with my personal identity.
Your teaching approach:
My teaching approach is different from student-to-student. It is imperative that students practice, listen, and actively achieve their goals. As I see it, students teach themselves, and as a teacher I am only a guide. I also emphasize awareness of yourself and those around you.
Your dream band:
I would love to play with Brian Blade, Danilo Perez, Ambrose Akinmusire and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Their work as leaders, composers, and sidemen continually moves and astounds me. Björk is another artist I dream of working with or simply meeting someday.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
In 2010, I was on tour with Le Boeuf Brothers boarding a flight out of New York. I was with our tenor player, Mike Ruby, and at the ticket counter the woman told Mike that he must check his saxophone. Mike has a giant red saxophone case, and it is very sturdy. But as all musicians know, checking an instrument is a sure way to get it badly damaged. After arguing with this woman for five minutes, as people were boarding the plane, Mike and I decide to just agree with her, then they'll let us through, and we can argue with the next airline representative.
As we get to the door of the plane, a baggage carrier tells us to leave the saxophone and she will carry it down to be checked after carrying down a baby stroller. We "agree" and as soon as she leaves, I push mike onto the plane with his saxophone saying, "Go go go!" As we get on the plane we put it in an overhead compartment right away and shut it closed. One very friendly flight attendant sees what is going on and becomes our secret ally. Once everyone is seated, the flustered woman from the ticket counter comes onto the plane and starts asking people if anyone has seen a "red guitar case" to which Pascal replies, "no guitar case." As the flight continues, the friendly attendant repeatedly tries to flirt with Mike, but clearly with no success. The attendant was a man.
I love the 55 Bar. They have been very supportive of my music from the beginning of my career. I love the sound of the room-it has a certain special vibe that I easily identify on the bootleg recordings I listened to while in college.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
The new Remix album the Pascal and I are nearly finished with. We will be releasing it in January 2013!
The first Jazz album I bought was:
Mingus Ah Um, by Charles Mingus.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
That's not for me to decide.
Did you know...
I am the voice of Leo, the main character from the PlayStation 2 game, "Zone of the Enders." I am also the voice of "The Brain" on several "Arthur" CD-Rom games, and "Donny" on the "Eliza and the Wild Thornberrys" CD- rom game. I am also an avid mushroom hunter and spent years as a member of the Santa Cruz Fungus Federation.
CDs you are listening to now:
Al Green, Lay It Down (Blue Note);
Andrew Bird, Oh! The Grandeur (Rykodisc;
Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi, Think Thoughts (Independent;
Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (Sony Classical;
Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note).
Desert Island picks:
Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring;
Wayne Shorter, Beyond the Sound Barrier;
Prefuse 73, One Word Extinguisher;
Kurt Rosenwinkel, Heartcore;
Bela Bartok/Takács Quartet, Bartok String Quartets.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
The jazz tradition is branching out and fusing with other contemporary elements thus producing some beautiful results.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Music that is inspired by life communicates something to its listeners, whereas music inspired purely by its own tradition can be enjoyed only with knowledge of that tradition. I think that musicians need to put themselves into their music in order to engage today's audience. Merely spewing vocabulary of the past that was the original expression of another artist (no matter how lauded) is less personal-an easy thing to hide behind. All the different traditions we draw on are things to be incorporated certainly, but not things to hide behind. I believe that as long as jazz musicians are playing about something rather than just playing then the music will be well received and will have a secure future.
What is in the near future?
On November 15, 2012, in New York, I will premier A Dream: The Musical Imagination of Franz Kafka at the Jazz Gallery with Le Boeuf Brothers + Myth String Quartet. The piece focuses on the structural and narrative power of Kafka's short story, "A Dream," in order to evoke a blurry dreamscape of enchantment, inevitability, and one's struggle with self- perception. A Dream: The Musical Imagination of Franz Kafka has been made possible with support from Chamber Music America's 2011 New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development program funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
What's your greatest fear when you perform?
The giant mutant spiders with lasers that want to feast on my brains.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
"Return to You" by Pascal Le Boeuf.
What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
Anything by Ace of Base.
Composer and coffee drinker.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
Mycologist or anthropology professor.