Twin brothers, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Louis Moutin came to jazz early. Born to jazz enthusiast parents in Paris, the two began playing together as young children, forming the deep musical bond that has led them to their present day international recognition, both as individual players and a team.
Though Francois currently resides in New York and Louis in Paris, they continue to work together often, having recently released the critically acclaimed album, Red Moon , for which they will be touring through the U.S. in the near future.
It was my distinct pleasure to speak with the Moutins about their current projects, musical development, and unique musical relationship. While Francois and I were able to speak on the phone, Louis Moutin, having returned to Paris, was unable to join the conversation directly. Fortunately, Louis was able to respond in brief to several questions submitted to him in writing. These comments have been placed at the conclusion of the Francois Moutin interview.
All About Jazz: Your latest release, Red Moon , really highlights your working relationship with your brother. [ed.note: Louis Moutin] You both contributed four compositions, and you can just hear it on the album that you guys play together seamlessly. I wanted to start there and ask how you both became so involved in music.
FM: We started listening to jazz as soon as we were born because our parents were jazz fans. Our father had thousands of jazz records and we picked the early jazz. He had records going form Jelly Roll Morton to whatever was the most modern stuff in the sixties when we were born. So we were listening first to Jelly Roll and Bix Beiderbecke. We were big fans of Fats Waller. Also my mother played piano by ear. Not professionally at all. She was a photographer, a fashion photographer actually. Her father also played piano by ear so there was a kind of tradition of listening and playing music in the family. She also played a little bit of guitar. She had the basic chords and she showed that to me. So I picked up the guitar first and my brother played piano. We would listen to Fats Waller and Bix Beiderbecke and we’d play them. You know, trying to pick the chords, you understand. I would say we started playing together when we were five years old. We started playing early jazz the way we could because we had no real training really except for the fun of doing it. But I would say that playing together, at least we had to play in rhythm.
FM: What I mean is the starting point was having fun and we’ve kept that through all these years.
AAJ: So you’ve always been involved in jazz music—it wasn’t a turn towards jazz?
FM: Right. We didn’t—like many people—begin with listening to rock and roll or pop music and then go to jazz from that. Louis and I started listing to pop and rock when we were something like 18 years old. Not before. Before that we hated it. We only thought that jazz was the real music. Also with classical. It took us a long time to like classical. We were really jazz freaks. Maybe it was also a reaction against the fact that no one else knew a bit about jazz . I mean, you know, then all of France didn’t know about jazz. They were only listening to pop music and we were so much in love with jazz.
AAJ: Were you always both equally interested in playing?
FM: Oh yeah, yeah. At one point I kept playing guitar and my brother stopped playing piano for a little while because he had been offered by our parents as a birthday present a little snare drum and a little hi-hat and a little cymbal, so we had this duet. I was playing guitar and he was playing drums and we were both singing...By the time we were seven years old, our parents started bringing us to jazz clubs. The first sets. We were not hanging until two in the morning.
But we could see people play live. Great people actually because some great musicians were coming to Paris from America to perform and also the French jazz scene was starting to be good in the late sixties and early seventies. We started learning how to play watching these guys and listening to them live because that’s something different from the records. You have to have this sensation to really perceive what the music is all about.
AAJ: I agree. The industry can put out as many albums as it wants, but there still has to be a focus on going out and seeing people live. There’s just something different. Everyone I’ve ever taken to a concert—even if they were professed jazz haters beforehand—they leave saying ‘Wow. That was great.’ You can play an album and that might not happen, but take them to a club and something changes.