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Wajdi Cherif

Pianist, composer and band leader

About Me

A native of Tunisia, Wajdi Cherif grew up playing by ear Arabic and pop music he heard on the local radio starting at age 5. His interest in jazz began late in his 20's when he discovered pianists Chick Corea, Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk by watching their live performance videos at the American cultural center in Tunis while he was studying English language and Literature at college. This marked a turning point in his musical career as he decided to explore jazz piano and composition even further. Wajdi Cherif made his debut as a professional jazz pianist in 1998 when he played with Tunisian jazz musician Fawzi Chekili in many venues and festivals in Tunisia. This was a significant opportunity for Wajdi Cherif to meet and play with international jazz artists on tour in the country back then.
 Few months later, Wajdi Cherif played the premiere of a jazz legend, Archie Shepp during the "Jazz in Tunis" festival. Determined to explore the world of jazz piano even further, he traveled to France to meet pianist Bernard Maury at the Bill Evans Piano Academy in Paris where he studied Jazz piano and harmony for few years there. During those years, his meetings with great jazz pianists such as Kenny Werner, Chick Corea Ahmad Jamal, and Martial Solal shaped significantly both his vision of music and of playing piano and Jazz in general. Wajdi Cherif recorded his first album "Phrygian Istikhbar" in Paris in 2003 accompanied by Diego Imbert on acoustic bass, Jeff Boudreau on drums and Habib Samandi on Arabic percussion. "Phrygian Istkhbar" was finalist in the Indie Acoustic Awards in the USA in 2004 and got positive reviews. Three years later, he recorded his second album entitled "Jasmine" with some of the finest young French jazz musicians, released in 2006 in France. "Jasmine" shows the maturity and excellent artistic standard that pianist and composer Wajdi Cherif has accomplished so far (Honorable mention in the International Songwriting Competition (Judges included Sonny Rollins, John Scofield, Steve Vai), Indie Acoustic Project winner Best CD of 2005, UNISONG songwriting Contest 1st place winner, etc.). Wajdi Cherif was selected in 2006 to enter the prestigious Martial Solal International Jazz Piano competition in Paris. Wajdi Cherif continued to build with his music a solid bridge between two worlds, jazz and Arabic music. He released in 2008 his 3rd album, entitled “Fuzzy Colors”, an exploration of jazz fusion through personal compositions that integrates all his musical influences. His distinctive performances as a leader in many renowned venues in Tunisia, France and Canada received critic's acclaim. Highlights include the Tabarka Jazz Festival (Tunisia), The “Institut Du Monde Arabe (Paris), The Jazz Festival of Reims (France), Theatre des Champs Elysées (Paris), the Tanjazz Festival (Morocco), Jazz In Carthage (Tunisia), Théatre Maison Neuve (Canada). Wajdi Cherif has been active on the Paris jazz scene and played in many jazz clubs such as The “Duc des Lombards”, the “Sunset/Sunside” and the “Baiser Salé”, to name a few. SELECTED PRESS QUOTES: This CD was Described as "An interesting innovation on the musical and artistic scene in our region" in the Tunisian newspaper TUNIS HEBDO. It features a unique and contemporary blend of jazz, Arabic, and Tunisian rhythms and sounds by one of the finest pianists on the Tunisian musical stage... REVIEWS ABOUT THE CD: "Tunisian pianist Wajdi Cherif with his CD EP Phrygian Istikhbar, while retaining the flavour of his native country's music, places more emphasis on the jazz tradition, resulting in a fresh new sound that brings a different slant to the concept of world music". John Kelman (www.jazzreview.com) "On the short programme of Phrygian Istikhbar, Cherif covers a lot of territory. From the romantic solo piece "Tunis by Night" to the bendir-driven title track to the Bill Evans-informed, lightly-swinging "Waiting for Paris", Cherif shows himself to be a diverse and interesting composer and performer". John Kelman (www.ejazznews.com) "I like fusions and mixing genres and have to say it didn't disappoint. Cherif is a young pianist and composer who has a clear vision of how he can merge the melodies and rhythms of Tunisia with the verve of a jazz quartet". Paul Donnelly (www.jazzreview.com) "Each composition is opened with a typical Tunisian musical style or sound but moves gradually to harmonies charged with the imagination and the [musical] sensitivity of [pianist] Wajdi Cherif." TUNIS HEBDO June 2003.

My Jazz Story

Published on: 2018-11-12

There is a freedom and a sense of exhilaration in Jazz that is not found in any other music. Jazz is about finding freedom and a personal voice within a structure, and that is what appeals to me most. I had a late start in jazz. I was first exposed to jazz without any formal training by watching videos of Bill Evans, Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk in my 20's. Later, I met Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Werner, Chick Corea, Martial Solal, Bernard Maury, Fred Hersh, Barry Harris, among many other musicians over the years. The first jazz record I bought was Keith Jarrett, "The Melody at Night, with You" and it is still one of the solo piano masterpiece in my view. My advice to new listeners... Just enjoy it!

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