After having established himself as a first-call bassist on the European scene (performances with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Brad Mehldau, Michel Legrand and others), jazz bassist Clovis Nicolas moved to New York in 2002. Since then, he has shared the stage in numerous venues (Jazz Standard, Smalls Jazz Club, Blue Note, 55 Bar, Kennedy Center, Smoke, Jazz Gallery, Birdland, Alice Tully Hall, Dizzy's Club and others) with some of today's most prominent jazz musicians, such as Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Benny Golson, Grant Stewart, Harry Allen, Curtis Fuller, Benny Powell, James Williams, Peter Bernstein, Joe Magnarelli, Sachal Vasandani, Simon Shaheen, Carl Allen, Jane Monheit, Lewis Nash, Kenny Washington, Hubert Laws, Donald Vega and Dan Nimmer..
He is featured on more than fifteen critically acclaimed recordings, including Josh Brown' The Feeling of Jazz, alto sensation Dmitry Baevsky's Some Other Spring, as well as on Belmondo's Hymne au Soleil, which won three Jazz Grammy Awards in 2004 and sold more than 20,000 copies. He recently recorded on pianist Laurent Courthaliac's Pannonica , sharing the bass chair with jazz legend Ron Carter.
Clovis recently graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School with both a Bachelor and a Master of Music.
Teachers and/or influences?
My first teacher was Mr Fabre, a classical bass educator in Avignon, France. As far as jazz is concerned, there was no great school where I come from, so I was mainly self-taught. I ended up touring with British alto player Peter King at the very beginning of my career, which was the best school for me. Later on, when I moved to New York, I decided to go back to school at Juilliard, where I studied bass with Ron Carter. I also took some private lessons with Ben Wolfe, Peter Washington and Kendall Briggs for composition.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
When I walked in for my first lesson with my classical teacher, Mr Fabre, he immediately asked me to sight-read a D major etude on the bass. After two minutes, he told me "You will become a professional bassist, now you need to work!" Later on, my parents told me that I used to listen to my 45 RPM LPs so much as a child that they had to buy me new ones after two months. I've just been into music from a very early age.
Your sound and approach to music:
I really like jazz, its history, its sound and most importantly the swing feel. There is nothing more fascinating to me than the sound of bass and drums together, creating that unique sound over which everything else is built on. Moreover, I love harmony, melodic lines, chord progressions that make sense, structure, tonalities.
Your dream band:
I don't have a specific dream band in mind, but there are some musicians I would love to playor play againwith. If I was to name one on each instrument, I would say Roy Haynes, Tom Harrell, Peter Bernstein, Brad Mehldau, Grant Stewart.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Recently, I was playing with a quartet of New York musicians, in a small city in Switzerland called Vevey. The gig was a two weeks run, playing every night in the same venue. The odds were against us, as we were told that it would be impossible to fill up the place in such a small city for that long. Five people came the first night but, by the end of our residency, thanks to the word of mouth and the music, the place was sold out every night.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
Charlie Parker, The Complete Dial Sessions. While I was listening to this recording, I was reading the book Bird, by Ross Russell. In two weeks, I completely switched my musical taste and I got myself immersed in jazz, a music that I was just discovering at that time.
Did you know...
I have a Degree in Philosophy. As a teenager, I was tired of not always having the last word during my conversations with my friends, so I decided to study philosophy. It opened my mind and awareness, and it gave me a great method I still rely on sometimes.
CDs you are listening to now:
Phineas Newborn, Here is Phineas (Atlantic);
Peter Bernstein, Monk (Xanadu);
Coleman Hawkins, Chronological (Allegro);
Emerson Quartet, Beethoven: The Late Quartets (EMI);
Sonny Rollins, Plus 4 (Prestige);
Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters (Verve).
What is in the near future?
I have a busy schedule as a freelance bassist in New York. I also work with a few steady bands, like the Carlos Abadie 5tet (a live album is on its way), the Anderson Twins Sextet and Octet, Samora Pinderhughes' Transformations Suite" (to be released soon). I also recorded with pianist and long time friend Laurent Courthaliac last year, next to Ron Carter. The CD will be released on the French label Jazz Village. Besides my activities as a sideman, I recently went to the studio to record my own music, a sextet featuring some originals and arrangements of mine.
Practicing, writing music, taking care of business, and usually going to my gig at night.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.