Many wonderful things to experience

Laia Genc is definitely a lifeaholic, like the title of the closing track of her latest album with her band LiaisonTonique entitled Talisman (2013, WismART), but mainly she’s a magnificent composer and piano performer. She lives and works in the rich Cologne music scene and plays all around the world with her own projects as well as a side performer. Laia graduated her studies in jazzpiano at the conservatory in Cologne/Germany. During her studies Laia lived in Paris for one year and studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. Her talent has been recognized by many European solo pianist prices and also jazz ensemble prices along with her project LiaisonTonique with Markus Braun on Bass and Etienne Nillesen on Drums, which is the heart of her work since 2005 having recorded and released three albums: Strandgut (2008, JazzHausMusik), Polyfangastronosia (2009, JazzHausMusik), this one under the name of Laia Genc LiaisonTonique 5, and finally the latest and already mentioned Talisman. The career of Laia Genc has many other ways and the proof is the recently released FOCUS (2014, konnex) under the name Duo Mattner / Genc along with the German tenor-soprano saxophonist, composer and arranger Stephan Mattner. As she says, she is “always interested in combining ideas, combining different styles of music and to grow them into something special”.

Why a LiaisonTonique?

For me this name indicates a "strengthening relation". Back when I founded my trio, I called it „Laia Genc Trio“. Very simple. I have a for me very important mentor. Honestly I don´t know where I would be now artisticly, if I never met him: Georg Ruby. He also released my first CD on the local Cologne label „Jazz Haus Musik“. And before we finished it and got it out to the world he said: „Hey, think about a more poetic name for your band!“ And so I was thinking, wanting something with an L in the beginning, I was living in Paris at that time, and here we still are now: With LiaisonTonique. For me it means that this is the one band I express my musical visions with. In this constellation it´s the most powerful the most authentic me.

And what’s your talisman?

The new album is my and the band´s TALISMAN. The LiaisonTonique is my talisman.

Where does your love for music come from?

I have no idea, it´s just have always been there. This passion, enthusiasm, this great love. I was always fascinated with music. I could always feel that urge to experience as much as possible about music. As a kid I had this one tape and there was this John Miles song: „Music was my first love“. I could not speak english back then, but I tried to sing along this song every time I played it and it still moves me every time I hear it.

And why did you choose jazz music?

As a possibility to create a very personal language. My second piano teacher Gernot Reetz got me in touch with jazz music when I was searching, gave me recordings to listen to. From the very beginning when I first got in touch with this art form, I am so fascinated how everyone in this field developes his / her very own way of expressing his musical visions. I just love the interplay in between rules, tradition, very complex structures, the constant research and the freedom of contributing your own sight of things.

Your first album with the trio was Trilogien released in 2005. How do you see your artistic evolution since then?

Oh well, I was part of a lot of projects, I collected a lot of musical and otherwise important experiences. I sharpened my understanding of what I think I might really be. I sharpened my „tools“. I feel now that I have more understanding of where I want to go, though this process will never end. I learned so many things since then, I still do. I feel that with my latest album „TALISMAN“ I again came closer to a sound, that I was searching for so long. Maybe this question is better answered by someone with an objective view...

Your repertoire focuses mainly in your own compositions. What are your main musical references?

I try to stay open minded and eared - so I have many influences! Originally I was very much influenced by the work of the great Bill Evans. His recording „You Must Believe in Spring“ was my first very favourite record. I think this Michel Legrand song is a very important talisman for me. ...Here is an insider information: My second name is Bahar, meaning spring. Then Keith Jarrett, I just adore his playing, John Taylor was my professor in Cologne and is a huge source of inspiration. Wow, there are SO MANY, a countless number of artists that I keep on exploring every day. I am still amazed how the world sounds now, sounded back then. I could do a long list of names that have and had impact on me. But the three I mentioned were maybe the most important keys to get me going. Apart from that, we all stand on the shoulders of giants as we know.

I guess the title of the debut album was because the band is a trio. What’s the role of the band on the composition process?

Exactly yes. The role of the band: It´s my instrument. I write down my ideas, but only during the work we do together the compositions finally become what they are. A lot of details come when we rehearse together. I still find out during rehearsing, how I exactly can play the tunes. So, the themes, the compositions are there, I made them up, I think about where I want solo spaces, what kind of solos, I think of atmospheres I want to create. But then everyone has to feel comfortable with the music. So it´s a natural process. It´s maybe comparable to a made to measure suite: It´s clear what sort of suite I want, but bringing it perfectly in shape is only possible with the individual measures. If you change one of the players, the band sounds different. It´s always astonishing.

Where’s the space for improvisation: only in the creative process or even in the recording sessions?

There is always a lot of space for improvisation, every time we play our program it will sound a bit different. That´s the fun about it. Would we record the CD now anew, it would sound different. I try to work very flexible. We play our repertoire, but the way it evolves can be very diverse. I have a stock of compositions by now for the band. When we play, I try to follow the energetic line that the situation offers us. A concert is always a happening as well, a performance. Some experience you share with everyone else in that particular situation. I see a recording a bit different though: It should work as well at home. When people choose to put it on. When there is only the recording, no concert situation. At home, the CD is more like an extract of our music, condensed to its core. Still, when we recorded it, there really was space for the unknown. It always is an undertaking to make a new recording, until it´s finally done, you don´t know how exactly it´s gonna be, I mean it´s final character.

In 2006 you released the duo album Handle with care along with Annette Maye. The name Pyroman duo is because you think creativity is like fire?

I think creativity can have a thousand faces, an endless number of ways to get there. For me it´s true: I often feel my energy like a fire, a vulcan inside. The name Pyroman Duo came up also for another reason: There is a scale called Roman Caz in Turkish music. There are also tunes called Roman Caz. As we were also referring to mediterranean music in that project, we thought this name was fitting to us, involving a part of that aspect in the name „Py-roman“. Annette Maye already had worked with wonderful Turkish musicians and kind of introduced me to this world back then. Together as players we were a very powerful setting, full of fire as well.

The second album of the trio was titled Strandgut, like the closing piece. Where did the inspiration come from?

”Strandgut“ is a particular German word for all the things, „the goods“ you can find on the sea shore, all the things the ocean would bring to the sands we walk. I asked English native speakers and there is a term like flotsom & jetsom, I hope I remember it right. Our German word though is also to be understood metaphorical. Like things that come up to your sight, the ocean of your life is washing up certain things, beloved people, situations to your life. It´s all there, right in front of you, you just have to see it, realize it, recognize the beauty of it. And actually I love the sea very much, I just love to be at the sea front, watch it, listen to it, walk the sands, so to me it means both: The concrete walk at the sea side and the metaphorical one.

In the album Polyfangastronosia the band became a quintet.

Well, yes. I decided to call every project of mine as a bandleader „LiaisonTonique“ - not to confuse people to much ... That part didn´t work out too well. And in the beginning it was my original trio plus two great musicians from France: Daniel Casimir and Alban Darche. In the end my original bass player went to NY and I was very happy that Sébastian Boisseau accepted and got on board. I still love the work we did then together, I consider this album to be very felicitous and I am still so proud these guys worked with me!

How do you see the jazz scene right now?

Ouh, what a big question! I don´t know, if I can answer this. What I know is, that there are so many really great things going on, so many great musicians, all over the world, that are involved and / or related to this music. More than ever before I would say. Bringing the music further. „The Jazz scene“ is a difficult term anyways. Jazz has become a huge field of so many stiles, voices, visions. What I can see is many many brave musicians, all so capable of what they do, it´s a pure joy to follow, there is so much going on, that you cannot follow everything. It might be comparable to the world of fashion. There is hardly any longer such a thing as a style that you choose in order to express a certain membership. You can mix, the 50ths with the 80ths, punks, hippies. It´s more about your personal way to handle all these informations. So maybe my answer is: The Jazz Scene is open, as the other genres are. Good music is good music is... Go find out!

Are you a Lifeaholic?

I hope so! I try to be. We all know that the balance of what we do is the important part. I am balancing, at times successful, at times struggling, everybody knows that feeling I guess.

Could you tell us a dream?

This may sound idealistic, rare and a bit far from reality, but: My dream clearly is paradise on earth. Peace, happiness, healthyness for every single being. I strongly believe and dream on that it is possible. That there is a place for everyone. Our mothership earth offers us so much beauty, there are so many wonderful things here to experience in our lifetimes. Why not focus and work on this as the main subject?

Laia Genc | Videos here

An interview by Juan Carlos Romero
Laia Genc website
Photo courtesy of Laia Genc
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