French Beginnings Inform the Lovely “Fifty-Fifty New York Sessions” from Pierrick Pédron

Turning 50 is as good a milestone as any to decide to create something new and very personal. Sax player Pierrick Pédron has recently released “Fifty-Fifty New York Sessions,” nine powerful tracks that sail along with style and grace. The wispy, quick “Mr. Takagi” is lightly packed with tasty bites of piano riffs and steady percussion; a song where the sax is the lace-like glue leading the way. With sassy and surgical harmonies, “Boom” is another fast flight, and “Be Ready” with its important sax statements calls out respectfully to Coltrane’s “Central Park West.”  On sax, Pédron uses falls, trills and embellishments to give each tune its “pretty” while having composed songs that are inventive and involving.

Why were you drawn to sax?

First, my family was playing popular French music in Brittany every weekend. My sister at this time was playing the accordion. I was six but my mother decided to put me on saxophone.

My sister’s music teacher also played sax, so it was easy for me to learn with him! 

What was your early training like and what tips stuck with you the most?

The French popular songs were a very good school for me. Of course, that was not jazz, but the harmonic foundation was very important for my future with jazz.

Looking back at your career so far, what have been the moments where you grew significantly as an artist?

I never asked myself that question. 

Since I was a kid, I knew I found my vocation. My father was working on cars. When I was a teenager, he wanted me to work also with him. I tried but my heart was with the music. 

I decided at 17 to be a full-time musician. My parents knew at this time I would be a musician and nothing could change that. I went to Paris and the dream came and I attended a jazz school in Paris. They helped me a lot!

Who are some of your sax idols and why?

Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt and John Coltrane. Genius has the power to change your world.

How did you meet the members of your ensemble?

That was a long discussion with my producer Daniel Yvinec. At the time when we were speaking about the CD and who we could invite, I was listening to Mark Turner, Cecile Mc Lorin and Brad Meldau. The musicians in the session – Marcus Gilmore, Sullivan Fortner, and Larry Grenadier – played with these artists and I really love the way they play! 

Daniel and I decided to ask them if they were okay with a recording session and it worked. We had fantastic communication in the studio, and all the cats were so kind and inspired.

The fifth element is James Farber. What a chance to work with him! His sound is totally fantastic. Daniel worked with them a few years before, so the guys knew each other.

What inspired this new CD and why do you have an affection for NYC? 

Japan inspired me a lot. I have a wonderful family there. I often go to Japan for tours with the Yutaka Shiina 5tet. Probably my second country. In this album, there are a lot of Japanese song names.

New York is also very special to me. I can remember my first time in this city. That was a shock! In October 1999, I stayed there for three months, jamming every day. That was a dream for me. 

Also, I had this fantastic chance to record in Brooklyn in 2006 with Mulgrew Miller, Lewis Nash, and Thomas Bramerie for my album “Deep in a Dream” and I wanted to do it again in 2020. 

How does this album differ, musically, from the scene in Paris, which will be the subject of your next album in the fall?

I love music and not only jazz! The album is a 50/50 is a mix of all my influences. The NY one is totally acoustic and very jazzy. The French CD is in more of a Motown tradition.
For my 50th birthday, it is a result of these influences.

I don’t like to record twice the same album twice. I like surprises, and I want it also for the people who will be listening to these two records.

How did you work around the challenges of COVID to produce this album?

By chance these records were done before COVID. We decided to release them in 2021. Now, we don’t really know what tomorrow brings. So we had to make a decision.

The New York recording session was on January 20, just before the disaster. We were very lucky. 

What was the most fun part of making this CD?

The process of composing the songs is very special. I decided to record myself with my phone, playing the saxophone. Just playing without chords or structures. A totally free way. Then I picked up my free solos and I harmonized different parts with Laurent Courthaliac.

Also, the meeting with the musicians of the CD was a lot of fun. When you are in a studio with musicians you’ve never played with, you don’t really know what is going to happen. Totally exciting!!

Where do you go in your head when you compose?

Good question but hard to answer. It depends on so many things. I keep trying and when it seems okay, I write it on paper. If it’s not bad to me, I record it. 

What tracks are your favorites, or do you have different ones at different times?

I like “Be Ready” and “Sakura” a lot. 

Is your performing schedule picking up this year?

It depends on COVID. I can’t wait for the day when musicians can play again. This situation is horrible …

Why do you love creating music?

Each record is a step in your life. When you take a look back, you can remember what was your life at that time. It’s like a witness. That’s one of the reasons I love to create music!

Other comments?

I hope people will like the CD!! :))

For more information visit http://www.pierrickpedron.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

(c) 2021 Debbie Burke

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