10 May 2024


12 April 2024

Encore with the Rhodes MK8/75AE

30 March 2024

Improvisation on the Rhodes MK8/75AE Electric Piano

08 March 2024


Piano Day Vol. 3Piano Day Vol. 3

I’m happy to announce the release of my new piece Kiss as part of the Piano Day Compilation Vol. 3.
You can listen to Kiss now on the platform of your choice, and you can pre-save the full album here (to be released on March 28th).
I posted some infos about Piano Day last month, but you’ll find below a few more words about this piece in particular.

Kiss was recorded with my upright piano and the Rhodes MK8/75AE, a very special limited edition of their new Rhodes MK8 piano, that was recently offered to me by Rhodes. I am discovering the instrument and I wanted to create something special for Piano Day.
The idea was to play the Rhodes first, then the piano, and that the two of them blend in harmony. In this musical meeting, the Rhodes first starts the conversation unveiling the subject in play, while the piano joins and rises through a melody and an improvisation to tell more about the story.

01 March 2024

I’ve just finished reading Brad Mehldau’s book Formation: Building a Personal Canon. I hadn’t planned to read it but my friend Thomas recommended me to do so. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some memories here.

At the end of 2001, aged 16, I was in high school when I discovered the music of Brad Mehldau. It was Mrs Peyredieu du Charlat, the head of the school library at the Lycée Emile Loubet in Valence, a jazz fan, who recommended I listen to this pianist. At the time I’d been playing blues, boogie-woogie and ragtime for several years, and the pianists I was listening to were rather old-school. When I discovered this pianist, I jumped forward a few decades, and skipped an entire period of jazz that I would study a few years later. But there was a link: it was the blues, which was a clear influence in Mehldau’s music. So I immersed myself in his music in an intense way, going to the media library to get all his albums, which I encoded in my iPod and listened to every day on the bus to school. I’d play them over and over again, knowing all the tunes and solos by heart. I was trying to capture the essence of this new, modern way of playing the piano and playing with a trio. I recorded a TV jazz program (Jazz 6) on a VHS tape that broadcast, of course late in the night, his trio concert at the Jazz à Vienne festival the previous summer. Thanks to the video I was able to discover his physical involvement with the instrument, and as with other pianists I’d listened to, it was interesting to be able to make the link between a musician’s sound and the way he produces sound with his body. Sound has always seemed to me to be something inseparable from the rest of a musician’s musical vocabulary. Transcribing a solo, the phrasing, the time, the rhythmic placement, fine, but then reproducing the sound too. Digging Mehldau’s music (and jazz in general) was kind of a lonely hobby at school, but I finally found some interested buddies during recess and I could have nice talks with Florian Cellard, Maël Dieudonné and Joachim Bonifay-Sorin. At that time I took piano lessons at the Jazz Action Valence school, and there I was glad I could also share my findings and listenings with a few bandmates and my teachers, Pascal Faure, Joachim Expert and then Luc Plouton. I remember Joachim helping me with ear training and transcribing Mehldau’s tune Ron’s Place with the right chords, or Luc jamming with me on some other tunes. I also played London Blues in a duo with schoolmate and drummer Florian Cellard for a music exam for my high school diploma. Then around 18 years old I started playing with my first trio with François Perdriau on the bass and Stéphane Pardon on the drums, and we used to work a lot on odd meters based on some of Mehldau’s pieces or arrangements from the jazz repertoire. Alone Together played in 7/8 was our basis, but we often played with more complex meters, like 13/8 until 31/8, thanks to some crazy basslines from François.

In the summer of 2002, Mehldau was on the bill at Crest Jazz Festival close to our home in the south of France, I couldn’t miss it. And by chance my parents knew a festival volunteer, Claude, who agreed to let me come with her to pick up the trio at their hotel in Valence. I’d been listening to their music on repeat for a year, and I was really excited to meet my favorite band. In the hotel lobby, I met drummer Jorge Rossy, and we chatted for a while about piano, classical music, their upcoming concert in Marciac, steel drums and Othello Molineaux (at that time I played in a small band at the jazz school and Jean Tissot was playing the steel drums). He was always asking me questions, and I was happy that he was so interested in a young teenage pianist, who also didn’t speak English very well. Meanwhile, bassist Larry Grenadier was reading his newspaper. We had to wait half an hour before Mehldau joined us in the hall. He greeted us, and I remember our handshake; I found his hand very supple, and I thought to myself that it could help to be so relaxed to play the piano. He made a few shadow boxing moves towards Jorge. We were all ready to leave, but Larry Grenadier had disappeared. Jorge went to look for him in the hotel toilets, but to no avail. Larry had already left and was waiting for us in the parking lot. We all set off together in the same car towards the festival. I was happy to spend that half-hour close to my idols.

I was then able to attend the soundcheck. It didn’t last long, but I remember Mehldau warming up his fingers for a while, first with his left hand, before adding the other one, then Larry joining him in the middle, and finally Jorge when he’d finished setting up his drums. They played together for a while. I was amazed to hear them adapt so easily to each other, not knowing whether this moment of playing was based on an existing piece or a total improvisation. Shortly after they had finished, Sylvain, a classmate from high school who was one of the volunteers, came to see me. He asked me what I was doing here and which artist I had come to listen to. I told him about my afternoon, and about this musician I admired. He replied that he’d just stolen a cigarette from him, without knowing who he was. It was a Camel.

After an afternoon like that, the concert almost didn’t matter. My friends Bruno and Paul-Ugo joined me in the front row. From memory, the trio played the entire repertoire of their Anything Goes album. I remember one particular moment. There was a piece where Larry Grenadier had the score in front of him and looked at it from time to time. The concert was outdoors, and as is often the case in this region, it was windy. At one point, the score fell, and when Larry raised his head to see that the sheet was no longer in front of him, he stopped for a few seconds to pick it up. Shortly afterwards, the same thing happened, but this time the sheet fell under the piano, too far away to be picked up. Again, Larry looked up, and this time realized the problem. Mehldau quickly heard that something was wrong, and tried to play the bass on the piano to set Larry straight, but it wasn’t enough. The song was cut short and they quickly stopped. No matter, the audience applauded without necessarily understanding what had happened.

Mehldau’s autobiographical book traces his life and career up to the end of the 90s. In this formation in which he elaborates especially on his teenage years, some things resonated more than others, and I was reminded of those moments, those important encounters, and the time I had spent as a youngster listening to him and passionately working on the piano. It was my gateway to contemporary jazz, and certainly a part of my Bildung.

19 February 2024

An early sign of spring

Kind of a sequel to my new mini-album Syncline, a follow-up to the last track Basswood, and an early sign of spring.

16 February 2024

Piano Day Vol. 3

Piano Day Vol. 3Piano Day Vol. 3

I’m happy to be part of this year’s compilation of Piano Day that will be out on March 28th, and released by LEITER.
You can listen and pre-save the album here. The original piece I composed and recorded for this special event will be released as a single on March 8th.

Read below for more infos about the event and Piano Day Vol. 3, and visit this page.

Why does the world need a Piano Day?” Given that the instrument has been established in Western music for more than 400 years, it was a good question, but Nils Frahm also had a good answer: Because it doesn’t hurt to celebrate the piano and everything around it: performers, composers, piano builders, tuners, movers and, most important, the listener.” This was a fair point, well made, and, as one of those performers and composers, Frahm marked the occasion by commissioning the inaugural construction of David Klavins’ Modell 450, an extraordinary, vertical, concert grand piano. It can still be found proudly occupying most of a wall in Frahm’s Berlin studio.

Piano Day, an annual worldwide event founded by a group of like-minded people, takes place on the 88th day of the year — this year, it’s March 28 — because of the number of keys on the instrument being celebrated. The day aims to create a platform for piano-related projects (concerts, onstage and online, as well as radio shows, podcasts, and playlists every March) to promote the development of musical dimensions and to continue sharing the centuries-old joy of playing piano. Piano Day welcomes all piano lovers — young and old, amateur and professional, of any musical direction — to join in.

Following up on last year’s releases, LEITER will again share an official companion album for the upcoming edition, featuring acclaimed artists such as Hideyuki Hashimoto, Jean Kapsa, Hugar, Burçe Karaca, and Jakob Lindhagen: PIANO DAY VOL. 3 presents ten exclusive, previously unreleased tracks composed to celebrate the magic and versatility of the instrument.

For the new compilation, musicians from all over the globe were invited to contribute to a unique collection of contemporary piano music. Their melodies, harmonies, and arrangements reflect different stories, states of mind, even special recording situations, offering a wide range of musical and artistic backgrounds from jazz, ambient, and classical to more experimental approaches.

PIANO DAY VOL. 3 will be available for streaming and download via all platforms on March 28, offering a vivid and valuable snapshot of the state of piano music today.

19 January 2024

Read the press release:
Jean Kapsa: Echoing Jazz Innovation with Rhodes MK8/75AE Piano

09 December 2023

Syncline was on France Musique Open Jazz show on December 8th. Replay the show hosted by Alex Dutilh.

24 November 2023

New album: Syncline

Jean Kapsa, SynclineJean Kapsa, Syncline

I’m thrilled to announce the release of my new mini-album Syncline, on the Berlin-based label LEITER, founded by Nils Frahm and his long-time manager Felix Grimm.
It’s been a wonderful journey to work on this album surrounded by such an exceptional team, and it’s a great joy to join the LEITER family.

You can listen to Syncline today on the platform of your choice and on Bandcamp.

For more information, read below and visit this page.

French pianist and composer Jean Kapsa shares a beautiful mini-album, Syncline’, out on all digital platforms via LEITER. A collection of six solo pieces, it was recorded at night between September and November 2022 in Kapsa’s home in Paris on the piano his parents gave him when he was just 15 and which he still keeps in his living room, surrounded permanently by microphones. Most of it consists of first or second takes,” he says, usually recorded not too long after a piece’s composition — and often on the same day — so that the mood was the same. If I wasn’t happy after three takes, I usually gave up. I wanted the listener to be able to witness this intimate, fragile way of building an album made up of very new, personal, precious pieces.”

Syncline’ manages to be all those things: intimate, fragile, personal and precious. And it’s also performed with rare skill. Kapsa’s connection to LEITER dates back almost a decade to the loft he was sharing with seven other roommates in 2014. The place was really special,” he recalls, and one evening La Blogotheque came to film the band Real Estate with a little group of guests as the audience. I knew that a pianist friend of the producer had been invited to join us after the concert, but it was a surprise to see Nils Frahm arrive. Afterwards, while people were tidying up, I sat at my piano, the same one on which I’d later record Syncline’, and started to improvise. Nils came over and joined me for twenty minutes or so. You could say we introduced ourselves without words.”

So impressed was Frahm that he not only insisted Kapsa stay in contact, but also invited him to perform a duet, Hammers’, at the Philharmonie de Paris the following night for a show broadcast by ARTE. Afterwards, Frahm explained to the crowd how they’d met the previous evening: I was like, Who’s that? He’s way better than me!’” Still, it would be another eight years before they encountered one another again, though in the meantime Kapsa added to what was already a flourishing catalogue, with two solo albums, 2019’s Haïku’ and 2020’s Vespera’, joining 2012’s Improvisations’, not to mention multiple releases, before and since, with some of the many bands in which he performs. Over the years, you see, Kapsa has built up an impressive reputation in the French capital’s jazz scene, where he’s particularly appreciated for his improvisational skills.

releases November 24, 2023

Music by Jean Kapsa
Produced by Jean Kapsa
Mixed by Nils Frahm
Mastered by Zino Mikorey
Cover image by Klaus Frahm
Cover design by Torsten Posselt
Artistic support: Pauline Laulhe

11 October 2023

Here is a playthrough video with the Rhodes MK8/75AE.

07 September 2023

The stunning Rhodes MK8/75AE piano I won last year just arrived home yesterday, and I thought I’d write down a few thoughts. I spent a couple of hours playing with it and this experience was fantastic. I first got used to the touch of the piano - the keyboard action is excellent - and the physical sensation of feeling the hammers action and the vibration of the tines transmitted to the fingers is something truly special. I then experimented with all the piano’s functions, both in the preamp and effects sections - so many parameters and possibilities to explore, some bring us close to synthesis. Everything is very well thought out, well designed, and easy to use while playing. It feels like a very solid and complete instrument. This combination of an amazing sound, wonderful additions and a great design, makes this Rhodes an extremely inspiring instrument. Already, some new tunes emerged from this first session.

03 September 2023

I’ve discovered Anthony Williams’ album Spring (1965), and I really like what’s on it. The music was surprisingly reminiscent of a Tyshawn Sorey concert given at the Musée du Quai Branly in the early 2010s, although his energy was arguably closer to Elvin Jones at that performance. The direction taken left me with the impression of witnessing a group of sculptors coming together to make something fine out of the rock in front of them. This album exudes freedom.

02 September 2023

I just uploaded a new video where I’m jamming on the piano while testing the Chase Bliss Mood MKII effects pedal.

01 September 2023

I’ve just watched again Brazil directed by Terry Gilliam and released in 1985. I watched it for the first time probably 20 years ago and I had no particular recollection of it, except for the pipes. But today it’s different. What struck me most was the freedom of direction the film took in so many areas: the script, the characters, the simple madness and absurdity that subtly emanates around the film’s guideline, this B instead of T. In the film, there’s this separation between Sam Lowry’s dreams and reality, but you’d think it was all a dream. The almost mind-numbing repetition of the song paradoxically adds a layer of freedom. In the end, it’s this controlled freedom that brings us back to the theme of a totalitarian future.

12 June 2023

Nature’s Child

You can now watch Nature’s Child, a short film directed by Christina Amundsen, for which I composed the music.

In a world increasingly dominated by digital distractions, Nature’s Child’ encourages people of all ages to rekindle their relationship with nature.

The film won silver at Cannes Young Director Award for best Charity Commercial 2023, and is selected for Berlin Commercial Awards.

Nature’s ChildNature’s Child

23 January 2023


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