#JazzPortraits: Paul Lay, a virtuoso with bold plans
Acclaimed by the press and public, in 2016 he won one of the highest honours that can be bestowed upon a jazz musician: the Django Reinhardt Award from the Académie du Jazz. Solo or in a trio, as a leader or sideman, (he has played with the Géraldine Laurent Quartet, Terez Montcalm, Riccardo Del Fra Quintet and Ping Machine), he offers bold new creative projects.
« Thanks A Million »: duo for Armstrong
Who can reinterpret Louis Armstrong better than Paul Lay, even though this jazz icon wasn’t even a pianist? His appreciation for the history of piano jazz, his harmonic intuition and his attentive listening make him the ideal partner for trumpeter Éric Le Lann. His black and white touches give Thanks A Million the swinging sound characterising the jazz trailblazer’s repertory. Taking inspiration from pioneering 1920s pianists like Earl Hines and Lil Hardin, Louis Armstrong’s first wife (“who ought to be better known” says Lay), he offers a personal reinterpretation of his greatest works. The duo plays two original compositions in homage to the great man.
Listen to cuts from the album “Thanks A Million”
Two trios for bold projectsAccompanied by the airy-voiced singer Isabel Sörlig and bass player Simon Tailleu, Paul Lay offers a new repertory: Deep Rivers. Playing for the first time last winter in Nantes at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of jazz in Europe, the tight trio performed great American folk songs and spirituals written between the end of the Civil War and the second half of the 20th century, including great classics by Nina Simone.
This project follows the trio’s album Alcazar Memories, which came out in February 2017. The album pays tribute to popular songs from Marseille and man’s love for nature. The lyrics were written by the singer in French, English and Swedish and the music was composed by the pianist supported by the BNP Paribas Foundation. Between compositions, improvisations and standards, (The Man I Love by Gershwin for example), the music whisks us off to an ethereal, almost cosmic world. The creativity and emotion of the pianist are palpable, complemented by the singer’s heavenly voice.
The pianist had already demonstrated his boldness by recording a double album grouping together Alcazar Memories and The Party. In another trio for his latest project, this time he is accompanied by his former teacher Dre Pallemaens on drums and Van de Feek on bass. His highly diversified playing is a festival of music: meetings, exchanging glances, tension and a declaration of love with a version of Chet Baker’s I Fall in Love Too Easily. Paul Lay composes, performs and covers wonderfully well. From his voluptuous waltzes to the fiery, almost adventurous energy of other compositions to sweet ballads, contrasts illustrate well the pianist’s verve and maturity.
New projects in the pipeline
Already at the top of his game, the Foundation’s support will allow Paul Lay to finish other projects he has cared about for a long time. For example, he’d like to do a new solo project and possibly write music for dance.
I have a very strong desire to bring dance and jazz together.
Photos All rights reserved Paul Lay ©Jean-Baptiste Millot