Ferdi, the French saxophonist who kicked the dust of instrumental music

We first see Ferdi on stage at the Rotonde du Botanique in Brussels, where the saxophonist accompanied rapper Ikhon for several titles. The musician is already impressed with his ease. In March 2022, we find him on stage at the Witloof Bar, still at Botany, where he is joined by trumpeter Besau. This time we discover the entire existence of the 26-year-old young man. And the last time was on the stage of the Ancienne Belgique last July, when he was invited to play two pieces by the French pianist Sofiane Pamart. Today he releases his first EP “Val Duchesse”. An instrumental album that dusts jazz with a modern sound, explodes all the codes of the genre.

Real name Ferdinand Lemoine grew up in northern France. He starts playing the saxophone at the age of six or seven because he loves it “Nice shape, sound. It’s a physical instrument, and that’s the attitude I like.”. After ten years of classical saxophone, he received his gold medal at the Conservatoire of Douai. The whole path was planned for the young man, but he decided to change course. “I started the competition (note: to enter the Paris Conservatoire) and then I realized that this is not what I want to do. Classical saxophone is a special repertoire. It is modern or baroque music. You never hear it because it is a very recent instrument from the late 19th century. Major symphony orchestras do not have saxophones. At the end of French Romanticism, we begin to have saxophones in the formation of the main orchestra.

In order not to work in the Republican Guard or the army orchestra in France, Ferdi moved to Brussels and entered the jazz department of the conservatory. He spent four years on the French-speaking side, then a year on the Flemish side, but did not complete his training. “After a while there is a financial reality, I had to earn some moneyhe says. “I’ve done a lot of weddings, events or corporate work.” Then traditional jazz began to seem too narrow for him. He has many desires to engage in beatmaking, to compose with other artists, to start producing.

Then comes Covid, which will ultimately be a time of meetings and opportunities for him. While in prison, he contacted the Brussels rapper Pete on Instagram. “Iyou were very good friends with someone who knew him. Was looking for saxophonist or flutist. I go on her Insta live and sax her. It was a bit absurd, there was a delay in his work and then Pete said:Yeah, man, that’s cool!’. He sent me his product via email, I saxed it up and sent it directly to him within 2 hours. It was the first time I had a really small opportunity.” Two months later, Ferdi finds himself at a party where he meets French artist Dabeull, who is about to finish his next album. After a few days, he invites her to the studio. It was here that Ferdi met Sofiane Pamart, a pianist who has collaborated with many French-speaking rap artists. “I knew him well, I wanted to meet him for a while. remembers It brings modernity to our surroundings. It was something I wanted to do with the saxophone for a long time.” This studio session will be short but productive. He records four tracks in one take at a time. “They were in a bit of a purist’s delirium, and I didn’t understand it. They were looking for an emotion that they found in me and that even I didn’t think was exceptional. It really affected them. Actually, saxophonists. , a lot of them go up. I think I’m the best in the world I don’t think so, far from it. But maybe they liked a look or an aesthetic. Sofiane and Guillaume, her manager, were super caring. With me. They push me as much as they can. They’re big brothers.”

Classical and later jazz also allowed him to learn very different techniques. “Alto sax has a very harsh sound, explains. I had a very good voice in classical. But the codes of jazz on the saxophone are the opposite. It took me four or five years for the music I wanted to create and my personal voice. I learned everything I learned in classical and really played backwards with all the muscles in my mouth, in my throat, even where the diaphragm is located. “It was quite a long search and I struggled a bit.” Despite this, the musician persevered on the path of the viola. “There are fewer good violinists who really have a piercing voice. There are many who tear apart tenors. So I wanted to stand out.”

How do you build a universe when it’s heavily coded? How do you find your audience when jazz becomes a niche style? The Frenchman freed himself from tradition by drawing inspiration from the codes of more modern music with a simple goal: instrumental music once again became music that lived and thrived on listening to large audiences. “We create modern music with our codes, although they are hard to define. It’s on the border of many things. It’s produced like modern music, like rap, and at the same time we make instrumental music where there’s improvisation. It’s quite powerful, where the harmony is a little more complex. there are themes. When we go in and surround it with a modern aesthetic, I think we can reach a wider audience than more traditional jazz offerings.” It also goes through the development and embodiment of artists from the French-speaking scene in the US, such as bassist Thundercat or trumpeter Terrace Martin, who dusted off the genre especially by working with rapper Kendrick Lamar. “I have the impression that there is a kind of small fashion, people call me, give me strength, encourage me, are kind. It would be great if it continues. If they listen a little to my personal project. , through concerts, live in small spaces, I am happy I would. I have bigger collaborations. I’d love to go to London and see what’s going on there. The rhythm is quite edgy, but there are some pretty cool possibilities. And contemporary UK jazz is much more in the spotlight than in France and Belgium.”

“Val Duchess”, by Ferdy. Available on streaming platforms.

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