In the midst of the current jazz renaissance, Zombie Zombie member Etienne Jaumet‘s latest offering 8 Regards Obliques is an ambitious album, bridging the gap between the jazz and electronic genres. The result is an exciting collection of compositions on Versatile Records that bulge with a frenetic energy.

The majority of the tracks are not Jaumet’s own, with covers of Miles Davies, Ornette Coleman, and Duke Ellington. These re-imaginations are respectful, and yet nuanced, with the introduction of drum machines, synthesisers and Jaumet’s own saxophone playing. It feels like an accurate representation of Etienne’s creative process, and ultimately, a reflection on the spirit of jazz, with a unique sense of spontaneity and minimalism.

On his cover of Sun Ra’s classic ‘Nuclear War’, Jaumet’s use of swollen pads, popping kicks and shuttling 808 patterns make for a hypnotic three and a half minutes. The subject matter similarly feels pertinent and repurposed; it’s power reawakened in the midst of today’s uncertain world. We managed to track down the innovative French producer, to dig deeper into his creative process and unravel his creative influences.


Can you recall your earliest exposure to jazz?

Not really… My parents loved listening to classic jazz musician like Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet or The New Orleans Orchestra – I’m not a big fan of this kind of jazz. At music school we were playing jazz in a group, I was loving it. Especially because of the sound, but most of the time the compositions were too classical. I remember seeing John Coltrane and his famous quartet playing live as a teenager and it was one the best things I’d seen on TV. I remember saying to myself, “this is the jazz I really love.”

 Has it played a formative role in your life, particularly as a musician?

After discovering Coltrane I remember I started to listen all the musicians who played with him: Eric Dolphy, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp,  Johnny Hartman, Duke Ellington… it was very exciting. They were playing the jazz I wanted to play, but I realised at the same time that I would never be good enough to play like them. I tried to reproduce the solos but they were playing too fast so I decided to improvise in my own way with my own little technique. It became clear that I could improvise and even have fun with just a few notes. 

Your solo work is quite different to the Zombie Zombie output. Where did your interest in electronic music start and how has it progressed?

The saxophone was the first instrument I learnt. When I started playing with my friends I was tired quickly doing always riff and solos. The analog synthesisers where out of fashion and we could found some cheap in secondhand shop. So I bought one an ARP Pro/DGX first, then a roland SH101 and since then I’ve never stopped… For me there isn’t much difference between analogue and acoustic sound. They mix together naturally.

What tropes of these genres do you feel work together?

Electronic music is quite close to the jazz. A simple theme and long moments of improvisation. The sound also are very important in both style. The big difference is the shuffle of the rhythm in jazz. You can’t reproduce it with a drum machine.

What was your aim with the album?

It was a kind of fantasy to release one day a jazz album. I’m not a great jazz player. I never been to a jam session. I‘m not good enough to play in a standard jazz band. So decided to do this album on my own way with the instruments I use all the time, my TR808, my analog synth and my saxophone.  

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing these songs?

I wrote ‘Ma Révélation Mystique’, all the rest are jazz covers. The idea was to take no more than one day for each song, to work out the idea and record it. I played some theme as “caravan” or “spiritual ” until a long time alone in my bedroom for myself. The power of those composition are the melody and the spirit behind. I tried to replay it with the same energy.

You’re often collaborating when it comes to making music. Is there anything you particularly enjoy about working alone?

When I’m working alone I can go very fast without anyone asking questions. It also requires more creativity, so it’s more of a challenge. I wasn’t sure I could make it before

The album was produced in around six weeks. Was it a spontaneous process, or had you planned out the foundations of each piece?

No, less – three weeks. I recorded three songs per week, one day per song. For one the arrangement already existed because I was already playing it live. People loved it, which encouraged me to do a full jazz album. I chose songs I knew and had been playing a long time already. Most of them are modal and easy to cover in my point of view. ‘Unity’ I discovered during the recording because Philip Cohran died at that time. I loved it so much so I decided to add it. I composed ‘Ma Révélation Mystique’ to see if I could write a jazz song – I wanted to create a dialogue between an ARP Odyssey synth and my saxophone. 

As a fan of using vintage analogue equipment, can you tell us a bit about the gear used in the making of the album?

I don’t play drums, so I used my  TR-808. It’s impossible to reproduce the shuttle of the jazz rhythm so I decided to compose the most simple rhythm with it. My big Modular synth (a synthesizer.com copy of the Moog35)) and my SH101 are triggered by the 808. All the rest is played. No MIDI, no sample, no computer plug in… 

There are a lot of references throughout this album with the liner notes mentioning Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman. Can you name some your other notable jazz influences?

I love a lot spiritual jazz and free jazz. French Jazz labels like BYG Actuel and Shandar are my favourites. Of course I really love very much Impulse, ESP, Candid, Blue Note, Atlantic, Flying Dutchman… Here is a link to my TIDAL with a playlist I made. 

Pairing acoustic and electronic instruments, much of your music serves as a meeting point for organic and synthesised sounds. What is it that draws you to this approach time and again?

Analogical and acoustic sounds work very well together, certainly because of their live sounds. Nothing is fixed. It’s what the musician does that creates the sound in both cases.

It isn’t the first time I:Cube has provided the mix down for one of your releases. Just how much of an impression has he made on your sound as an engineer?

I:Cube is a great musician and terribly good with sound. He understands music really well. We decided that the most important part of my recording was to kept the spontaneous way of my play, so he didn’t edit anything and delivered the max of energy with the mix. He used Metallik Resonator (an analog plate reverb made with a gong) quite a lot.

Do you have any thoughts on the so-called “jazz renaissance” that’s been taking place? Any contemporary artists that have caught your attention in particular?

I agree. There’s young generation trying to give a new impulsion to jazz, especially in UK. There are still older jazz masters alive and playing, but the jazz audience in France is ageing. Maybe going electronic could be a way to push jazz more further. I really love Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Sons of Kemet, James Holden and The Animal Spirits, Laurence Pike projects…

What can we expect from you next, Etienne?

I’m working on a new collaboration with Gilbert Artman, a French jazz/prog composer from Lard Free and Urban Sax…

8 Regards Obliques is out now on Versatile Records – buy it direct from the label.

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