Exclusive Interview - Sylvie Courvoisier

Monday, September 30, 2019

Sylvie Courvoisier’s new quartet project VWSC finds the versatile pianist joining forces with Nate Wooley, Ken Vandermark, and Tom Rainey on the upcoming release Noise Of Our Time. The album (releasing Sept. 21) displays a fresh collective unity that retains each member's respective personality. ArkivJazz recently spoke with Courvoisier as she prepares for a run of fall dates in Europe.


ArkivJazz: I must say that you’re one of the busiest people I know in the industry these days, and that your recordings on Intakt Records are extraordinary, both as leader and as side-person.

Sylvie Courvoisier: Thank you.

AJ: Let’s talk about the new record Noise of Our Time, this seems to be more of a co-op project…

SC: Yes, it’s totally a co-op, really more of a collective. The band is called VWCR, it’s (Ken) Vandermark, (Nate) Wooley, (Sylvie) Courvoisier, and (Tom) Rainey. We met when Ken had a residency at The Stone Club in 2016, then entered the studio last year to record. We tracked this record for a week, where Ken brought in three tunes, Nate brought in three tunes, and I brought in three. I think it’s a really interesting band because each of us comes from a different world and has a different way of writing. Actually, we just played two weeks ago at the Green Mill in Chicago.

AJ: That’s a wonderful old venue.

SC: Yes, we had a great time and it’s a great venue. We played two nights in a row, and it was packed - maybe 200-250 people. It was really fun and I’m looking forward to touring with this band.


AJ: Who are you playing with at this point of your tour?

SC: I’m doing a new project called Cast-A-Net, with Evan Parker (saxophone), Ikue Mori (electronics), Mark Feldman (violin), and dancer Israel Galván who lives in Seville. Usually, when working with someone I go into their world, but for this project, I brought Israel Galván’s dancing into my world. We just played three nights in Switzerland and it’s a very organic band. We have a set structure, where he (Israel) will have a duel with Ikue, then a duel with Evan, then a duel with me.

AJ: How is touring with that type of project?

SC: We are touring with nine people. We travel heavy with this type of project, where you combine dance and music. Israel is such a fantastic dancer, and next week I’m going with him to Seville for the Flamenco Biennial to perform “Arena” (six choreographed dances named for the six bulls that made early 20th century bullfighters famous worldwide). It’s a huge, 16,000-seat bullfighting arena, and I will be playing the part of bull number #5. It’s a bullfight, but there won’t be any bulls. I will be waiting in the bull box until it’s my turn, and then they will push me into the arena on a big platform on wheels, and I will be performing, and “fighting” against Israel as he dances.

AJ: Well I hope it ends better for you than most of the bulls.

SC: [laughs] Yes, I hope so, but you know sometimes if the bull does very well, the public can save the bull with an orange flag. When they wave the orange flag, they are saying, “Don’t kill the bull!”

AJ: Well, I hope you get an orange flag!

SC: Yes, I hope so too. So, I will first improvise, then play the last movement of the Rite of Spring (“The Sacrifice”), and if the public lets me live I will play the melody.

AJ: So what else do you have planned in the days ahead?

SC: This weekend I’m playing at Willisau (Festival de Willisau) in Switzerland with Nate Wooley and his band (Ingrid Laubrock and Matt Moran), performing his work Battle Pieces.

AJ: All of your discs are interesting, but let’s talk quickly about the trio record D’Agala. That is a particularly gorgeous record. All the compositions were dedicated to specific people…what's the story behind that?

SC: Yes, instead of dedicating the entire album to someone, I wanted to dedicate each piece to someone in particular. People who influenced me and people I admire. I love to play with Kenny (Wollesen) and Drew (Gress). We are planning to go to South America in November, for a trio tour of Argentina and Colombia.

AJ: You also seem to be one of the fundamental players at The Stone….which has moved, right?

SC: Yes, totally. There is a new Stone, which is located in The New School…and it’s a super nice venue.

AJ: Great! John (Zorn) did a fantastic job building up an audience with that venue, and its great to see The New School stepping up.

SC: I love working with John. He’s always thinking about the community, and that’s the reason why I stay in New York...because I love this community.

AJ: Well, thank you for your time. We will give you a call with the next album, and with the way you’re working you may have a new release soon.

SC: Yes, actually I’m going into the studio soon with Mark Feldman for a new recording. I wrote a new suite, and we’re going to record it for Intakt.   

AJ: Wonderful, we’ll look for it.  Thanks again, and we hope to catch up with you on stage soon. 


Noise of Our Time is available September 21 via Intakt Records