The history of jazz in Luxembourg is a long process. Imported by American soldiers during the First World War, this very particular musical style quickly found its place in the Grand Duchy. Let's go and meet some of the talents who made jazz emerge in Luxembourg.
Sascha Ley - intuitive and spontaneous
The German-Luxembourgish artist Sascha Ley is one of the key figures in the world of jazz in the Grand Duchy and even in the Greater Region. Singer and improviser, composer and actress, Sascha Ley is a multi-talented artist. The connection between her and music began at the age of two. She has played the flute, piano and saxophone, but it is mainly her voice that makes her stand out on the stage today. According to her, the voice is the identity of the persona. "It is through the sound of the voice that one recognises the personality."
On stage, she likes to take unconventional paths, her approach strongly rooted in modern jazz with a mix of imaginary folklore, contemporary music and even free improvisation. She considers this technique to be a gift that she has developed and honed over the years. "Over time I discovered the limits of harmony, a harmony I was trying to break. To notice that the point of view can change is exciting. What is perfect or imperfect is irrelevant."
Between classical performance and her experimental sound travels with extended vocal techniques and narration, she enhances her texts in a moving way as well as an intense evocative jazz atmosphere.
Since 2011, she has been making her way with the French double bass player Laurent Payfert. The duo offers a unique project of exploring sound worlds, while combining composition with free improvisation. Equally experimental are her engagements as a guest of the German pianist and improviser Georg Ruby in his trio Village Zone, as well as with the Franco-German collective Les Oniristes and other projects.
Sascha Ley's inspirations come from many directions. Big names like Abbey Lincoln and Fred Frith have certainly influenced her. But it was the world of John Zorn that opened the door to the world of contemporary jazz. "He pushed the sounds of jazz into atonality. That had such an impact on me. And it was thanks to this music that I understood the connections between the themes and the improvisation of the musicians and their instruments."
'For me, jazz means going beyond borders'
As far as vocalists are concerned, it is above all the two musicians Jeanne Lee and Shelley Hirsch who have influenced her music. "What made an impression on me was their personality, their power, their expression and the enormous soulfulness in their voices."
Sascha Ley is not worried about the future of jazz in the Grand Duchy, as the 2000s saw a new generation of jazz musicians emerge in Luxembourg. "Jazz existed then and continues to exist. It will continue to exist because people are looking for this freedom. On the one hand, more and more talent is emerging, and on the other hand, the audience is growing. In short, the enthusiasm for jazz has grown," says Sascha Ley, adding that jazz may never be dead.
At least not in Luxembourg, because jazz has found its place in the Grand Duchy and it is a love story that has lasted for over a hundred years. Nevertheless, Sascha Ley would like to see the jazz scene develop further in the country. In this context, she stresses the importance of cultural education. "It is bearing fruit, and thanks to it we are making progress in cultural history. And that's good, because we are no longer just a financial centre. Luxembourg also has other business cards."
For the record ...
Sascha Ley studied in Saarbrücken, at the Jazz School in Amsterdam and at the Conservatoire de Luxembourg. She also studied at the Jazz India Vocal Institute in Mumbai, India, and attended masterclasses and workshops with Meredith Monk, Shelley Hirsch, Frank Köllges and others.
Pascal Schumacher - two-faced musician
Classical percussionist and jazz vibraphonist: Pascal Schumacher is a musician with many faces. This Luxembourg-born artist, performer and composer has made a name for himself in numerous collaborations. He has composed for film, theatre, dance, big bands and collaborates with Luxembourg musicians.
He has been immersed in music since his youth. It all started with concerts in the brass band in Uebersyren, in which he played for many years. After his studies at the Athénée, he started to study percussion in Strasbourg where he discovered jazz. In Brussels he did a degree in jazz and then a master's degree in jazz in The Hague. Then his jazz career took off....
In 2002, Pascal Schumacher formed the quartet with pianist Jef Neve, bassist Christophe Devisscher and drummer Teun Verbruggen. The group has released three albums: Change Of The Moon (2004), Personal Legend (2005), and Silbergrau (2007). He has surrounded himself with brilliant musicians such as Kenny Baron, Tineke Postma and Nils Landgren. It is especially with the talented Guy Cabay that Pascal Schumacher has emerged at the forefront of inspired jazz. "For many years he was my teacher and I owe him almost everything," he says of Cabay. But, looking to the future, he expresses his wish that he would once like to go on stage with the Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen. "Sonically he moves me and inspires me enormously."
'For me, jazz is a philosophy of life'
Since the beginning of his musical career, Pascal Schumacher has built a unique relationship with his instrument, an instrument that allows him to go beyond the circle of Luxembourgish and other musical spheres. His latest album SOL, which he recorded on vibraphone, reflects an intimate sound experience that vibrates with infinite colours. However, if he had not learned the vibraphone, this exceptional talent, who is always looking for the new, the unexpected, the unknown, would be playing the piano today, he confides in an interview.
In addition to his classical sensuality, which has taken him to the world's greatest concert halls such as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Konserthuset Stockholm, the Konzerthaus Wien and the Mozarteum Salzburg, Pascal Schumacher has another passion, or rather, another job.
Since 2001, he has been a part-time teacher at the Conservatoire de Luxembourg Ville and a musician. He teaches classical percussion and jazz vibraphone. From 2010 to 2014, he also taught in the jazz department at the Hochschule für Musik in Saarbrücken.