January 1 2015
From critical acclaim as a soloist and bandleader to collaborations with the likes of Jose James, Jef Neve has established himself as one of the most important voices in contemporary jazz piano. Drawing freely on influences from classical romanticism to popular music, he is equally at home composing film scores to playing major jazz festivals around the world.
Ahead of his Australian tour in January, we recently spoke with Jef about his greatest musical influences, the song-writing process, what’s he’s listening to now and his debut solo album One.
What are looking forward to most in your return to Australia?
Friendly and open people! The humorous and relaxed way that Aussies look at life; what a relief for me every time I come back. And of course the sunshine, which is completely absent in January in Belgium.
Who are your greatest musical influences?
No doubt that for my classical influences, this will be Mozart and Bach. One of the so many records that blew me over: Brad Mehldau, solo, live in Tokyo. But also the great Keith Jarrett of course.
Where do you get your creative inspiration from?
That is completely unpredictable actually, it comes up in combination with an emotion or an experience. I can write a very emotional ballad for example when I'm in an emotional mood or situation, but inspiration for a song can as well just come up on 'normal' occasions or locations, for example when I'm in the airport, waiting for the next plane, looking around and seeing all the people move.
I even got inspired by flying in a very little plane in Kenya, passing the Mount Kilimanjaro, the song 'Flying to Diani Beach' on my latest album was the result of that flight.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra, what a sound! Radiohead is always in my iPod or in my car. Jamie Cullum’s new album Interlude, I played a few songs from the album with him in Amsterdam recently, including 'Make Somone Happy' captured in the clip below.
At the moment I’m also listening to Branford Marsalis’ Buckshot Lefonque, Bach Klavierkonzerte by Alexandre Tharaud and the great Shirley Horn.
What can audiences expect from your show in Melbourne in January?
I will play two sets this time in Melbourne. In the first set I will present my debut solo album, One.
This is the most personal album I made until now and I'm very proud of it! It is a real personal mirror of who I am right now at this stage in my life as a pianist. The album was recorded in the famous Abbey Road studios in London, although one track was recorded in Australia, in Newcastle on one of the great Stuart & Sons piano's!
The second set will be a trio set, with two Australian musicians, Philip Rex (bass) and Danny Fischer (drums). We will play some of my trio compositions and some standards, a big surprise for me and the audience, but it will be great fun!