The decompartmentalization of musical genres always offers interesting perspectives and makes it possible to rediscover known tunes from other angles. If jazz has always collaborated with traditional song or very often flirted with pop, its incursions into hard rock are rarer. Led Zeppelin in a jazz version? This is what Franck Tortiller offers in his latest album Back To Heaven. He answered our questions.
Vibraphonist emeritus who passed through the conservatory, renowned jazz musician and composer, director of the National Jazz Orchestra from 2005 to 2008, Franck Tortiller is nonetheless a rock lover, a music with which he grew up. So nothing more natural for him than to have adapted pieces of Led Zeppelin in the jazz style. In 2006, he released the album Close To Heaven – A Tribute to Led Zeppelin.
An approach that surprises the professional entourage of Franck Tortiller. Why would the Director of the National Jazz Orchestra play covers of the most emblematic group of hard-rock? The answer is simple: “It’s because I like this music” replied the person concerned, who already at the time was considering a sequel. “It’s such a rich music, there are so many possibilities”. But life means that the project does not come true right away, and it is finally more than 15 years after Back to heaven – Led Zeppelin Chapter Two see the day.
“Apart from the drummer-singer Patrick Héral who is of the same generation as me, all the other musicians are around their thirties” explains Franck Tortiller. “As a result, they have a much less romantic relationship to Led Zeppelin than ours. And it was an opportunity to bring our feelings into collision, to rethink this music with all the contribution of current influences, hip-hop, rap…”
And it is clear that the legendary anthems of the group are considerably modernized. While appropriating the music of Led Zeppelin with visceral respect, Franck Tortiller wished to surround himself with “young people who enter this universe and shake it up a lot”. Keeping the spirit of the original work but bringing it freshness, and not getting locked into an academic tribute.
I didn’t really want anything conservativeFranck Tortiller
about his album “Back to heaven”
The urban influence is particularly present in The Crungesong which, already at the origin, used the wink towards the father of funk James Brown, as well as the opening track, the epic Achilles Last Stand.
And to sum up his approach, Franck Tortiller likes to recall this sentence from Miles Davis: “The first step of a jazz composer is to choose who you play with”. The precept worked perfectly. The chemistry between the members of the group allowed an abundant blossoming of ideas.
back to heaven is not limited to framed and independent adaptations of songs that have entered popular culture. On the contrary, the entire album draws from the Zeppelinian repertoire in successive layers. We thus hear brief quotations from other pieces which slip in without warning.
For example, the original intro of Thank you open and close Going to Californiathe rapid rhythm of The song remains the same interferes in the no less rapid Achilles Last Standand Dazed and confused sees the riff of Out on the tileswhile ending on black mountain side.
A pleasurable musical treasure hunt where the attentive listener tries to recognize the slightest phrases in the bends of harmonic changes or rhythmic breaks. “In every title there are at least two quotes” says Franck Tortiller. Notice to fans…
Beyond the wink, the idea for me is to use material and a musical universe in all its form. It’s like the ingredient in a dish.Franck Tortiller
about music quotes
And this maze ends on an adaptation of Immigrant song which resonates with the current period. If the Led Zeppelin song referred to the Scandinavian legends that Robert Plant is fond of, Franck Tortiller chooses to start his cover with an oriental atmosphere. “Playing a song called ‘Immigrant song’ today, inevitably it refers to many things”. And even if the Page-Plant duo had already had a strong eye on North African music, Franck Tortiller really inscribes the music of Led Zeppelin in our present.
“Jazz is a music of appropriation, it feeds on lots of different music” he recalls. A reflection with humanist overtones that can only echo in today’s world.
The Scrapbook “Back to Heaven – Led Zeppelin Chapter Two” by Franck Tortiller was released on March 11 by MCO – Socadisc
Franck Tortiller will be in concert at Pan Piper (Paris) this Sunday, March 20
Find all the information on the official website or the Facebook page