The story goes like that: we had an old upright
piano in our apartment and at 3 years old, I had
to extend my body to reach the keyboard. I was
obviously very attracted to this piano, and my
parents were letting me fill their ears with a
lot of musical noise when one day my mother recognized
a then popular melody coming out of all the notes
I was tapping. She realized I was trying to play
this one tune. She then decided to find me a piano
teacher; I was then 4 years old
I entered Metz conservatory at 6 (with a special
permission because of my perfect pitch, since
the minimal age was 7). My first piano teacher
lived a block away from us, so I was walking there
everyday to practice with her at 1PM, right before
going to regular school
I worked on that old upright piano for a long
time; I graduated from Metz conservatory with
it. I was 12 then. Going to Paris Conservatory
was the next step, but I then needed to own a
Grand piano. The piano shop keeper in Metz asked
me to try a Petrof he just received. Those were
cheaper pianos and the quality was never a given
with those pianos, but for some reasons, this
one was a gem!, and the salesman knew it and he
wanted me to have it; he even made a good price
on it. It was still a lot of money for my parents,
but they bought it. (My father saw that it was
a very good instrument.)
I was raised in a wonderfully supportive family.
If I wanted to study anything it would have been
fine. However, my dad played the piano so he really
liked that I did too. Actually, he would sit in
the room while I tried to practice and it was
a bit strange. He just loved to listen, but it's
difficult to really work on something when your
dad is sitting behind you. It makes me laugh to
think of it now because he would try to act all
casual, as if he was just going to sit and read
the paper. But I knew he was really spying on
Were Your Friends Into
All of my friends were out playing sports, and
I had my rebellion time where I wanted to stop
music for just that reason. My father who was
always very strict suddenly turned very sweet
and let me stop, and that freaked me out so much
that I started again 2 weeks later.
How Did You End-Up Playing
Well classical was all I did for the conservatory,
but at around 9, my father gave me some piano
music he had containing old songs from the 40s
and 50s. I loved playing those and I could hear
some difference in tone with some of the chords
(those were jazzy). I then discovered Jazz with
Dave Brubeck and then Oscar Peterson, but I always
practiced classical first, and had jazz as a hobby.
From Student to Performer
The first band was actually a big band called
“Jazz Swingers” with the best local
musicians. I was about 12, it was great to be
able to read those charts. That was the first
time I saw those chord changes written in letters.
The first real working band was a top 40 band,
I was about 15, I played keyboard, some sax, and
some real stupid music.
Going to The Berklee College of Music was the
real breakthrough for me. I was better than I
thought and I got all the best ensembles, then
I even got to work on real gigs with people like
Phil Wilson and Gary Burton. Within the school
I played concerts with stars like Chick Corea,
Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Eddie Gomez, Steve
Playing with Gary Burton
Gary always felt like a genius to me, he knows
what he wants, he knows what guy is right for
his band, he is also an excellent business man,
and that is where I lose him.
Playing with Maynard Ferguson
Maynard is much more passive, and will adapt his
band to the kind of musician he gets, he is the
sweetest man, the worst business man ever, and
the only thing he looks forward to is tonight’s
It is like being in a room with 2 guys you love
and trust and having a great conversation. Not
a conversation where everyone continually agrees
to everything the other says, but a meaningful
conversation where you sometimes disagree, show
your point of view, learn something new, get excited,
amused, etc. each tune we play is a different
conversation, so the stream of feelings will vary.
"Styne and Mine"
I felt first that this trio recording was long
overdue, since these are the guys I play with
all the time, it had to be recorded. A dear friend
of mine named Vic Lewis called me from England
one day and said that he thought I should consider
the music of Jule Styne for my trio recording
and he offered to produce project. It was great
to have his support and the music of Jule Styne
turned out to be the perfect choice.
What Makes a Gig Great?
1. All the technicalities (piano
quality, piano tuning, sound monitoring, general
acoustics, etc.) are taken care of, so it doesn’t
come and haunt you during the gig. Then I can
be 100% in the music.
2. The audience has to be receptive
(meaning they came to hear me/us) so there can
be some kind of energy flowing.
3. I personally have to be in
good health with no huge personal problem on my
When all three components are there, it is called
heaven! Yes, sometimes it actually happens!
What Blows Your Mind Musically?
What blows my mind musically is anything I am
not able to do.
Oscar Peterson was the first pianist I heard
that really blew my mind. Band-wise I loved big
bands, and MF was the first big band that blew
What Pushes You to Improve?
I would have to say that what really inspires
me to improve are the concert audiences. When
they are receptive and really hearing what I am
playing, I want to give them more. I can feel
that they are open to more and I want to give
it to them. More of myself, more of what is uniquely
my own. If I feel I can impress my personality
onto the listener (kind of like showing what I
am about) I usually push myself more than usual;
but I have to sense that the audience is capable
What Events Made You Proud?
Herbie Hancock mentioning my name on a French
radio interview. He just heard my demo and knowing
I was French, he mentioned me as a great pianist.
Nobody knew who he was talking about though...
The Strangest Gig
In Boston, Ray Santisi (my piano teacher at Berklee)
got me that gig where each corner of the ballroom
had a corner stage with a piano and a pianist
in white tails playing (or attempting to) with
the other 3. The idea probably looked much better
than it sounded...
Touring with Tierney Sutton is taking up most
of my time this year. If we aren't out on the
road, then I am working on more string arrangements.
It is a great band to be a part of and we are
always getting something new out of it. Besides
working with Tierney I would say that "Styne
& Mine" is my main project. It is my
first attempt at releasing my own CD and getting
the word out is harder than I thought.