Yes Love by Gilbert Isbin

Isbin Trio Yes Love
Isbin Trio Yes Love album

Yes Love by Gilbert Isbin

Gilbert Isbin, lute, compositions
Xavier Rau, upright bass
Peter Vangheluwe, percussions.

Voici un album acheté récemment sur Bandcamp, qui a retenu toute mon attention, genre jazz fusion expérimental.

Une musique qui sort résolument des sentiers battus, car il fallait oser et être assez expérimenté pour intégrer un instrument de musique ancienne dans un contexte jazz contemporain.
Résultat, une sonorité riche et unique en son genre, assez sophistiquée devrais-je ajouter; normal si on considère le style à la frontière des musiques actuelles.

Ce troubadour des temps modernes, est aussi un artiste prolifique depuis quelques années, un maître de l’improvisation et par dessus tout un amoureux inconditionnel du luth et guitares de la période baroque, renaissance et moyen-âge.
Le résultat est étonnant, je ne pouvais passer sous silence cet auteur, compositeur, interprète plus longtemps.

Gilbert Isbin est originaire du nord de L’Europe, il ne parle pas français, cependant, il a accepté de répondre à quelques questions en anglais, je le remercie pour cet effort.

1: Are you the author of the songs in this album?

 I am indeed the author of 10 of the compositions on the album. The other ones are composed by Bill Evans/Miles Davis (Blue In Green) and Jan Garbarek (Singsong) but I have arranged them quite differently from the original versions.

2: Where did the idea to combine ancient and contemporary music come from?
I always loved early music (medieval, renaissance, baroque). I played a lot of the repertoire, apart from my own pieces, on guitar, but some 12 years ago I decided to play the lute.
As I have been concentrating on composition all my musical life the next step was to write pieces into my style for the lute , combine it with other instruments ,getting it out of it’s historical context.
Which is not easy because the lute world is a very early music related world. I have played, studied, analysed a lot of different musics which influenced unconsciously my composing and performing style during all these years : jazz, worldmusic, pop, ancient music, avant-garde,… 

So for me it’s not a big step to adapt my compositional approach to the lute. I had already studied the lute language and the related compositional lutetechniques on the guitar.

3: Tell me about your favorite string instruments?

I have a lute which is a copy of a Wendelio Venere 1592, a classical Cuenca Guitar (from 1980) and an Epiphone Jazz Guitar (Joe Pass model) which is rebuild to a midi guitar.

But I have  lots of interests write renaissance guitar, baroque guitar, baroque lute, theorbo, contrabass.  All for which I composed pieces.

4: Where does your musical inspiration come from?

Ideas may occur from a  striking chord, a chord progression, a small melodic or rhythmic line,  an intervallic row, a contrapuntual idea, an interesting scale, an improvisation, listening to other composers’  music.

I  also get inspiration in daily life : a meeting, a conversation, seeing a film, reading a book, having a walk, discovering a touching expression or a word.
Sometimes I experiment with anomaly but I always rework the pieces to clarify the melody or the harmonic background.
I also like to compose pieces in function of a new compositional  or technical device I ran accross. I  It’s an easy way to internalise all this new information.
To me it is important to tell a story, not just falling around to impress people with my technique. I consider myself as a poet, I write musical poems. 

5: The title is evocative (Yes Love), what did you want to convey as a message?

It’s not only a tribute to my wife but also a message to the world ‘All you need is love, Love is all you need’ (the Beatles, I grew up with them) to get the world better than it is nowadays.

6: How do you feel in terms of musical genre?
My style has been influenced and is still influenced by so many musics. I use quite a lot of  jazz harmony, but then the jazz harmonic language has a lot to do with classical music : Debussy, Ravel, …
Some consider my music as modern classical, others as chamber music jazz. Let’s name it  eclectic present-day music.

7: You have a beautiful discography, what assessment do you make of all these past years?
I look back with great satisfaction. I performed all over the world, recorded with some of the world’s finest musicians in the jazz and improvisation scene. I have always looked for new musical adventures, challenges, combining different musical approaches, cultures, genres. And the album I recorded are proof of it. I mostly recorded my own compositions.  Apart from recording I have now appr. wrote 400 compositions, for guitar (s), lute(s), small ensembles, for voice and   guitar/lute, … which all are published and of which some of them are performed. 
Gilbert Isbin
Gilbert Isbin with his Lute

8: What are your favorite musical instruments and why?

My favorite instruments are definitively the classical guitar and the lute. I started as a guitar player,, played on a classical one, a steel string, and electric one, on midi guitar. But returned always to my good old Cuenca.

Then later I bought a lute, which is a very different instrument. I had to practice the thumb under technique, cut my fingernails and play much more softly, and try to get a decent sound of it, which is not easy, deal with double strings  which are called courses,… In both instruments I find real beauty, happiness, poetry.
I have always tried to incorporate as much as possible technical and compositional devices into my approach to both instruments: the use of open strings where possible, monophonic melodic and counter-punctual passages, chordal passages, counterpoint, effects, …Harmonically, into comparison with the piano, they are quite limited, -the lute even more than the guitar- but it’s easily possible to use a sophisticated harmonic language with just a few notes.
It’s not the amount of notes  that  produce an enhanced harmony it’s the right combination of them and the leaving out of certain not that important notes.  It’s a question of experimenting. 
And you can take both instruments anywhere !

9: You have the last word, what do you want to say to our readers?
Well I hope they will enjoy the music, maybe it might inspire them, open new doors to compose, discover new ways of approaching music, starting to be interested in a new repertoire for the lute.
And of course I hope they will be interested to buy the music, the compositions and perform them. 
Readers can visit my site, it’s full of info on my musical life, albums, compositions, etc…

La pensée du moment

Lorsque tu fais quelque chose, saches que tu auras contre toi, ceux qui voudraient faire la même chose, ceux qui voulaient le contraire, et l’immense majorité de ceux qui ne voulaient rien faire. [Confucius].

Cet article a été rédigé par Marc PHILIP rédacteur indépendant, tous droits réservés, copyright 2020, les textes et photos sont la propriété de l’auteur et du magazine.