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Jazz from Geneva: Marc Perrenoud talks ‘Vestry Lamento,’ playing the States, and more

Swiss jazz pianist and composer Marc Perrenoud maintains a busy career as a recording artist, bandleader, and frequent guest at jazz festivals and concert venues across Europe. His trio with bassist Marco Müller and drummer Cyril Regamey has emerged as one of Switzerland’s leading exponents of the jazz piano trio format, winning acclaim not only among European audiences, but in American jazz hubs from New Orleans to New York City. Expedition Audio contributor Taryn Noelle caught Perrenoud’s ear during a brief caesura in his decidedly uptempo touring schedule; the two discussed the Trio’s latest date, Vestry Lamento, along with Marc’s eclectic background, the artists that continue to inspire him, and his plans for future music-making.

Marc Perrenoud



Taryn Noelle: First and foremost, congratulations on your record! It’s been a real pleasure to get to know your work. The music is consistently fresh and original, yet clearly rooted in the traditions of jazz, with subtle hints of a variety of influences. Are there any artists you can point to as particular sources of inspiration for your playing? What were you listening to when you were writing these tunes and recording the album?


Marc Perrenoud: Hi Taryn! Thank you for the kind words – I’m honored to answer your questions for Expedition Audio. First, I had to ask myself who I am and what does jazz mean to me? I’m a Swiss guy, French-speaking from my Swiss father and Dutch from my mother, living in Geneva. My two parents are classical musicians. So, I’m quite far away from the American blues and jazz tradition.

I started piano with improvisation. I followed all the classical schools, but improvisation was the most important and exciting for me. And I discovered jazz and blues at age 10 or 12. First Scott Joplin, Blind Blake and Bessie Smith. At the same time, I was fascinated by Bach (big fan of Glenn Gould) and also by The Beatles. Then I discovered Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Oscar Peterson (one of my favorites), Cannonball, Clark Terry, Art Blakey. And only later, after my classical studies, I fell in love with Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.

I remember that one night, at the age of 20, I was listening to a tune by Sonny Stitt and I was thinking to myself “you’ll never play or feel the music the way he does,” but… it can be a fantastic source of inspiration. So I tried to understand what kind of energy these guys used in their music. And after a while I understood that maybe, there is no big difference between Muddy Waters and a Zen Japanese butcher.  After that, I tried to put in my music a slice of this ‘American energy’ - very focused, strong and clear. So when I started to write a new trio album, I tried to think deeply about what I love in jazz and blues and to mix it with my European roots and culture. 

Marc Perrenoud Trio



TN: Your trio is fantastic – you have a truly cohesive and ‘gelled’ sound. How did you come to start playing together? Can you tell us about your first jam session or gig?

MP: We did our first gig in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had played for a long time with (drummer) Cyril, but I didn’t know (bassist) Marco. Our bass player left the trio before our first tour. That very day, a bass player wrote to me on MySpace just to say hello. I answered: “Hi Marco  what are you doing next week? Do you want to come and play some gigs in Argentina?” And so it began: We had a unique room in Buenos Aires. It was very hot and humid. We just had a great time, playing in jazz clubs, hanging out, eating lots beef and drinking Malbec wine. We became very good friends and we’re still together.

TN: I am curious – is there an actual Bosendorfer Piano Club venue, and did you guys play there?

MP: I love Bosendorfer. Their pianos are amazing – very heavy, strong. Just before our recording I lost my computer. When I tried to re-write the tune on a new music program, the E-piano sound I chose became the title of this tune (unintentionally), just before printing. So it was funny and we decided to keep this strange title. 

TN: In your relatively young career, you have already covered a great deal of terrain in touring, composing, and recording. Do any of your experiences as a working musician – concerts, jam sessions, travel plans gone awry, perhaps – stand out to you as particularly formative?

MP: Last year, we did our first tour in the US. I already had played a couple of times in New York but I’d never toured in the US. The experience was absolutely amazing. Playing at the Snug Harbour in New Orleans was crazy! These guys have plenty of fantastic bands and musicians but they gave us a chance to present our music; it was unbelievable. We also played in Syria, just before the civil war, in front of 5,000 people in a Christian castle in the center of Damascus. At 9:30 pm we stopped our concert for 10 minutes, for the prayer. So, we prayed with the audience and when the concert started again, the spirit was amazing. That was a very strong moment. And once, in Argentina (our second tour in this country in 2009), we played in a little rural town. A maker of traditional instruments had spent 6 months building his first double bass…. It was nearly impossible to play with this bass but we did it because we just had to! It was so intense that a man had tried to make an instrument just for our concert. For me it’s such a gift to meet all these people. I think that touring helps me to become a better person.

TN: I read in your bio that you started playing at the age of 6. When did you first know that this was going to be your life?

MP: That’s hard to say… I never told myself “you’ll be a professional pianist.” I’ve always been interested in music. And one day I won a jazz contest at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Maybe at this moment I decided to give myself a chance to explore with more intensity the path I had chosen.

TN: Do you have any plans for another record in the works? If yes, would you play solo or with the trio again?

MP: Yes, I want to record two new albums this year. One trio album with the same group and one solo album.

TN: I personally love upright Baldwin pianos, and I am curious if you have a favorite instrument. What do you play at home?

MP: I have a Yamaha C-2 with a practice pedal. It’s a nice piano to practice on. My favorite uprights are  ‘Burgerjacobi’ pianos, from Switzerland. Very beautiful sound and very precise, but, as you know, my favorite piano is the Bösendorfer imperial!

TN: I’ll close with a somewhat existential question. If you could only play one tune for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

MP: That’s a very difficult question ! Hmmm..   ‘round midnight?  But… if just one tune I’d choose Driftin by Herbie Hancock.

TN: Thank You Marc! I wish you the very best of luck with your career. I’ll be listening and can’t wait for more new releases in the future.

MP: Thank you, Taryn.  I’ll send you my new records ASAP !

To read more about Marc Perrenoud, and to hear clips from the Trio’s latest album,  Click Here!

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