JAZZ: Léon, the professional… of French jazz

MARTYNA KIELEK / Senior Music Editor

After this tongue-in-cheek title, I would like to invite you to discover an extremely promising young French jazz saxophone player, Léon Phal. He claims to be influenced both by John Coltrane and by the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti, and there is certainly no dearth of variety in his music.

He began his career at only 16 years old, accompanying diverse artists such as the French-Malian hip-hop musician Oxmo Puccino and the alternative singer Olivia Ruiz. He quickly became the star of jazz festivals - this 2019 performance during the Jazz Pulsations festival in Nancy greatly showcases Phal’s energy:

His first album Canto Bello, recorded with his quintet, came out in 2020. A mix of simple, refreshing melodies with multiple musical influences and some brilliant improvisations, it was a great example of what today’s European jazz can do. I invite you to discover the track Still Waiting, which shows Phal’s great musical versatility:

The second album, Dust to Stars, out this year, is even more surprising and ingenious, inspired by hard bop among other genres. Despite the variety of music styles, there is no randomness to this record, with each piece being meticulously conceived and performed, a complete work of art in and of itself.

I chose for you two quite different pieces: the very energetic, rhythmic Last Call with elements of house and afrobeat, and the much melancholier Let it Go:

I am looking forward to discovering Phal’s next project and I cannot wait to be, once again, entranced by his creativity and the scope of his musical inspirations.

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