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Interview: Karim Maurice - Odysseus Fantasy

Odysseus Fantasy has been supported by the French-American Jazz Exchange (FAJE) in 2016. Read more about this collaboration between Karim Maurice and William Galison.

Name of band or ensemble: Odysseus Fantasy
Names of collaborators: Karim Maurice - Will Galison - La Camerata
Name(s) of interviewee: Karim Maurice
Name of album: Odysseus Fantasy
Year of release: 2018

FAJE: How did you meet?

Karim Maurice: During a tour in France, William Galison heard my music before a concert. It was an album that I made for jazz quintet and string quartet. The idea intrigued him, and a mutual friend of ours put us in contact.

FAJE: What brought you to collaborate?

KM: William wanted me to write a work for chromatic harmonica, with an unprecedented orchestral composition that included a jazz rhythm and a string ensemble. I have been working with La Camerata, a Lyonnais strings ensemble, for a long time, and the artistic director and first violinist Gaël Rassaert was immediately interested in the idea.

FAJE: How are your musical styles similar? How do your musical styles differ or complement each other?

KM: William is a New York jazz musician with a keen sense of improvisation and phrasing, and a unique mastery of harmonica. As for me, I was trained as an orchestrator and arranger in the field of classical music, as well as an instrumentalist in jazz piano. Such a difference in background not only allows us to combine two musical aesthetics, but also to integrate two different approaches to music – one strictly Western Classical and the other New York jazzy. Out of all these exchanges, a unique music style with distinct sound qualities was borne.

FAJE: How does French-American cultural exchange come to play in your work? 

KM: The harmonica, an instrument originated in Europe (in Germany particularly), has flourished in the United States due to successive waves of immigration.

While this instrument remains popularly associated with blues and country music, it has found its proper place in other styles of expression, including classical music, jazz and rock.

However, there was still no work dedicated to harmonica, jazz trio, string orchestra and harp, in the history of music.

This is, therefore, the first work of its kind proposing a rediscovery of the harmonica in a new aural landscape.

The odyssey of Ulysses is treated in a symphonic dimension, an impressionistic way. The compositions thus refer to early twentieth-century French music and modern American jazz.

FAJE: Could you speak about your album ? What was your inspiration?

KM: It is a dreamlike musical poem on the epic of Ulysses who takes us on a journey. It is a combination of script, counterpoint and improvisation, a hybrid between jazz and classical music with great richness and diversity.

The album is composed of 7 symphonic and concertante pieces, drawing upon the poetic material from the myths of Cyclope, Calypso, Sirens, Eole, et cetera, and depicting Ulysses’ feelings about his encounters.

FAJE: What impact did FAJE have on your album/tour ?

KM: The impact was fundamental. FAJE allowed me to continue with the creation and recording of this project initiated in 2015. I had already composed a piece of work on an experimental basis back then. Thanks to FAJE, I was able to further pursue this ambitious project, and finished the studio recording in November 2017. The international prestige of FAJE also enabled me to organize my first tour in France rapidly.

Website :
Odysseus Fantasy (français) / Odysseus Fantasy (english)

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