On the Couch with Jef Neve

Jef Neve_by ROB WalbersWho is Jef Neve?
Jef Neve is a Belgian pianist and composer, who studied both Jazz and Classical music. After touring with the famous Jef Neve Trio around the world for almost a decade, he is now focusing on his solo repertoire with this new album ONE as the first result.

What would you do differently to what you do now?   
The more I’m on tour, the more I say to myself that I have to make more time for my family and friends, because with such a hectic tour schedule, I miss them a lot. But a tired musician is a successful musician.

Who inspires you and why?
One of my big inspirations are the classical composers Bach and Mozart. Almost every night, before going to bed, I listen to music of them. It inspires me because they can make beautiful music sound so simple. It doesn’t have to be so complex and virtuoso to be beautiful, and this idea inspires me a lot when I’m composing myself.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Make people happy through music! Let’s be honest, why else do we have medical institutions with ‘music therapy’? Because it does help! When I was in Kenya a year ago, I had so much fun singing and playing with children (and adults!) in a very poor village, on that moment, there was no difference anymore between me and them, we were both happy! It is a romantic idea, I know, but happiness is so much more than money…

Favourite holiday destination and why?
The Amalfi Coast, Italy! Heaven on earth, the sea, the delicious food, the music festivals nearby, the rocks and it is not that touristic because the villages are so small, so it is quiet!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
In my city, Ghent, I would take them first on a stroll in the city, because it is filled with beautiful medieval castles and churches. Then after a good evening dish (the typical Flemish carbonades (‘Stoverij’) with fries, we’d dive into the small streets where you find the nicest hidden bars and jazz clubs! Although my city is very very small, it has everything from the river in the middle, the touristic houses and churches, the good restaurants, shopping, to a great nightlife!

What are you currently reading?
Actually, nothing at all, because I only have time to read while on holiday and that was August…

What are you currently listening to?
A lot of different things, from Mozart/Brahms, to U2 (Songs of Innocence), Brad Mehldau and Buckshot Lefonque…

Happiness is?
Being able to pass my happiness to other people. If I can get a smile on someone’s face (not only through my music, but also in conversations), I’m a happy man.

What does the future hold for you?
A very busy tour schedule, worldwide release concerts of my new album (Australia, Japan, Canada, South-America, England, France, Portugal, Hungary,…) and meanwhile try to get my deadlines for the 3 film compositions I’m supposed to make in 2015.

Pianist/composer Jef Neve studied at the Lemmensinstituut in Leuven and graduated in 2000 as Master of Music in Jazz and classical piano, both with high distinction.

In 2001 he specialized in Chamber Music and was rewarded the diploma ‘cum laude’. He followed master classes with Brad Mehldau, Martial Solal, Lew Tabackin, Billy Hart, Bill Carothers, Kenny Werner, Bruce Barth.

Jef started to play in local bands at the age of fourteen. During that period he composed a wide variety of pieces for the most divergent ensembles (from piano solo to symphonic orchestra). Between ages 17 and 20, he played with the popular funk band Mr Zebedee. In 2002, he spent a year at the contemporary Dance Company ‘Dathe’ in London as their pianist and composer.

The first few years, Jef played as a free lance artist with various ensembles: classical ensembles, pop bands (e.g. ‘Get Ready’, the famous Belgian boys band), theatre productions, and as a soloist with the Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Michel Tilkin.

Jef Neve was also part of the Pascal Schumacher/Jef Neve Quartet, with whom he recorded 2 CD’s and won first prize at ‘Tremplin Jazz’ in Avignon in 2004.

Since 2008, Jef Neve’s career has brought him onto the international stage. Whether as a solo-performer or with the Jef Neve Trio, he has been traveling on successful tours from Denmark to Australia, from Canada to Japan. In between touring, he has composed music for a solo album, for movie and TV series as well as classical piano music.

Jef will be appearing at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club on Friday 23 January as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival Summer Sessions. For more information, visit: www.melbournejazz.com/summer-sessions for details.

Image: Jef Neve – photo by Rob Walbers

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