It is hard to define what it is that makes an artist successful. Some consider talent and excellence in one field enough to define the character of an artist. For others, it is a relentless drive to learn as much about their craft as possible and never settling for less. For jazz pianist Laurent de Wilde, success in his craft is not about the number of achievements or recognition, but about exploring all of his own interests and striving to create a unique sound.
A Man of Two Continents
Laurent was born in the national capital of the United States, Washington D.C., in 1960. He lived there with his family until he was four years old, at which point his family moved back to its native France, settling in Paris. He was raised in Paris as a child and young man, and was initially encouraged by family and friends to join the Ecole Normale Superieure.
The institution, known simply as ENS, is a French higher education group that exists outside the nation’s public university system. The ENS prepares students for careers in the fields of culture, academic research, the sciences, and the humanities. However, Laurent simply did not feel at home within the halls of the ENS.
A Return to the United States
With a music scholarship in hand, Laurent began to explore his true passion as a student of Long Island University in New York. He lived in New York City for three years as a student, studying jazz as his primary musical genre. As a 22-year-old, this was the first time he’d pursued his musical interests in a formal environment. As a young man, he was a self-taught musician. Now though, in New York City, he had the opportunity to get some formal learning under her belt.
Upon completion of his studies, Laurent settled permanently in New York City in the coming years. It was here that he got his first start as a young professional. Laurent himself has often said that his time living in taught him “a lot about music, America, and the joys and pains of a young jazz musician.”
While living in the US, Laurent released his first record. That record was released in 1987 under his own name, and he would go on to release four more records through IDA Records. His third solo album at this time, Open Changes, earned him a Django Reinhardt Award for Best French Musician in 1993.
Laurent befriend, and was eventually inspired by, pianist Joy Calderazzo. The two met when Laurent was a student at Long Island University. While he was living in New York, Laurent performed with his friend, learned with his friend, and was inspired by other pianists such as Jim McNeely, Kirk Lightsey, and Mulgrew Miller. Among his first collaborations was with Eddie Henderson’s band, but it wasn’t meant to be that he would be a member of someone else’s band.
Laurent de Wilde Power Trio
The career of Laurent de Wilde can best be defined as a series of adjustments and changes in direction. While his career started as a member of Eddie Henderson’s regular band, he released his first four albums with Henderson, Ralph Moore, Ira Coleman, and Billy Hart in what was called a quartet-trio.
After touring and performing with the Power Trio across Europe, the US, Asia, and Australia, he sought a change in direction. Thirsty for knowledge and experience in different genres of jazz, he pursued electric jazz. Leaving for Europe, he worked with Warner Jazz to release two albums separate of the Power Trio.
By 2006, he found himself missing the acoustic jazz he had built his career on, and returned to record The Present with an acoustic band. Today, he splits his time between the United States and France, working with the Power Trio and other performers in the United States, and pursuing his own interests in France.
A Man of Many Talents
Laurent de Wilde is more than a brilliant pianist. Although his musical career has taken him around the world, performing at International Jazz Festival of Montreal among others, he is also a student of his genre. In 1996, he released a book he had written on legendary American jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. The book was received well by critics and jazz enthusiasts alike.
The book was so popular that it was adapted for appearance on broadcast television in France, with the show centered on Thelonious Monk and inspired by Laurent’s book. At the moment, Laurent is working with fellow Frenchman Jacques Gamblin on a show that mixes literature performed by Gamblin and accompanying music written and performed by Laurent. His work in the Power Trio is never far from his mind either, as he still spends time writing new music for the group and touring.
In the coming months, Laurent will be performing in Brazil, Paris, and various nations in the Middle East. Laurent is never content with the music he performs. Shifting between various forms of jazz, you can always expect to hear a diverse collection of sounds ranging from African and Caribbean inspired music, acoustic jazz, and electric jazz.