Annick Nozati

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French avant-garde vocalist Annick Nozati first met the Belgian free jazz pianist Fred Van Hove at a festival in the summer of 1984, and the music they began making together was at once totally traditional…
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French avant-garde vocalist Annick Nozati first met the Belgian free jazz pianist Fred Van Hove at a festival in the summer of 1984, and the music they began making together was at once totally traditional and completely outside musical traditions. What was quite normal was for pianists and vocalists to work together, an easygoing combination harking back to classic blues and the early days of the recording industry, not to mention the combination's tradition in classical music. Yet there were not so many improvising vocalists working in avant-garde improvisation at this point, so the ever-adventurous Van Hove was naturally intrigued. By the end of the year, the two were performing their first gig together as a duo in Paris, a relationship that would continue until the singer's untimely death. The duo's formation would often be enhanced with the addition of a guest such as the British saxophonist Lol Coxhill. Nozati also worked with Van Hove in a regular trio with mind-blowing trombonist Johannes Bauer, and in the Van HoveNonet, featuring a whole crowd of serious noisemakers.

The Nozati singing style was based on a total presentation of her personality, including some aspects of theater that naturally filtered into the proceedings through her activities as an actress. Her vocal creations tended to be completely spontaneous; in fact, Van Hove has held up the trio with Bauer as an example of a "true" spontaneous improvisation ensemble. It was yet another famous group that claims to have never rehearsed, and it is definitely true that Bauer and Nozati had no way to communicate other than music; neither spoke the other's language. As for the nonet, Van Hove wrote in a tribute to the singer: "She was not afraid of the eight blaring men around her, she put her foot down, she was the signboard of the group." She created several solo recordings in the early '80s, then came up with the critically praised Les Peu des Anges on the Victo label some 16 years later.

She began her performing career in the mid-'60s in experimental theater. A huge influence around 1967 were the brothers Baschet, who created sound sculptures and drew in many players from the European experimental scene. Nozati's later solo recordings include wonderful examples of her improvising with her mentor Baschet's sound sculptures. She also came in contact with the Art Ensemble of Chicago during that group's extended Parisian residency, a period of experimental art and radical politics. She began to improvise with her voice from a completely self-taught background that included absolutely no formal training or classical rudiments. Her work with improvisers besides Van Hove included performances with Workshop de Lyon, Urban Sax, a trio with the brilliant French bassist Joëlle Léandre and the great Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer, Portuguese violinist Carlos Zingaro, French reedman Daunik Lazro, hearty German bassist Peter Kowald, and many players from the English scene including fellow vocalist Maggie Nicols. Nozati also worked in contemporary music theater in works by the composer Georges Aperghis. She was articulate discussing the nature of work, and gave lectures on vocal improvisation on campuses such as the French University of Lille. She was also an accomplished painter and claimed to have been inspired musically by the fine art of mixing different pigments of paint.