Julien Lourau

French jazz saxophonist and bandleader draws inspiration from blues, Latin, and ethnic European forms.
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Artist Biography

b. 2 March 1970, Paris, France. Lourau began playing the saxophone at the age of 11. He was soon exploiting his quickly learned skills playing rock ‘n’ roll before moving towards jazz. When he was 15 he was playing jazz rock fusion. In particular, he was initially influenced by the work of past and present masters such as Sidney Bechet, Steve Lacy, Stanley Turrentine and Julius Hemphill. In interviews in later years he would also cite Joe Lovano and Wayne Shorter as important influences. Among musicians with whom he worked during his formative years are Marc Buronfosse (bass), Noël Akchoté (guitar), and François Merville (drums). In 1990, Lourau, who plays tenor and soprano saxophones, began an association with Bosnian pianist Bojan Z. playing in an electric group, Trash Corporation. The unit was inspired by Ornette Coleman’s theory of harmolodics, and evolved into Groove Gang in 1992. Others involved in the band included Daniel Casimir (trombone) and Nicolas Genest (trumpet). Groove Gang attracted the interest of Henri Texier and Marc Ducret and made albums for Label Bleu Records and Warner Brothers Records. Important in raising his profile was a two-year spell with Abbey Lincoln during which he appeared on the singer’s A Turtle’s Dream.

Although Groove Gang had been very successful during its seven-year run, in 1998 Lourau folded the band in order to move on to other things, notably an electro band, Gambit. In 1999, Lourau began a succession of tours that took him through Central and South America, Africa and Europe. In 2001, Lourau returned to Label Bleu and teamed up with Zulfikarpasic and Texier for a new album that also marked a return to the classic areas of contemporary jazz. Other musicians working with Lourau at this time were Mezzadri, Gustavo Ovalles and Garay (percussion), Carlos Bushini (bass), Gerardo Dí Gíusto (piano), Elvita Delgado (vocals), and Maxime Zampieri (drums). He has also worked with Malik Mezzadri (flute), Minino Garay (percussion), Stéphanus Vivens and Jeff Sharel (keyboards), and Sylvain Daniel (bass).

Lourau draws his musical inspiration from a wide range, including the blues, Latin music, and the ethnic forms of both western and eastern Europe. In interviews, Lourau has been somewhat dismissive of American contemporaries such as Joshua Redman and James Carter and has been categorical in his insistence that he has no wish to play in the USA, where his records are not distributed, preferring to seek his audiences elsewhere, in particular Eastern Europe, Japan and South America.