We don't hear much about Swiss music. And you won't, really, in our next segment. But we are going to tell you about a pianist from Switzerland, and his recent collaboration with a number of spoken word performers. The World's Marco Werman has today's Global Hit.
This is Leo Tardin from his new release The Biggest Piano in Town.
The instrumentation is just Tardin and a drummer.
Leo Tardin came to New York City 12 years ago from Geneva. His passport said Switzerland. But his music didn't.
Leo Tardin: In Switzerland, music itself doesn't have such a history. You have traditional music, but we don't really do much with that, and there are very few people that listen to it. In Switzerland what we do is import music from all sources, and then we combine different things, and then we come up with this kind of mix of cultures. That's also why I kind of naturally have this way of working where I combine different things, from the different person I've been collaborating with, whether here in the US or in Europe.
Until recently, Leo Tardin's collaborations have been with other instrumentalists.
But with his on-going project, Grand Pianoramax, Tardin has started working with rappers and spoken word artists.
Leo Tardin: With music there is only so much you can say. With words, it takes music to a totally different direction. That's what I'm really looking for. And you know, as a piano player, sometimes I feel, you know it's hard sometimes to really have a connection with the audience. And that helps to build a connection in the room as well, cause that's what it's about. It's not just about playing. It's about bringing a certain vibe in the room where you play.
And so Leo Tardin started trolling for a posse of voices with things to say.
Enter poet Mike Ladd who Tardin had been introduced to by a mutual friend.
Ladd and Tardin liked each other.
And when Tardin likes his collaborator, he gives them full creative license.
Mike Ladd said it was easy to work over the stripped down piano and drums.
Mike Ladd: I was literally in New York for about three days, always need work, and work arrived, and so I showed up at the studio. And the track was incredibly comfortable. So I just did a freestyle on top of the music. And it was just that. It was incredibly comfortable music to deliver words on. You can't help but think about superheroes on top of buildings when you get back to New York.
Mike Ladd currently lives in Paris.
And so when he comes to New York, he sees it with fresh eyes.
But Ladd also believes that part of the reason he and Leo Tardin work so well together is that he sees New York and Paris, and London, as part of one big neighborhood.
Mike Ladd: Intellectually I only survive in Paris by believing that I'm part of a much larger city: the Atlantic Rim. Which would include London, Paris and New York as downtown centers, which contain the influx of people from Lagos, Mumbai, Abidjan, Fort de France, Kingston, you name it. And that's what makes those cities liveable. Actually, New York, Paris and London become just these three sections of a very large downtown for the world.
Mike Ladd has been helping Leo Tardin break those cuckoo clock, chocolate and cheese stereotypes about Switzerland.
In the process though, he's actually had a few of them reinforced.
Like when the two of them took their show on the road in the Swiss Alps.
Mike Ladd: You know it's one of those classic situations in which you're playing in what used to be a squat, and you've got these sort of lurch looking anarchists serving you some gruel and some organic soup, you know like "Here, you must have our gruel, thank you for playing," and then they come out with this massive brick of Gruyere, and then you're just there slicing of slabs of it, and you've pretty much consumed about five kilos of Gruyere before you go on stage.
Marco Werman: How do you play after that?
Mike Ladd: Better than one litre of Jack Daniels, that's for sure.
Tonight in New York, Leo Tardin performs at the Canal Room with Mike Ladd and poet Celena Glenn.
Aside from the pianist being Swiss, the performance has little to do with Switzerland.
But the Swiss Embassy has embraced the show, and is sponsoring it.
For The World, I'm Marco Werman.