Le Boeufs Pursue Divergent Paths Amid Ongoing Collaboration

(Photo: r.r. jones)

Whether playing in all-star student bands, attending the Manhattan School of Music or leading the Le Boeuf Brothers troupe, Pascal and Remy Le Boeuf have been partners from the jump. But the 31-year-old identical twins also have pursued their own musical identities.

Back together for a date led by Pascal at the Santa Cruz, California, Kuumbwa Jazz Center in late May, they discussed their various projects in the courtyard of the nonprofit venue.

“I remember reading about twin identity psychology and how there were different ways that twins develop,” Pascal, a pianist, said. “Just this idea that we grew up with a collective identity—it’s been a long time, and we’re our own people. We’ve been developing our individual interests and distinguishing ourselves from each other. And when we come back together, it’s like revisiting an older version of ourselves. But what’s cool is, because we both play jazz and have these communication skills within the music, we’re still growing.”

For this particular homecoming, Pascal presented the West Coast debut of Ritual Being, his Chamber Music America commission. In addition to Remy, who plays alto saxophone, the nonet included tenor saxophonist/flutist Anna Webber, as well as the Friction Quartet, a San Francisco-based string ensemble.

While Pascal continues to work toward his doctorate in music composition as a Naumburg Doctoral Fellow at Princeton University in New Jersey, Remy is based in Brooklyn, readying the release of his debut solo album, Light As A Word, and writing works for big band. (Pascal’s lone solo effort, Pascal’s Triangle, was released in 2011 and features double bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Justin Brown.)

Remy’s new arrangement of Ornette Coleman’s “Honeymooners” had been performed the previous weekend by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; he was able to catch its debut, but traveled to California the following night.

“It was amazing to get to work with those guys, especially after I’ve learned so much from them,” Remy said. “I got to work really closely with Wynton [Marsalis], refining the score and rehearsing the band together with him. It was a real trip. Wynton’s a deep guy with a great vision for how to present this music to the world.”

Collaborating with the group also took Remy back to when he initially fell for jazz: “One of the first shows I saw when I was a kid was Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the [Santa Cruz] Civic Auditorium in 1999,” he said. “And I remember I came back home knowing I wanted to play this music.”

“I think my arranging style was a little new for them,” he went on to say about the collaboration. “But that’s probably why they asked me. They wanted to kind of expand their palate for the concert.”

Earlier this year, the twins attended the Grammy awards for the first time—at least as nominees, not as members of the Grammy High School Band. Pascal got the nod for his composition “Alkaline” off the Le Boeuf Brothers and JACK Quartet’s Imaginist (New Focus/Panoramic).

The evening at Kuumbwa began shortly after the Le Boeufs chatted with DownBeat, as an all-star quartet assembled by drummer Scott Amendola—guitarist Jeff Parker, organist Wil Blades, percussionist Cyro Baptista—performed. What ensued was an hour of hijinks and virtuosity, as the four musicians traded off lead and accompanying roles. It set a high bar, but the Pascal Le Boeuf Quintet, accompanied by the Friction Quartet, was able to follow with aplomb. “Wanderlust” matched the first set’s energy, while “Calgary Clouds” (written by Pascal with Remy’s string arrangements) from the twins’ 2011 In Praise Of Shadows (Nineteen-Eight) lived up to its titular delicacy.

Ritual Being closed out the night in appropriately epic fashion. Remy sat out the first of two movements, with Webber delivering a particularly intense flute solo. The final movement crescendoed with rapid string quartet arpeggios and sharp horn accents that elevated the audience’s heart rates, just before the house lights were raised for a final time. DB

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