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05 October

Dandyish musical sophisticate caught somewhere between Daft Punk and the classical cannon, but who really is Chilly Gonzales?

 

Canadian composer, musician and rapper, Chilly Gonzales forms the central focus of “Shut Up and Play the Piano”, a documentary that hit theatres on October 3rd. Directed by German journalist Philipp Jedicke, the film explores his path to date, and his dual personality.

By Alison Dechandon

Chilly Gonzales : "Dot"

Look me in the eyes and imagine I’m the greatest musician of all time… Chilly Gonzales, all in effortless verve with hair slick and pink suit square to the camera, confronts his audience with a hypnotist’s aplomb. Whether megalomaniac star or singular eccentric, the 46 year-old pianist commands attention from the very first seconds of the documentary “Shut Up and Play The Piano”.

 

Last September, the Canadian showman released Solo Piano III, the final phase of his Solo Piano trilogy whose peculiar alchemy sees simple piano melodies transformed into the kinds of mellifluous soundscapes that bring classical music closer to audiences otherwise alienated by its unfortunate ‘elitist’ reputation. The fifth track on the album, “Chico”, pays homage to actor Chico Marx in Sam Wood’s 1935 film A Night at the Opera. Able to command an audience and succeed in his every ambition, Chico Marx struck Gonzales precisely because his story resembled his own: a musician tirelessly reinventing himself and and multiplying his musical projects in pursuit of his audience. Indeed Chilly Gonzales multiplies his alter-egos and their styles, as fluent in classical music as rap or electronic.

 

 

 Chilly Gonzales multiplies his alter-egos and styles, as comfortable within classical music as rap or electronic

Chilly Gonzales : “You Can Dance”

In 2013, he contributed a 42 second piano solo to Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, Random Access Memories. A year later, at the 2014 Grammy Awards, the album would claim the best album trophy, and Gonzales would receive the

Grammy as part of the 21-strong production team. And it’s upon the piano that he would once more surpass himself last April, with Other People’s Pieces (OPP), a cover album assembling the best loved songs of contemporary artists such as Drake, Lana del Rey or American pop duo Beach House. Intuitive and audacious, Gonzo’s (to take his nickname) reinterpretations are veritable deconstructions, in each case isolating the various artist’s melodies, translating them into different musical genres and creating unlikely alliances over a ground of classical music. The value of creative freedom-cum-eccentricity, as displayed on this album, has been further enshrined at the Gonzervatory, a pop-up music workshop held in Paris last June for a small selection of musicians aged 18 and over from around the world. Intensive master classes over eight days, led by Gonzales himself centre on technique, emotional stimulation and live performance.

 

Chilly Gonzales undergoes a transformation on stage. Summoned by the music, the showman emerges, punctuating choice notes with passionate staccato head movements. Offstage, he perfects his compositions in low-key sessions with but a handful of musicians. The Canadian excels whether he’s spitting rap bars or gliding across the piano in classical mode, and it is this ambidexterity that has captured the interest of journalist Philipp Jedicke. His documentary “Shut Up and Play The Piano” focuses on the paradox at the heart of the man, torn between his doubts on the one hand and his megalomania on the other.

 

 

 

Late ‘90s, a German nightclub: as the blue volutes of smoke rose from a joint, his friend Raz Ohara had a vision. The Danish musician glimpses Speedy Gonzales in the haze, and Jason Beck becomes “Chilly Gonzales”

Trailer “Shut Up and Play the Piano” by Philip Jedicke

Nothing indicated that Jason Beck, to take his given name, was destined to become a pianist of renown. While he would clamber onto his grandfather’s stool to learn the black keys from the white as a child, and as a teenager, started a band in his school which he led “like a dictator,” (by his own admission) he took his time as a young man to find his fulfilment in music. It was in the late ‘90s, at a German nightclub: as the blue volutes of smoke rose from a joint, his friend Raz Ohara had a vision. The Danish musician glimpsed Speedy Gonzales in the haze, and Jason Beck becomes “Chilly Gonzales”. The name spoke to him for some reason, and he assimilated into his extravagant, no-holds-barred vision of music and perofrmance, quite fantastical and entirely his own, and, ultimately, quite distinct from that of his younger brother, Christophe Beck. Indeed, Chilly Gonzales isn’t the only musician in the family. As children they shared the passion: “we fell in love with music together”, he explains. Partners as rivals, the two men have taken radically different directions in their careers. If Chilly Gonzales has taken the independent route, Christophe has left Canada for Hollywood and has moreover collaborated with Marvel studios on their feature-length Ant-man and the Wasp. As for Gonzo, he will soon be touching base with his audiences on a grand tour already shaping up to be nothing short of explosive.

 

Chilly Gonzales will be in Nantes on February 12th, 2019, Rennes the 13th, Bordeaux the 16th, Toulouse the 17th and in Paris on the 26th and 27th of June, 2019.

 

 

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