The Big Hustle: “The golden rule? Groove!”

The Big Hustle is all about groove, a good groove. Something which is not without reminding us of the great Snarky Puppy. 

Lead by Sébastien Levanneur, the band performed at the Divan du Monde (Paris 18e) in November 2014, and at Le Caveau des Oubiettes (Paris 5e) – where you can frequently meet most of the band’s musicians) in January. But it is thanks to their concert at La Favela Chic (Paris 11e) a few weeks ago that I had the opportunity to see them on stage.

The show was great: the musicians had the audience dancing! Audience in which we noticed a lot of musicians. The crazy horn/brass section (Jérome Cornélis, Sylvain Fétis et Olivier Bridot), accompagnied by a really funky rhythm section (Sébastien Levanneur, Philippe Devin, François Faure et Bruno Pimienta) made us travel far from the Parisian greyness!

In order to know more about this promising band, Sébastien Levanneur (founder and bass player) accepted to answer a few questions.

First of all, could you explain us how the band was created and who are musicians?

Sébastien Levanneur : The Big Hustle was created in 2013. One of my friend, studying in a sound engineering school, called me because he had to train recording bands in studio. Therefore I called a few friends: Philippe Devin [who used to play with Nina Attal] on bass, Bruno Pimienta on drums, Sylvain Fétis on tenor saxophone and Olivier Bridot on trumpet.
We recorded a few covers, but it was also for me the chance to compose. Then we called other musicians: François Faure on keyboards, Gabriel Druot on percussions and Jérome Cornélis on alto saxophone. I really liked it so I continued composing for this inspiring formation.

What influences you on this project ?

S.L.: The band which inspires us the most is Snarky Puppy. It is because of their music, but also for the way they work as a band and for their connection with the public.
We are also influenced by New-Yorker funk bands from the 2000’s like Lettuce, Soulive, Medeski, Martin and the Wood or John Scofield. And also of course jazz and funk bands form the 70’s: Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, The Crusaders, The Meters. Or there are too Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, James Brown …

How would you describe your music?

S.L.: As a kind of electric jazz with a strong funk influene. But we do try to mix between very diverse genres: afro beat, hip hop, rock, metal, folk, pop, electro, etc. The golden rule is that at the end, it has to groove!!

What is coming for the band?

S.L.: We are trying to find a touring agent to play in more than the few Parisian bars which accept eight-musician instrumental band.  We are going to record the first album within a few months. There will only be new songs, and also a few guests, such as some singers. It will be realeased for the return from the summer holidays.

Who is composing the songs?

S.L.: I am writing all the songs, Olivier is sometimes helping me for the brass section. Philippe wrote the song called V1.

Picture by Stella K

Picture by Stella K

And about you more personally, what is your musical training?

S.L.: I started to play the bass when I was 14. I played with friends and then I joined the conservatory. While playing with several bands, I finished my music training and I started to give music lessons. A few years ago, I started to often go to Detroit and New York City. It changed my way to view the music, and the life in general. I stopped teaching, and I travelled. Since this moment, I have been concentrated on The Big Hustle, and I am also playing with Charles Pasi.

 What does The Big Hustle represent in your musical career ?

S.L.: The Big Hustle is the band with which I am trying to fulfil my musical desires. There is no limit. If we want to compose a hip hop groove song with a rapper as a guest, or one mixing afro beat, rock and electro, we just go for it! The Big Hustle is also a way for us to create musical and human meetings. We are a more or less a flexible collective and it is not a problem to invite some friends to play with us to try to add new colors to our music. In the long term, I would like the band to play everywhere in France, then in Europe and then even further.

One last question, what song are you listening to a lot at the moment ?

S.L.: Hard question… I would say Laura Mvula, Sing to the moon. In fact …  this band is great: a Snarky Puppy way to groove, a Caveau des Oubliettes state of mind and musicians so talented.

In order to wait for the album, let’s listen to another of their songs: ‘A curse, a blessing’ and we are looking forward seeing them on stage soon!

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