Photograph by Jan Mangan
Wonder Twins, Separate!: After a last show at Kuumbwa, Santa Cruz's own Remy (left) and Pascal LeBoeuf will spend a year unleashing their individual talents on the world.
The LeBoeuf Brothers come home to Santa Cruz before launching the next phase of their careers
By Andrew Gilbert
Even by the uncanny standards of identical twins, Pascal and Remy LeBoeuf have forged a remarkably close connection. What sets them apart from other siblings who share the same DNA and a preternatural level of communication is that they practice it in public, on the bandstand, to unique artistic effect.
Over the past decade, Pascal, a prodigious pianist, and Remy, a formidable saxophonist, have inspired and spurred each other through a thrilling creative journey, joining an elite corps of young improvisers mentored by some of the greatest figures in jazz.
After spending their entire lives intertwined, however, the brothers are parting ways. They graduated from the Manhattan School of Music in May, and now for the first time in their lives, they're setting out on divergent paths. But before they go, the Santa Cruz–raised LeBoeufs are playing a hometown gig Thursday at Kuumbwa Jazz Center. The celebratory mood will only be enhanced by the fact that they turn 21 at the stroke of midnight.
"This is exciting for us—we're splitting up," Remy said last week, speaking by phone from their Manhattan digs. "We won't be sharing an apartment. Usually we're spending so much time with each other, we're used to developing together. Now we're going off on our own. I'm going to be going straight back to the Manhattan School of Music to get my masters, and Pascal is taking a year off."
"Actually, I'm taking a year on," Pascal interjected. "I'm not taking a break as much as taking time to pursue things that I couldn't get to when I was in school. There are a lot of things about modern music you can't learn in school, so I'm going to take this year to study rock and electronica. I always want to be grounded in jazz, but I have more of an emotional connection to genres linked to my generation."
Jazz is what's on tap tonight at Kuumbwa, where the brothers will be joined by a cast of equally gifted young players, including Los Angeles bassist Dave Roberts, who has toured with guitar great Pat Martino. Drummer Zack Harmon and Berkeley-raised trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire recently finished at the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles, a program for which they were selected by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and director Terence Blanchard. Even before Akinmusire enrolled in the Monk Institute, his big, brawny tone and incisive solos had attracted the attention of alto saxophonists and noted talent scouts Greg Osby and Steve Coleman.
"Ambrose is one of the most creative musicians I've ever met," Remy said. "Every time I play with him it's such a joy. He's from Berkeley, so his name is somewhat well known in the Bay Area, and now that he's back in New York everyone wants to play with him. He was going to be on a San Francisco gig with us last month, but he got a gig with Christian McBride and Queen Latifah."
Having just returned to New York, the brothers were still buzzing from a tour of Canada, their first gigs as leaders outside the United States. With late nights, long drives and bad food, they soaked up life on the road and turned the experience into musical inspiration.
"I wrote a lot of stuff while we were in Canada," Remy said. "Pascal and I are excited about newer compositions. We're recording in the fall in New York, and we'll be trying out a lot of the new material on the Kuumbwa gig. I've been listening to a lot of classical music lately too. We've been broadening what we listen to, drawing on a whole new range of influences."
For Pascal, the artists drawing his attention are Björk, Radiohead and Sigur Rós. During his "year on" he's looking to collaborate with leading electronica musicians like Miami drummer Luc Moellman. He's also joined Cordis, a Boston-based ensemble that blends instrumental rock and contemporary classical influences using electric cimbalom, electric six-string cello, percussion, drums and Pascal on vintage keyboards (Hammond, Wurlitzer, Rhodes and toy piano).
The brothers started their performance careers playing with their band Deuces Wild on the Pacific Garden Mall, exposure that the enterprising siblings used to drum up more work. They quickly plunged into just about every important jazz institution in the region, including Kuumbwa Jazz Society's High School Honor Band, the Stanford Jazz Workshop and University of the Pacific's Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony. They credit Ray Brown, the trumpeter, arranger and bandleader who teaches jazz at Cabrillo College, with jump-starting their jazz education, grounding them in theory and steering them toward hip tunes. "He taught us how to improvise," Remy said. "And he taught us arranging."
Graduates of the Pacific Collegiate Charter School, Pascal and Remy credit their parents with unconditional support for their musical endeavors; their mother Joanne Reiter has taken a lead role in facilitating their careers. Their father, Bernie LeBoeuf, is a professor of marine biology at UCSC and one of the world's foremost authorities on elephant seals (Reiter is also a biology Ph.D.). As the brothers continue to collect awards (www.1bjazz.com has the full list of honors), they're not worried about suddenly being on their own.
"It'll be great," Remy said. "We're going off to have all these experiences, so when we come back together, we'll both have all this new stuff to show each other."
THE LEBOEUF BROTHERS play Thursday, Aug. 2, at 7pm at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320–2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10–$13. (831.427.2227)
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