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Portrait of Blundetto

(Portrait by Nicolas Ragonneau for Paris DJs - February 2012)

Percussionnist and multi-instrumentalist Blundetto has just released his second album, Warm My Soul (Heavenly Sweetness), a follow-up to his critical acclaimed first LP Bad Bad Things. Who is Blundetto? Is he wearing expensive italian three-piece suit and sharp varnished shoes? What do we should know about him? Let's take a look at the mysterious gentleman behind the mask of Blundetto.

Blundetto b
(Portrait by Nicolas Ragonneau for Paris DJs - February 2012)

Two years ago, Blundetto aka Max Guiguet received me in the indescribable shambles that were Radio Nova’s premises. The cult French radio had just moved, and their transition to the new buildings was far from finalised. Max is one of the two radio programmers that work for the biggest independent radio in France. He receives submissions from and selects amongst thousands of bands and artists for radio shows and playlists. When I brush my teeth at 7.45 in the morning to the dulcet tones of CW Stoneking on Radio Nova, I know that Max and his assistant are behind this. Discovered by the legendary Jean-François Bizot (founder of Nova and Actuel magazines), Max Guiguet is like the freaky lovechild of Jazzman and Gilles Peterson, digging deep and worldwide.

Or at least, that’s what he’s doing during office hours, because the rest of the time he spends making music. Born to a head-teacher mother and a gym teacher father, not to mention his teacher brother, Max seemed destined to become a teacher too. At the age of six, he attended the Conservatory of Dijon - that’s right, the city of mustard, kir, the city of the Dukes (not Ellington unfortunately, but Dukes nevertheless) - to learn percussions. This classical academic training gave him a solid background before starting secondary school, but the teenager was more interested in partaking in noisy ska rock and hip-hop sessions with his band Boom in Da Brain than in doing his homework. After his leaving exam, he ended up on campus where he started doing radio shows for students’ Radio Campus network. It was quite a nice school to graduate from in reggae, latin, soul and afrobeat…

Max arrived in Paris in 1998 and fulfilled a dream by working at Radio Nova. Not long before becoming Blundetto (a name he borrowed from Tony Soprano’s cousin in the HBO TV show The Sopranos) he made a few LPs and EPs and got some nice reviews with a band called Vista le Vie. For his first solo record, Bad bad Things (Heavenly Sweetness, 2010) he managed to bring together a platinum cast of artists from the upcoming jazz, afrobeat and funk scenes. Berber singer Hindi Zahra lends her ghostly voice to two hypnotic tracks and proves she can be an incredible reggae singer.

French-born (but San Francisco-based at the time) RV Salters aka General Elektriks also sings and plays vintage keys on the album, while the Budos Band's horns draw oriental arabesques. Chico Mann, Shawn Lee, Tommy Guerrero and rapper Lateef The Truthspeaker are also part of this Dream Team. A spellbinding record, Bad Bad Things strikes an easy balance and offers a surprising cohesion whilst blending latin, reggae-dub and funk-soul influences. Cult DJ Laurent Garnier was an instant fan, as was Gilles Peterson, who spinned Blundetto in his Worldwide shows, considering Bad Bad Bad Things to be one of the best albums of 2010.

Two years later, Blundetto returns with a second album, with deeper reggae tones and reminiscences of modal jazz (another of Blundetto's addictions). Once again, Warm my Soul boasts an army of very special guests. If you love 70’s soul-reggae and Jamaican harmonies, you will enjoy Courtney John's falsetto (the great idea of the album), the kind of celestial voice that is reminiscent of Cedric 'Congos' Myton's divine tones.

Another nice idea was to ask British Francophile Hugh Coltman to give the Allen Toussaint/Aaron Neville classic Hercules two treatments, a reggae one and a dub one as an epilogue. Jahdan Blakkamore brings a darker side and some ragga overtones whilst Aqeel's smooth flow adds a hip hop flavour. No female voices this time. Usual suspects General Elektriks, Tommy Guerrero and Shawn Lee join again, alongside newcomers well-known of Paris DJs aficionados: Hammond master Guillaume Méténier aka Soul Sugar (whose next and much anticipated album should come out this year), the elusive Karl Hector on drums (he'll be back soon for a guest mix) and ethiojazz Akalé Wubé's horns section.

So what comes next for Blundetto? The next step would consist in bringing his music to the stage. A few selected gigs with Akalé Wubé are under discussion, particularly a special one at a festival curated by a British DJ with a French first name. But that’s another story...

Special thanks to Naïma Carthew, gallicisms hunter.

Links :
Blundetto : blogspot | bandcamp | discogs | facebook | myspace | soundcloud
Heavenly Sweetness : official | blogspot | discogs | ebay | facebook | myspace | parisdjs | soundcloud | twitter | youtube
Nicolas Ragonneau

Nicolas Ragonneau

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