David Linx: 50 duets for 50 years

  • The Belgian musician won the SABAM Jazz Award – worth €10,000 – on Saturday.
  • Linx plans to use the money to record 50 duets to celebrate turning 50.
  • Tigran, Richard Bona, Hamilton de Holanda and other big names will be featured.

 

Every year, the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM) hands over its Jazz Awards, honoring the best Flanders has to offer one year, and the top French-language artists the next year. In 2013, the French-speaking panel unanimously selected David Linx, “for 25 years of original projects, Belgian and European; in 2012 and 2013, he added two remarkable productions to his discography, A Different Porgy & Another Bess and Winds of Change.” The prize was awarded to the singer in Dinant on Saturday evening. The recipient was in seventh heaven.

 

“It’s a really nice gesture; I’m absolutely delighted to receive this prize,” he told Le Soir. “I’m truly touched. And as there’s a monetary award of €10,000 that goes with it, I’ll be able to put it toward some of my work. It’s unusual for a prize to offer so much money, so I’m going to make the most of it.”

 

But he will not be spending it on a dream vacation. Linx is 48, and has something a little special planned for his 50th birthday. “I’ve got several things in the works,” he revealed. “But the biggest is a collection of 50 duets to mark my turning 50. I’m going to produce it myself, so the money has arrived at just the right time. I’ve already recorded one with Tigran, the pianist, with Hamilton de Holanda and Robert Bona, and I’m going to keep putting them together with big-name artists.”

 

Linx never stops, moving instead from project to project. Last year, it was Gershwin revisited, while this year it’s an album in tandem with Diederik Wissels. And he is already thinking about the future. “There isn’t someone else out there who I can easily emulate. I don’t have a European singing role model whose footsteps I can follow. Because of this, everyone expects a lot from me. I’m the locomotive who gets to pull all the cars, but I’m also the one who gets hit by stuff head-on.”

 

The vocalist did not become a musical locomotive by magic; he toiled to get to where he is today. He started out as a drummer, having been taught by Kenny Clarke, who even put him up for a while. He played with Horca Parlan, Sahib Shihab and Slide Hampton, in Belgium and in the Netherlands. In 1988, however, he put down his drumsticks to fully concentrate on singing. His idols included Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Mark Murphy and Miles Davis. He even met Davis, at the home of James Baldwin, the American novelist and poet. At the age of 10, Linx found that Baldwin’s work stirred great emotion in him. Desperate to meet the man of letters, he approached him after a public lecture in Amsterdam. This led to Baldwin inviting the teenager into his home in 1982, and becoming a sort of father figure to him.

 

When Linx is asked to choose which of his own albums he regards as the best, he inevitably picks the one he recorded with James Baldwin in 1986, A lover’s question, in which the author read out his poems. “That record was very important for me,” he said. “I was 20 and that album made me stand out from the crowd. Don’t expect me to act like someone I’m not. I’ve got my own identity. I might just be a jazz singer, but I’m a unique jazz singer.” Last year, he admitted to us: “I always told myself that I would never live in someone else’s shadow. You often see stars and legends trapped in a kind of non-existence. You have to create your own voice and your own message. I had the desire to do that. And in jazz, you need desire and will. Male singers are not particularly liked by musicians or journalists; they prefer female singers.”

 

Linx has lived in Paris for many years now. “Because these days it’s the home of jazz. It’s where all the American acts encounter success, while back in the USA they were stuck playing in minor clubs.” And what about Belgium? “It’s a small country split up into three parts. You can’t really talk about a market as such. You can make excellent music here, but not have a proper career, where you make a living from music. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of talent here.

You could argue there’s even more talent than elsewhere, because, as musicians don’t get much of a helping hand, they have to make sure they’re even better.”

 

Linx certainly displayed considerable talent during his concert Sunday evening at the Leffe Jazz Nights in Dinant. Accompanied by Diederik Wissels on the piano and Manu Codja, he blew the audience away.

 

JEAN-CLAUDE VANTROYEN

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