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Remy Le Boeuf knows that his brother Pascal has got his back, even if it calls for a little subterfuge.
The Santa Cruz-raised saxophonist and composer has earned a pair of Grammy Award nominations with his jazz orchestra Assembly of Shadows, including Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for the band’s second release, “Architecture of Storms,” and Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals, for a piece on the album, “Minnesota, WI.”
Pascal Le Boeuf, a pianist, producer and composer who recently started a position as visiting professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. is also up for a Grammy Award with a Best Instrumental Composition nod for “Snapshots,” which he recorded on an album of works commissioned by clarinetist Tasha Warren and cellist Dave Eggar, “Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed.”
The Recording Academy couldn’t confirm that the brothers, who regroup Dec. 28 for a gig at San Francisco’s Black Cat, are the first twins ever nominated for Grammys in different categories the same year, but their feat seems unmatched, though it’s an open question whether they’ll be able to experience the moment together.
When the awards are handed out Feb. 5 in Los Angeles, “I’ll be flying straight there from Denmark and I’m not sure I’ll make it in time,” said Remy, 36. “I doubt we’re going to win, but in the case I did get something I told Pascal he might need to go up and pretend to be me.”
What’s Remy doing in Denmark? Well, he was recently appointed chief conductor of the Nordkraft Big Band, stepping into a role defined in the three years before the pandemic by Los Angeles bass maestro John Clayton. He appeared on the NDD’s radar after a recommendation from Bob Mintzer, the Yellowjackets saxophonist and big band arranger who became something of a mentor for Le Boeuf during his brief stint in Los Angeles.
“We quickly noticed that Remy’s music was interesting to dive into and that it was a new big band sound, the kind of sound we were looking for,” said drummer Peter Lund Paulsen, the NDD’s manager.
Like his twin, Remy recently relocated to take a new academic position, moving from Brooklyn to Colorado to run the University of Denver’s jazz program. The brothers aren’t competing against each other at the Grammys, but Pascal is up against Cuban reed legend Paquito D’Rivera, who was nominated for a composition from the same Tasha Warren and Dave Eggar album.
Commissioned to write music in response to the pandemic, Le Boeuf crafted “Snapshots,” an oblique reflection on “identity and how we think about American art music,” he said. He wrote the piece while living in Aaron Copland’s Hudson Valley house for the 2020 Copland House Residency Award. The iconic composer, who famously claimed that jazz rhythms played a seminal role in his music, seemed very present in his former abode.
“I found his dentures in a closet and took a picture with them,” Pascal said. “But what I was really struck by is the kindness in the community that he developed. After establishing himself he went out of his way to help other people, generous acts that passed from person to person, reaching from past to present, forming musical communities along the way. And in a profound way I was benefitting from them.”
At Black Cat, the brothers are performing with the formidable Bay Area rhythm section tandem of bassist Giulio Xavier Cetto and drummer Malachi Whitson. They might be previewing some material from the upcoming Le Boeuf Brothers album “Hush,” which is slated for release in April in conjunction with a series of Bay Area performances.
Music has always played a central role in the brothers’ relationship, but as their lives have become increasingly busy — Pascal and his wife, composer and fellow Vanderbilt professor Molly Herron, welcomed a baby boy last winter — the brothers have found that performances now provide precious opportunities to spend time together.
“As we’ve moved to different cities and taken on different responsibilities those moments coming together really feel like a celebration,” Pascal said. “This last project ‘Hush,’ between teaching, commissions and being a dad, every time I have a moment to spare and start mixing the album there’s so much joy living in that place. Creating together is more effortless than ever. It’s like we save up all this energy for each other and there’s this bursting of creative ideas and discovery.”
Whatever happens at the Grammy Awards in February, the Le Boeuf brothers have found that nurturing unmistakable musical identities makes their creative communion that much more singular.
Contact Andrew Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LE BOEUF BROTHERS + FRIENDS
When: 7 and 9 p.m. Dec. 28
Where: Black Cat, 400 Eddy St., San Francisco
Tickets: $25-$35; blackcatsf.com
SF-bound Le Boeuf Brothers might be on verge of Grammy history
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