Clotilde is a French vocalist, improviser, song-writer, performer, flutist, and educator. She entered the Conservatoire aged five and studied music for fifteen years, focusing on flute and singing.
Her artistic approach stands at the crossroad of various musical influences. She blends together Latin, African, pop sounds and jazz improvisation, attesting to the wonderful melting pot that is jazz.
Poetry and the inner music of words also hold a key place in her artistic world. Clotilde aims above all to challenge what can be done with song and with the voice in order to reach her full expression, escaping from standard configurations to express her love for freedom.
“Her true purpose: challenging both song and voice in order to reach their full expression.” Obari Toshio – JazzCritics (JP)
“To sing is to contribute to the world’s happiness”, murmurs Clotilde in her dulcet tones.
“I want to be a singer or a psychoanalyst when I grow up,” Clotilde wrote in her diary as a child. While studying for a Masters in Management, she wrote and directed her first musical, Georgia, which played to packed houses at the Bataclan (Paris). This was when Clotilde realized that music and the stage were much more than a crazy fancy, but a real, vital necessity for her.
“Her nimble mezzo voice is seemingly raising from some faraway place, like the essence of the soul’s breath, a pure necessity to sing.” Laurent Valéro - France Musique Radio (FR)
So she made a dramatic change in direction.
The most striking thing when you first listen to Clotilde is the rich, deep timbre of her mezzo voice, “She has a gripping voice, with a certain wonderful gravity, putting us in mind of Nina Simone.” Jean-Marc Gelin, Jazzman (FR).
Next, you realize the fascinating, stupefying, singular fluidity of her voice, and the agility with which she transforms it according to her inspiration. She turns her voice into an adaptable instrument to communicate what she wishes to convey.
“She has such great control of the voice and her material that she holds you, fascinated, in the palm of her hand (or, more accurately, vocal cords). […] Clotilde is an extraordinary talent.” Lynn-René Bayley, Fanfare Magazine (USA)
“A most wondrous thing takes place when Clotilde sings — wordlessly, sometimes… then using a given lyric. She seems not to beam her ‘vocalastics’ through the electronics of a modern microphone, but rather through a gigantic prism that in turn rotates on an imaginary axis, controlled it would appear, by the power of her will.” Raul da Gama, Latin Jazz Network (CA)
Nothing predestined Clotilde to pursue a career in music. She doesn’t come from a family of musicians and didn’t follow the “expected” path of a professional musician.
However, she was brought up by parents who loved music and were radio addicts. They nurtured her appetite for the performing arts in general (she took classes in dance and acting) and music in particular (Conservatoire Régional de Saint-Germain-en-Laye).
Drawn primarily by improvisation, Afro-American music and jazz, she made these her initial focus.
“The first CD I bought myself as a child was a compilation of Ella Fitzgerald greatest jazz standards. I had heard her on the radio and was totally won over by her improvisations, her disconcerting ease and above all her freedom and her sense of humour. I believe it is this experience that gave me the taste for jazz, this musical space where freedom, humour and sensuality find full expression.”
She spent a year at IACP (Paris) studying with Sarah Lazarus, who taught her the basics of scat and advised her to draw upon her technical knowledge and her flutist’s sensitivity to develop a vocabulary of her own.
Clotilde then immersed herself in jazz culture, notably through jazz composition and arrangement classes at EDIM (Cachan), where she also had the opportunity to attend master-classes with such accomplished masters as Steve Coleman, Dave Liebman, William Parker, Marc Copland and Marc Ducret.
Next she explored classical singing with tenor Peterson Cowan in order to perfect her vocal technique and attain a greater freedom in her singing. “Classical singing is very important to me because it’s a very healthy and delicate way of exercising the voice.”
Since they were both singing in the gospel group Ritual Song at the time, Peterson Cowan suggested a particular approach to classical singing that could be used in gospel. It was at this point that Clotilde discovered the complexity and almost limitless richness of the voice as an instrument. She therefore began to explore every aspect of her voice in minute detail, and with contagious enthusiasm.
“The voice is an absolutely fascinating instrument which can produce a virtually unlimited quantity of different sounds. And it’s inside all of us! Just imagine. When somebody sings, the vibration of their vocal cords through the air ripples through the person listening right down to their skeleton! It’s magical.”
By a stroke of chance, Clotilde met Martina A. Catella around this time. Martina has run the Glotte-Trotters singing school for 25 years now, making the voice her speciality, and she asked Clotilde to join the teaching staff in 2007.
Thanks to Martina, and several masters of ‘major forms of narrative song from across the world’, Clotilde was able to expand her research and studies to encompass fado, tango, Berber songs, gypsy songs, Bulgarian chants and harmonic singing, all of them inspirations that enriched her world and which we find in her compositions and arrangements.
“I want to be able to translate my emotions and my musical and artistic desires as accurately as possible, to communicate them to those listening to me. The more I explore, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I realize and the more I am astonished. I explore every day and I hope to do it my whole life.”
“She uses her voice like an instrument. She improvises, sings with a flute-like voice, chirrups like a bird and even growls. She likes to pull apart and to recompose, and that is why her music is very much of her time […]. She does what gives her pleasure, and she communicates this pleasure on stage.” Udo Raaf – Tonspion (DE)
“I will never forget what my flute teacher, Luc Urbain, told me. We were working on Mozart’s Flute Concerto in D Major for my exam, and he kept saying: ‘forget the notes, Clotilde, think about the phrasing and tell me a story, take me on a journey’.”
Since then, Clotilde has continued to think of music as an invitation to travel, to embark on new adventures, and artistic and human encounters to inspire her further, and enrich her voice and her performance.
Clotilde has formed an adopted artistic family whose members are as eclectic as they are loyal, nurturing and supporting her every step of the way on her artistic path.
In 1998, Vadim Toropoff, founder of the record label Tzig’Art (which produced Clotilde’s last album, In Extremis), brought her into the fold of the French gypsy/manouche scene. Thanks to him, she was able to soak up this musical culture, particularly through her encounters with the Ferré brothers, Angelo Debarre, Petro Ivanovitch and Petia Iourtchenko.
And it was in this milieu that she met guitarist Jean-Baptiste Laya (O’Djila, Christian Escoudé…) in 2000. He encouraged her to devote herself to music and singing, and even accompanied her during her first Paris concerts. Together, they immersed themselves in the music of the Balkans and the Paris “Yugoslavian” scene, as well as chanson française such as Claude Astier, Allain Leprest and Sanseverino.
This mélange of influences and friendships would lead to the creation of two musical stage shows for young people, in which Clotilde performed and sang, Sur la route des tsiganes and Monsieur Jazz, and which toured festivals and prestigious venues across France from 2001 to 2012.
In 2004, Clotilde started singing jazz standards in Paris clubs every week, accompanied by guitarist Hugo Lippi. This collaboration resulted in the recording of her first album, Live au 7 Lézards, in 2006. This started out as a spontaneous project, fuelled by the risky verve of youth, comprising covers of pop and jazz songs, with a self-produced album recorded live as a duo. But it garnered a shower of praise, a “little marvel”, according to Thierry Quenum of Jazz Magazine, and it immediately made Clotilde Rullaud one of the hottest singers on the French jazz scene.
Her next album, In Extremis, started to take shape in 2008, a turning point in Clotilde’s life as an artist, bringing her international acclaim.
“In Extremis represents a very precise moment in my life, one where you place a milestone to remember what went before and what came after.”
As always with Clotilde, it started with an encounter, an exchange, a collaboration with three musicians: Olivier Hutman (piano), Dano Haider (seven-string guitar) and Antoine Paganotti (drums). Clotilde also called on long-time collaborator Colin O’Doherty and storyteller Emmanuel Delattre, who she met shortly before the project and with whom she discovered an artistic complicity that was as strong as it was instantaneous. Hugo Lippi joined them too, as a guest on one of the tracks.
In Extremis was widely praised in France (Sélection FIP, TT in Télérama magazine), while across the Channel, Clive Davis of the Sunday Times (UK) named it his 5th favourite jazz album of 2011. A string of rave reviews followed from magazines and radio shows across the world.
Clotilde continues her artistic journey. A musical gourmet, she gathers eclectic influences wherever she goes, and from whomever she meets.
Since 2010, she has developed a fruitful collaboration with bandoneonist and composer Tristan Macé. Their first project was Le Diable à froid (2010), a trio with horn-player Albin Lebossé, revolving around the musical and literary styles of surrealism, Dadaism and tango. Next came Fleurs Invincibles – Invincible Flowers (2012), also involving Emmanuel Bex (piano/organ), Yann Cléry (flutes), Laurent Salzard (bass) and Gautier Garrigue (drums). This bilingual project is based on original compositions by Tristan Macé, and inspired by texts from American poets of the Beat Generation, and black French poets of the 40s and 50s.
Ever eclectic, Clotilde recently started collaborating on various projects such as one with the Iranian santur player : Reza Madani, or with the American electro-lounge DJ : Maurice Oliver, or with the American free jazz drummer : Percival Roman, and another with Chekov, the band of musicians living in Shanghai.
“I don’t like the idea of confining music within genres; that’s only of interest to record stores. I simply love music. As far as I’m concerned, the musical experience is inextricably linked with people, places and events, which is why certain types of music speak to me more than others.
I have totally eclectic tastes. The influence of the various types of music I listen to – and that includes classical, contemporary, African, Brazilian, jazz, Afro-American and Indian – echoes in my own music and in my improvisations.
Every time I start a new project, I try to sincerely express what I feel about the world around me, what Baudelaire termed correspondences. I aspire to take people on a journey through my music, to grasp somebody’s hand and dash off with them. Some moments will be pleasanter than others, of course, but we will both be so much more alive in the end.”