As a saxophonist, composer and the Lamont School of Music’s new director of Jazz & Commercial Music Studies,
Remy Le Boeuf has always had “big ideas” about music—ideas that have led to a successful career as a jazz innovator and, most recently, as composer and arranger of two Grammy-nominated albums.
In mid-November, his album, “Architecture of Storms,” was nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, and his arrangement of a song by indie rock musician Bon Iver called “Minnesota, WI” garnered a second nomination in the category of Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella.
Called a “big record” in terms of ambition, scale and degree of difficulty, “Architecture of Storms” is the second album Le Boeuf has produced with his 20-person jazz orchestra. His 2019 debut album, “Assembly of Shadows,” earned Grammy nominations for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Arrangement.
Le Boeuf’s music is rooted in traditional jazz but influenced by contemporary classical and indie rock. “Architecture of Storms” is a transitional album, demonstrating an indie rock-influence with his jazz orchestra. It’s “kind of like a bridge but also a continuation of the first album,” he says, noting that both record titles have the same initials and number of syllables. “I’m kind of finishing the first statement and opening the door to where I plan on going.”
Before coming to Denver in August, Le Boeuf spent 18 years in New York, where he attended the Manhattan School of Music and began his professional career. He has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and his twin brother Pascal, with whom he co-leads the experimental jazz quintet, Le Boeuf Brothers.
Growing up in Santa Cruz, California, Le Boeuf started playing the oboe when he was 10 and picked up the saxophone a year later. The first jazz album that became an obsession was Charles Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um.” “I listened to pretty much nothing else for about a year,” he says. “I wanted to absorb it; I wanted to become that music. I wanted to listen to it as I slept and wake up being able to play everything on the saxophone—you know, some very childlike, innocent but kind of beautiful way of seeing the world.”
Not long after, he started using his sister’s old karaoke machine that had a tape recorder on it, and he would plan out epic orchestral compositions. “I never wrote them down or anything, but I had these big ideas in my head,” Le Boeuf recalls. “It wasn’t until many, many years later of trying to force really big, epic ideas into a small band that I realized, ‘Oh, I should just have a big band.’ So, when I put together my jazz orchestra, that’s when a lot of things clicked for me.”
In addition to conducting Lamont’s jazz orchestra and working with students on saxophone and composition, Le Boeuf has another album coming out in 2023 with Le Boeuf Brothers. He’s also working on a saxophone book and composing several commissions for different bands, including the Air Force Falconaires. And this January, he began a stint as chief conductor of the Nordkraft Big Band in Denmark.
As of this writing, Le Boeuf was looking forward to flying directly from Denmark to Los Angeles to attend the Grammy Awards ceremony in person on Feb. 5.
“Jazz music is not very in the spotlight for the general public, so to be a musician who gets nominated for a Grammy puts you in the public eye,” Le Boeuf says. “It puts your accomplishments in a lens where people can understand the significance [of your work], even if you operate in a smaller field like I do.”