Traditionally, the jazz heroes from the region of Liège were sax-players and rarely pianists. Over the past 20 years, things have begun to change. In the late eighties, Eric Legnini represented the rising generation, followed by Pascal Moby ten years after that. That role now falls on Igor Gehenot.
On stage, his angelic face goes through a change : he grimaces and suffers with delight. There can be no doubt: he’s one of the family! His first shows with the Metropolitan Quartet in 2008 – when he was just 18 years old – revealed him to be a pianist with more than solid skills and a surprisingly grounded feeling. A pianist who had the knack, both on reinvented standards or personal compositions – and rather cheekily, given his age.
Igor Gehenot was born in in the Belgian town of Liège in 1989. With a pianist mother and illustrator father, he started on the piano at age six. Brought up on Bach and Stravinsky, he eventually turned to boogie-woogie at age fourteen. His musical ear was clear and he started his first improvisations. A big fan of funk and Hip-Hop, he studied keyboards at the Marcel Désiron Academy in Amay for four years before attending the Maastricht Conservatory in the nearby Netherlands.
This exposed him to the massive tradition of jazz, where he discovered a passion for Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Mc Coy Tyner and Chick Corea.
2007 was a turning point when Igor (17) met the drummer Antoine Pierre (14). Their friendship and musical complicity grew quickly in the Metropolitan Quartet, leading them to play in Belgium and abroad (the Netherlands, Algeria and elsewhere).
Igor attended the Brussels Conservatory in 2009, where he studied the art of modern jazz under Eric Legnini. The references quickly became Kenny Kirkland, Brad Mehldau, Richie Beirach and Herbie Hancock. This is when he crated his first trio with Sam Gerstmans and Antoine Pierre, with performances at the Dinant Jazz Nights festival with which he maintains a strong link since the start.
From 2011 onwards, he followed his own path, perfecting his chops on the stages of Brussels’ jazz clubs. The Sounds and later Archiduc offered him residencies over two years. This enabled im to invite numerous guests such as Félix Zurstrassen, Martin Méreau, Pat Cleaver, Jean-Paul Estiévenart, Lorenzo di Maio, Jens Bouttery and Thomas Mayade.
From then on, things picked up. At just 21 years of age, he earned a Sabam/Jeunesse Musicale Jazz Award. He then recorded the debut “Road Story” album as a trio with Teun Verbruggen and Sam Gertsmans for Belgium’s essential jazz label Igloo Records.
The album was a success with the audience, critics and media. Air France included it in its playlists, it reached n° 1 in Tokyo’s Diskunion charts, was voted Top Song and Top album on Deezer Music and also jazz album of the year in the British jazz magazine Jazzwise.
The trio began to appear at shows around the world, from Vienna to Santiago de Chili, and from London to Paris, not forgetting Mexico, Budapest and Haiti.
Gehenot also became the pianist for the LG Jazz Collective, run by Guillaume Vierset, that brings together the finest young players in Belgium. The album “New Feel” was released in November 2014.
His talents as an improviser led him to play with noted Belgian jazzmen such as Nicolas Kummert, Toine Thys, Stephane Mercier, Bruno Castelucci, Lionel Beuvens, Sal La Rocca, Steve & Greg Houben, Nic Thys, Bravo Big Band, Philippe Aerts and Laurent Blondiau.
In 2014, these various collaborations prompted him to record a second album, “Motion”, with Philippe Aerts on double bass (noted for his work with Philippe Catherine, Joe Lovano, Joe Henderson, Richie Beirach and others) and once again the drummer Teun Verbruggen.
“Motion” was voted a “Must TSF” and “Album Découverte” by France’s JazzNews. Always open to new sounds, he invited Poland’s Atom Strings Quartet to join his trio for the 30th edition of the Gaume Jazz Festival. He was also voted jazz artist of the year by the music body Wallonie-Bruxelles Musique.
In 2015, just before turning 25, he continued to play all the jazz clubs in the Belgian capital, becoming one of the key players of the young generation. He was also nominated twice in the jazz category of the Octaves de la musique (the equivalent of France’s Victoires de la musique).
2016 was another year of diverse activities: he added strong Hip Hop vibe to his noted concert at Brussels Grand’Place for the Brussels Jazz Marathon by inviting rapper Kaer (from the Starflam collective) and DJ Eb-Kaito (3rd place in the IDA World, DMC Belgium Vice-Champion, IDA Belgium Champion and Beat4Battle Belgium Cup Champion ).
2017 saw him return to acoustic jazz with his quartet on the album “Delta”, another milestone in his work and compositions. He stayed true to his trademark sound of almost minimalist ballads with an up-tempo swing (see: Step 2). This time he played with the noted French bugle-player, Alex Tassel (Manu Katché, Baptiste Trotignon, DJ Cam, Jacques Gamblin, André Manoukian and Jacques Schwarz-Bart). He was accompanied by the Swedish double-bass player Viktor Nyberg, the most in-demand sideman in Paris today (Pierrick Pedron, Jacky Terrasson, Johny O’Neal) and the Luxembourg drummer Jérôme Klein, a musician whose flexibility magnificently serves the music on this album! In 2018, “Delta” won an award at the Octaves de la musique and led to several major concerts in Belgium and abroad.
The meeting between Igor Gehenot and Alex Tassel was a turning point in the pianist’s career. Their affinity has led to several collaborations in different musical contexts.