This is a recording that can be heard as on ode to the innocence of childhood […] that manages to reconnect with the ghosts […] we once were and with which, as adults, we sometimes fleetingly come into contact again. Vincent Bessières – CD liner notes

Born in Toulon in the south of France, Olivier Bogé is a young multi-instrumentalist jazz performer and composer. Classically trained on the piano, the musician released his début as a leader in 2011 with Imaginary Traveller where he plays the saxophone. Equally versatile on the guitar, Olivier Bogé has already collaborated and recorded with many jazz greats including Tigran Hamasyan, Jeff Ballard or Baptiste Trotignon.

Released on 17 November 2017 last on the Jazz & People label, When Ghosts Were Young is Olivier Bogé’s fourth album as a leader and sees the musician display his talents on piano, keyboards, guitar, saxophone and vocals alongside long-time collaborators Pierre Perchaud (electric guitar), Tony Paeleman (piano), Nicolas Moreaux (bass) and Karl Jannuska (drums).

Olivier Bogé - When Ghosts Were Young (2017)
Olivier Bogé – When Ghosts Were Young (2017)

When Ghosts Were Young is a magnificent and lyrical record whose radiant compositions situate the music at the confluence of many genres. All themes are superbly melodic and instantly captivating. And as suggested by many song titles (“What Will Remain”, “Dreamers”, “Odyssey of the Innocent Child”), a certain nostalgia for childhood or for the memories associated with that particular period seem to prevail. The question is of course how does this approach translate musically?

Musicians will know different instruments have distinct qualities that will affect timbre, texture, dynamics and harmonic capabilities. As a multi-instrumentalist but still accompanied by a band, Olivier Bogé assumes full artistic control and is able to steer the music and arrangements towards a very personal creative vision for the album.

All themes are instrumentals. Yet, the musician uses his voice as an additional instrument in unison with piano, saxophone or electric guitar – alternating combinations throughout the album. “Rain’s Feathers” also features guest Swedish jazz vocalist Isabel Sörling, but the song has no lyrics either.

“New Garden” for instance starts with a guitar intro followed by piano and voice in unison leading up to a piano solo. “As Sparks Hit the Shadows” follows a similar template and leads to piano and saxophone choruses. Piano and electric guitar in unison introduce “Odyssey of the Innocent Child”, quickly joined by voice and into another piano and saxophone solo. Drums and double bass consistently support the melodic developments and clearly lean towards folk and pop rock on songs like “Till We Rise Again” – one of the many highlights of the album.

In other words, all songs on When Ghosts Were Young are wordless folk songs superimposed on a hybrid jazz rock template allowing for constant dynamic variations and inventive choruses. Using his voice as an instrument, Olivier Bogé brings a human touch, thus adding a wistful charm to the themes.

A quick browse through Olivier Bogé’s YouTube channel reveals that he has been busy recording many song covers from illustrious songwriters like Nick Drake, Elliott Smith or Sufjan Stevens – all singers with strong introspective, lyrical and soulful styles.

In fact I was all set to write a folk album. I recorded lyrics on several tracks, but it was detrimental to the magic of the music. There was something stagnant about it. So I removed all the lyrics. Therefore, it left a lot more space for fantasy and daydream.

Olivier Bogé interview on Culturebox