It all began on this island awash in Caribbean vibration, waves of Carnival interspersed with the drum beat of skin on skin. The teenager looking across the ocean lets his headphones flood with the pulse of the music from the islands around and rock and roll from a nearby continent. Here, he begins collecting: testimony from the horizon, breath from the four corners of the world, and echoes from distant shores all gather in his mind’s ear.
This is the story of JC Maillard (aka Mbutu, aka Grand Baton), French composer, guitarist and pianist, singer/songwriter and arranger native of Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Such atypical circumstances: early classical piano studies, Sunday performances at church from the age of 9, first in choirs then in the local band of the small church of Saint-Claude on the slope of the Soufriere volcano, Carnival parades and a few travels to the nearby American continent would naturally reflect along his creative development.
Naturally, the work of JC Maillard first reflected his roots in various collaborations with Caribbean artists in Zouk music (members of Kassav, and especially singer Patrick Saint-Eloi, Tanya Saint-Val, Mario Canonge, Beethova Obas, Emeline Michel, and countless others.
In 1996 encouraged by two guitar masters Leo Brouwer and Sergio Assad, Mr. Maillard started working on new compositions for the classical guitar based on the codes and the rhythms of the traditional hand drum from the Guadeloupe, the Ka drum, which led to the release of his first solo album Ka Suite in early 2000; fourteen pieces of overwhelming instrumental prowesses in a unique Ethno-contemporary writing approach that established Mr. Maillard as a visionary solo artist and a groundbreaking composer.
His precocious professional career had kicked off in Paris, France at the age of 20, touring and recording with Grammy Award-wining artist from Benin, Angelique Kidjo, later followed by artists from all over West Africa like Toure Kunda, Koffi Olomide, Monique Seka, Omar Pene, and in the European jazz scene, as part of various projects with accordionist Daniel Mille, guitarist Louis Winsberg and the flamenco fusion project Jaleo, bass player Etienne Mappe and more.
He also wrote or toured/recorded with singer/songwriters in the like of Golden Globe Nominated filmmaker and writer Pierre Barouh, Michel Fugain, Michel Jonasz, Maurane.
Since 2002, he was seen impressively mastering a custom-made new 8-strings instrument made for him, the SazBass.
In 2004, JC Maillard started recording a second solo project called Grand Baton that set to extend the vocabulary of the traditional music from Guadeloupe through a deep reflection on rhythm pattern combinations, melody lines, sound experimentations and modern recording production, as well as a focused attention on the use of genuine creole language.
Released in 2007, the Rude Ka music of Grand Baton, an innovative mix of rock music with Ka drums, received warm accolades and praiseful reviews from the progressive/alternative rock world, allowing Mr. Maillard to achieve an international stature now as a band leader, lead singer and electro-rock music producer, and definitely a creative solo artist following a path of his own.
Also in 2007, he started with digital graphic artist Sib, the PixelTv series, an improvised, cross disciplinary experimental performance of live electronic music and drawings, that was broadcasted every Monday for almost 2 years on the french Free TV. For each series, the artists started on a blank page. JC was making use of a very minimal equipment including, one vocal microphone, one guitar and a Korg Kaoss Pad.
Following the interest for Grand Baton specifically coming from the USA, JC Maillard relocated to New York City, in 2009, and started touring around the world with Grammy nominated artist Richard Bona, and other artists from the jazz and world music scene such as percussionist Mino Cinelu, harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret, drummers Harry Hoenig and Omar Hakim, pianist Rachel Z., as well as an ongoing collaboration with Argentinian singer Sofia Rei. JC Maillard was also part of the last US tour of Kora All-Africa Music Awards winner Chiwoniso Maraire from Zimbabwe.
Following in 2013 the vision of manager and producer Linda Goldstein, Grand Baton, after touring in North America and the Caribbean, teamed up to create a new entity with Grammy Award and Academy Award winner, singer Lisa Fischer (of the Rolling Stones and Twenty Feet From Stardom). Mrs. Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton have been touring continuously since then in the USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, China, Australia, UK, Spain, Sweden. and more to come in 2018.
In 2014, Grand Baton released a second album called Carnal Carnival, expanding their vocabulary with elements of electronic music and dubstep, opening new doors to a culturally conscious music rooted in a land of drums, trance and dance.
In the fall of 2015, JC Maillard and Lisa Fischer created and performed the music for the The Propelled Heart with the Alonzo King Lines Ballet in San Francisco; it was performed again in SF in November 2017, in Paris at Theatre National de Chaillot in March 2018 and will be in Montreal at Theatre Maisonneuve in May 2019.
In February 2018, Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton took their creative arrangements to the home of the Seattle Symphony for 3 nights to create together the new symphonic program “Just A Kiss Away”. The program was later performed with the Cincinnati Symphony in March 2019 and with the National Philharmonic in April 2019.
In August 2018 the new band started in 2017 with Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Linley Marthe toured Europe for the first time, a new adventure to be continued.
In January 2019, a new duet album called “Keter” with Sofia Rei, featuring the SazBass was finally released by Tzadik Records; a recording of inventive arrangements of 9 songs from the last Masada “Book of Beriah” of avant garde saxophonist and composer John Zorn. It had been first performed in March 2014, for Zorn’s world premiere at the Town Hall in NYC. “Keter” has toured through 2019 and early 2020, it has won two of the 2020 Independent Music Awards for Best World Beat Album and Best World Beat Song.
In October 2020, JC released “Saz Blues“, an acoustic Rock and Blues album of 5 songs all performed on the SazBass, written and produced during the first months of the Covid pandemic in the USA.
JC is currently finishing the production of Sofia Rei’s new upcoming album “Umbral“, from which they performed three songs at the prestigious GlobalFest meets Tiny Desk festival in January 2021.