photo: Alain Hiot
Somewhere between musical wanderer and uncertified ethnomusicologist dwells Cory Seznec and his unique world. A French-American musician based in Paris, Cory began learning fingerstyle guitar and clawhammer banjo during his adolescence in the US. This led to numerous travels and encounters that helped develop his sound. The discovery of African fingerstyle techniques coupled with trips to different African countries changed everything. His style became more and more syncopated, polyrhythmic, and cross-pollinated, and his approach less and less academic.
A founding member of Groanbox and Seznec Bros, Cory also helped create the Sawmill Sessions, an Old-Time and Bluegrass collective in Paris. A resident of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for three and a half years, he was active in two bands MistO-MistO and Damakase, which mix Ethiopian music with other African styles. In July 2016, Cory embarked on a trip with filmmaker Gonzalo Guajardo to Luhya country in western Kenya to make a documentary on some of the few remaining omutibo style guitar players. In October 2016, Cory recorded a video lesson of some of his arrangements of New Orleans-infused fingerstyle guitar for Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop (released early 2017). To date he has released two albums: Beauty In The Dirt (2014) and Backroad Carnival (2017), both of which were greeted with acclaim in the UK and French press. He is currently hard at work on his third album (to be released in 2020).
The Band - Known variously as the Cory Seznec Band, Cory Seznec Quartet/Quintet/Sextet, and the Guzoo Doctors, here are the musicians who perform regularly with Cory:
Ben is one of two bass players Cory regularly works with, in part because of his impeccable sense of timing and powerful groove. At 19 he began studying contrabass at Boulogne Billanourt after studying classical guitar in different conservatories, after which he worked in different Paris-area orchestras including l’Opéra de Paris orchestra and the Lamoureux concerts. In 2000 he turned to jazz and joined several groups. He then joined the Tsigane-rock group La Caravane Passe with whom he has recorded four albums and performed over 700 concerts around the world. He is also a member of the group Balval (Balkan/Eastern European music), recording 3 albums and performing over 100 concerts in multiple countries. Since 2011, Ben has performed regularly with Bratsch (eastern European music) and in 2014, he has begun to spread his wings, creating and performing in Manding Kabou (Mandingo groove) with Soriba Sakho, and collaborating as an electric and upright bassist with artists such as Dread Maxim, Louis Gaston, and Cory. He holds a masters in ethnomusicology from l’université de Nanterre (with a focus on the Cajun music of Louisiana).
David is one of Cory’s favorite harmonica players due to his ability to not only construct interesting, thoughtful solos but also add subtle texture to the music. Of Vietnamese origin, he was drawn into the blues as a teenager after hearing the masters of the genre, and began teaching himself the harmonica. In the late 90s, he began playing the club and festival circuit with the group Swampini. He performed at the Harmonica Festival in Condat sur Vienne and in 2003 created a jazz quintet under his own name. David is active in a broad array of projects ranging from blues, folk and jazz, to cajun, bluegrass and chanson française. He has been performing with American bluesman Rene Miller since 2004. He teaches harmonica and organizes jams, concerts, festivals and workshops with the Sawmill Sessions, an Old Time & Bluegrass collective in Paris. He joined Cory’s band in 2012. As of 2016, David is sponsored by Hohner Harmonica.
Thomas, the other bass player Cory is fortunate to work with, is a classical contrabassist with an impressive ability to perform in a wide variety of styles with improvisational ease, and tremendous musicality. Having started music at age 8, he moved to the upright at 13, a choice made based on his strong interest in jazz and improvisational music. He studied at l’Ecole National de Musique de Saint Brieuc and then in Paris at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique. Aside from his work with the Orchestre National de France, he performs and records French chanson with Renan Luce, Hawaiian swing with the Kaïla Sisters, with Cory and also regularly records music for film.
Daniel is one of Cory’s favorite guitar players. He manages to do everything Cory wishes he could do himself and more! Born in Tel-Aviv, Daniel arrived in Paris in 2003 and began studying jazz a few years later at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, under the tutelage of Riccardo Del Fra. Since 2008 he has composed and recorded for film and theater, and he has accompanied numerous jazz and popular music performers (Patrice Caratini, Bachar Khalife, Fiona Monbet, Cecilia Bertolini) on stage and in the studio. He is also an active member of several bands including Balval (world folk), Kaksi (with Clément Caratini), Sycomore (jazz sextet) and the Rhythm & Blues trio The Dudes. Daniel also works regularly with the Tournesol Association, which brings artists to Paris-area hospitals to perform for patients and staff. He is currently working on his solo album.
Renaud is Cory’s go-to percussionist/drummer in Paris. His diverse musical encounters and performances on a wide variety of stages in France and around the world have made him a seasoned, expert musician open to new musical experiences. A drummer since the beginning, at age 14 Renaud began studying under master percussionists, particularly west African/Mandingo styles. Thanks to his varied influences, Renaud has been involved in a diverse range of projects including Chimère (hip-hop), Pedro Kouyaté (afro-jazz), Hushh (pop), and of course Cory’s mix of folk, blues, and African music. He has recently created a jazz-poetry project called Quatre Point Zéro. Keen to impart his passion to subsequent generations, Renaud has been actively involved in teaching, particularly at la Philharmonie de Paris.
Cory’s younger brother, Yann is a musician and artist living in Edinburgh. The two have performed together in the past as Seznec Bros and L’Affaire Seznec. Yann’s work focuses on interaction, physical sound, and unusual approaches to musical software and hardware. In the last year he has created a set of original music for an interactive whisky cocktail event, an abstract documentary for blindfolded audience aboard a canal boat, and a series of sonic visualisations made from recordings of war planes for a residency at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. In December 2015 he received a British Composer Award for Sonic Art for his 2014 work “Currents”. In Cory’s band, Yann plays a mean piano / keys and sings backup.