Les Freres

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Les Freres


Watching Moriya and Keito behind the grand piano enthralled with their music, clearly having a lot of fun and producing jaunty boogie pieces, it’s difficult to imagine how the pieces come together.

" We started to play a piano with four hands when we were children. Probably, it was when I was six and Moriya was 11," explains Keito Saito Bio of piano duo Les Frères. Together with his brother, Moriya Saito Bio they create boogie piano pieces in Quatre-Mains (French for ‘four hands’) style.

Watching Moriya and Keito behind the grand piano enthralled with their music, clearly having a lot of fun and producing jaunty boogie pieces, it’s difficult to imagine how the pieces come together. Their four hands seem to be perfectly choreographed, yet, as they’ll tell you, sheet music doesn’t cater for four-hand playing. "Our Quatre-Mains style hardly ever uses scores. Even if it is possible on musical scores, it is sometimes difficult to actually play the piano with four hands. We develop our style sitting in front of the piano by trial and error," says Keito.

Les Frères haveappeared in Japan and Europe with late Jazz maestro Hank Jones and Axel Zwingenberger, considered to be the master of boogie-woogie. A recent European tour saw them receive standing ovations and in Luxembourg, they received praise from the Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume. They describe their performance as though "the piano itself is singing and dancing."

The two began playing together as children. At the time they couldn’t have foreseen the future. They travelled from their native Japan to study under Mr. Gary Müller at the Conservatoire De Musique De La Ville De Luxembourg. Moriya counts Gary Müller amongst his inspirations, together with Beethoven, Bill Conti and the Scorpions, whilst Keito points to German Pianist Axel Zwingenberger as his influence.

While most of the brothers’ schedule is taken up touring Les Frères, they do have a desire to cultivate solo careers as well. Moriya says, "I used to play the piano at restaurants and bars, but I never have after Les Frères’ major debut. I would like to build my career as a composer for Les Frères and solo." Keito, however, still does some shows on his own. "I play Boogie Woogie piano as a solo pianist," he says. "Mainly, I play concerts in Europe and Japan. I will go to Vienna and play four shows just before going to Australia in February. I released a solo album of Boogie Woogie in 2008 called Boogie Woogie Far East."

Both brothers talk about the sense of unity that their style of playing brings. Moriya says, "We sit close to each other and the sound of each player comes out of one instrument, so we feel a sense of unity." Keito adds, "The sound of two pianists from one instrument creates unexpected vibrancy together with the harmony of the piano’s strings and its body. Some harmonies can only produced by a Quatre-Mains style." This unity extends to the audience, engaging them in the music and the lively performance. "I like the atmosphere of each moment of the live show and I enjoy the communication through our music with the audience," says Moriya.

The rehearsal schedule isn’t as crowded as you might imagine, Moriya explains, "We concentrate on rehearsing together before a tour or a recording, but we rarely rehearse together and we normally practice individually. On a concert day, we rehearse about one hour together on stage."

Even after rehearsal, the pieces often allow improvisation, says Moriya. "We compose a piece with a part improvising, and we compose a piece tightly and perform accordingly. For live performance, I enjoy how the piece goes and changes." Keito adds, "Some are improvised and created from nothing, and some are a mix of both."

The brothers have played many concerts over the years. For Keito, his most memorable is, "Before our major debut when we played at a kindergarten, I cannot forget the togetherness with the children." Moriya says, "I have a strong memory of Luxembourg concerts because I studied there and there are a lot of people I would like to thank. All the places where I first visited stand out in my memory, [and I think] Australia will be one of my memorable performances."

This is certainly a performance you won’t get a chance to see again in a hurry. The two brothers combine to complement one another perfectly. Moriya’s melodies dovetail perfectly with Keito’s boogie rhythms. It’s one of those acts which is a joy to watch simply because the performers are having such a rockin’ good time. Les Frères is presented in Australia by the Japan Foundation, Sydney, champions for cultural exchange.

Les Freres play at The BMW Edge, Federation Square on Friday March 4. Tickets are on sale now ($18 – $35) from jpf.org.au.