Born: May 20, 1975 Primary Instrument: Piano
At five years old, Wajdi Cherif played on piano the melodies that he heard on the local radio in his native Tunisia by ear. As he grew up, his passion for music has never left him even when he studied at university to get a BA in English literature in 1998.
Wajdi Cherif discovered jazz by watching live performances videos of pianists Chick COREA, Thelonious MONK, Bill EVANS at the American cultural center in Tunis. This marked a turning point in his musical career as he decided to study jazz mainly by himself. He made his debut as a professional jazz pianist in 1998 when he played with the famous Tunisian jazz guitarist Faouzi Chekili in many jazz festivals in Tunisia and Europe. Wajdi Cherif played also with many international jazz artists on tour in Tunisia such as Claudio Perez (USA), Deidda Dario (Italy), Dick De Graaf (Holland), Sigi Finkel Germany)... In 1999, he was invited by the Gothes-Institut of Tunis to play the premiere of the German pianist Dieter Kohnlein and to direct a master class on jazz piano. Few months later, Wajdi Cherif played the premiere of a jazz legend, Archie SHEPP during the “Jazz in Tunis” festival. The same year, he met pianist Bernard MAURY, an important figure of jazz piano in France, who became his harmony teacher. His later meetings with great jazz pianists Kenny WERNER, Chick COREA and Ahmad JAMAL, Martial SOLAL shaped significantly both his vision of music and of playing piano in general.
Wajdi Cherif's music is a fusion of the modern jazz piano styles ranging from Thelonious MONK to Keith JARRET and Chick COREA, but at the same time with the influence of the colorful melodies of Arabic music that he was exposed to since his early childhood. All this resulted in the creation of a brand new jazz sound, a symbiosis of jazz and Arabic sounds. His distinctive performances as a leader in many renowned venues received critic's acclaim as the Tabarka Jazz Festival in Tunisia, where he led many jazz workshops and master classes with prestigious guest artists such as Paco SERY, Al Di MEOLA, Freddy RAVEL (pianist, Al Jarreau) and others.. Recent performances of Wajdi Cherif Band include the Institut Du Monde Arabe IMA (Paris), New Morning, Duc des Lombars, Baiser Salé, La Villette Jazz Festival (Paris), Les Flanneries Musicales de Reims, Théatre des Champs Elysées, Tanjazz Festival (Morroco), Couleurs Jazz, Jazz In Carthage (Tunisia), Théatre Maison Neuve (Montréal) etc.
Wajdi Cherif recorded his first album “Phrygian Istikhbar” in Paris in 2003 accompanied by Diego Imbert on acoustic bass, Jeff Boudreau on drums and Habib Samandi on Arabic percussion. “Phrygian Istkhbar” was finalist in the Indie Acoustic Awards in the USA in 2004 and got good reviews.
Three years later, Wajdi Cherif recorded his second album entitled “Jasmine” with some of the finest young French jazz musicians, released in 2006 in France. “Jasmine” shows the maturity and excellent artistic standard that pianist and composer Wajdi Cherif has accomplished so far (Honrable mention in the International Songwriting Competition (Judges included Sonny Rollins ,John Scofield, Steve Vai…), Indie Acoustic Project winner Best CD of 2005, UNISONG songwriting Contest 1st place winner...). Wajdi Cherif was selected in 2006 to enter the prestigious Martial Solal International Jazz Piano competition in Paris. Wajdi Cherif continues to build with his music a solid bridge between two worlds, jazz and Arabic music and contributes to more understanding between two different musical cultures.
Awards:International Songwriting competition Unisong Songwriting competition Songdoor Songwriting competition Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris Martial Solal International Piano Competition
Tunisian pianist Wajdi Cherif with his CD EP Phrygian Istikhbar, while retaining the flavour of his native country’s music, places more emphasis on the jazz tradition, resulting in a fresh new sound that brings a different slant to the concept of world music. JAZZREVIEW (USA)
Pochade, immediately draws the extremely original contours of the album, with a double flavour of jazz and arabic music… Falaises confirms the inventiveness of Wajdi Cherif and his unique style, a very convincing fusion of jazz and arabic music... Piano Bleu (France)
The Music on Jasmine is simply beautiful! Honest, unaffected, unadorned musical communication - World-jazz at its best! Kaya FM 95.9 FM Radio (SOUTH AFRICA)
Here is a little gem and a delight to play. Pochade, Geranium Blues and Phrygian Tounsi are favorites and getting aired amongst the cognoscenti! Juice FM 107.2 Radio, Brighton (ENGLAND)
On Phrygian Istikhbar, Wajdi Cherif covers a lot of territory. From the romantic solo piece Tunis by Night to the bendir-driven title track to the Bill Evans-informed, lightly-swinging Waiting for Paris, Cherif shows himself to be a diverse and interesting composer and Performer. EJAZZNEWS (CANADA)
I like fusions and mixing genres and have to say it didn’t disappoint. Wajdi Cherif is a young pianist and composer who has a clear vision of how he can merge the melodies and rhythms of Tunisia with the verve of a jazz quartet. JAZZREVIEW (USA)
New York, NY
Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.