Olivier Portal, the producer and real performer
Olivier Portal Born in Paris. Oliver’s mother, Francoise Desche-Zizine, was a pianist, and his father Michel Portal, a clarinettist and a saxophone player. His early years were spent at his mother’s apartment, she hosted at the time American jazzmen such as Archie Shepp, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, resulting in the young boy growing up to the sound of pop and Free Jazz.
He followed his father on his Classical and Contemporary tours from Mozart to Stockhausen, and was also drawn into the Jazz scene, attending many rehearsals and recording sessions as well as festivals.
Attracted to rhythms and drums, Oliver entered Versailles Music Academy as a percussionist, which he left after a 4-year course; feeling that this conservative-education drove him away from his passion.
He soon joined the band “Warm Guns”; at aged 17, exploring the Paris Rock scene, as well as touring France opening live acts for The Runaways, Little Bob Story, The Boys…
Simultaneously, he performed in several funk, blues & jazz bands as a keyboard player.
His first experience with computers and samplers in the late 1980s will change his approach to music forever; he soon enters the CMI School in Paris, specialised in DAW music production. This particular period will shape Oliver’s musical journey.
In 1993 he takes part in the creation and arrangement of “Commedia”, a musical ballet by Carolyn Carlson; this project allows him to explore various aspects of electronic music.
An encounter with Simon Di – sound engineer – in ’94 leads to a studio collaboration for several weeks, releasing instrumentals from Hip Hop to futuristic Soul in the album “Funky but Groovy”.
He meets Betino Errera in 1996, a record distributor with whom he starts Straight Up records, taking part in the exciting and inventive sphere back then in Paris.
The label launches new and fresh talents such as Next Evidence (later signed on Blue Note), DJ Deep and Franck Roger.
During that time, he performed live on a weekly basis for Radio Nova, along with DJ Loïc Dury and Karl the Voice in “Future Funk” and “Vinylmaniacs” shows, followed by recordings of many tracks with Soul and Gospel singers from France and the US: Janice Leca, Nicole Graham, Electra Weston, Marilyn David, Karl the voice, Mandel Turner.
Several vinyl-releases as “Playin’ 4 The City” follow and are well acclaimed.
Oliver’s desire to play live, led “Playin’ 4 the City” to evolve from a solo project to electronic jam sessions with up to 8 musicians, before eventually steadying to a trio with Karl the Voice and Fred Melosax.
They perform in Paris in venues such as New Morning, Rex Club, Queen, and Elysée Montmartre, touring Europe shortly after:
– At Montreux Jazz Festival
– Club Cargo, Mudd Club London
– WMF Berlin
– WUK Vienna
– Luz cla Lisbon
By the end of 1999, they’re scheduled to play in Chicago’s infamous Madbar for the new millennium. A monthly residency follows, and the band plays between Paris and Chicago until 2003, also performing at the African Festival of The Arts (Chicago), San Francisco and the Winter Music Conference of Miami.
Trax Records offers Oliver the opportunity to work on two records in their studios, but the events of 9/11 will end this American adventure.
Several records on Straight Up will follow additionally to soundtrack collaborations with his father for various French feature films (La Petite Chartreuse, Stevenson…)
The two perform at Uzeste Jazz Festival in 2002, and Grenoble in 2003.
In 2006, Oliver moves to the Basque coast where his family roots are, and bumps into Simon Di. The two team up once again and release library albums.
By the end of 2015, he resumes the “Playin’ 4 The City” project with a live concert at Djoon along Slikk Tim, Fred Melosax, Loic Gayot & Karl The Voice.
The following year, an encounter with French collective “La Mamie’s” leads to a release on their label and several appearances at the New Morning.
In 2017, Oliver released a remix for Edmony Krater, on the label Heavenly Sweetness.
Following several live shows with Slikk Tim on bass, keytar, and vocals, they start touring as a duo, appearing at Nancy Jazz Pulsations, Rex Club (20-years later), I-Boat, Machine du Moulin Rouge, and stream for Nova (Mix) Club in 2018.
Yet again with Tim, he takes part in “Mahakali-the Don Cherry project” for the Kosmos Jazz label, reworking the standard jazz trio format into synth, saxophone and analogue drum machine for a one-take live session.
Summer 2019 he played for the first time in South Africa, where his music has always been well received