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 Jean-Christophe Maillard (aka Mbutu, aka Grand Baton), French composer,
guitarist and pianist, singer/songwriter and arranger native of Pointe-à-Pître, Guadeloupe. Such atypical
circumstances: early classical piano studies, playing every Sunday at the age of 12 in the small church of
Saint-Claude on the slope of the volcano, artistic influences from the American continent and the
colonizers’ metropolitan centers, would naturally reflect along his creative development.
Naturally, the work of Jean-Christophe Maillard first reflected his roots: in collaborations with the
members of the great band Kassav, and especially singer Patrick Saint-Eloi (with whom he created,
over the course of three albums, this particular acoustic sound in souk music, so influential to this day), in
the audacious and unprecedented ethnic, percussion driven Caribbean pop album “Mi” he composed
for Tanya Saint-Val; in albums like those of pianist Mario Canonge from Martinique, or Haitian
singers Beethova Obas and Emeline Michel.
His precocious professional career started in Paris, France at the age of 20, touring and recording
with Grammy Award-winning artist Angélique Kidjo (1987-1988), touring, recording, producing and
composing the lyrical, “chamber-like” jazz music of world-renown and Victoires de la Musique
Award-winner accordionist Daniel Mille (four albums and worldwide tours from 1987-2004), being
the musical director for famous French singer/songwriter Michel Fugain (two albums recorded, tours
and countless TV shows from 1989-1993).
An inborn aptitude for understanding the complexity of the rhythms of African music led him to become
the number one choice for guitar alongside African stars: after Kidjo, he toured Europe with pioneers of
the world music scene Toure Kunda (Bill Laswell, Carlos Santana) from Senegal in 1993-1994,
recorded with Congolese star Koffi Olomide, arranged and recorded one of his favorite collaborations,
the album called “Myamba” with the legendary voice of Dakar’s «Super Diamono», Omar Pene.
Simultaneously, Mr. Maillard owned “Sous La Ville” recording studio in Paris, Le Marais, in association
with Marc Berthoumieux (Charles Aznavour, Harry Belafonte) welcoming there the best of the
French and international jazz scene, with artists in the like of Diane Reeves, Chis Minh Doky… as well
as pop icons like Linda Lewis (Top ten UK artist, David Bowie, Luther Vandross, Cat Stevens) or
producers like Golden Globe Nominated filmmaker and writer Pierre Barouh (Claude Lelouch,
Yves Montland, Baden Powell, A Man and a Woman, Ocean’s Thirteen) from 1992-1999.
In 1996, 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 prowess in a
unique ethnic/contemporary writing approach that established Mr. Maillard as a visionary solo
artist and a groundbreaking composer. It gathered praise from all over the world, has been taught in
conservatory classes and has also been performed by various guitar players including Argentinian
master Ricardo Moyano.
In 2000, Mr. Maillard teamed up with famous Django d’Or Award-winner French guitarist Louis
Winsberg (Sixun, John Mc Laughlin, Gino Vanelli, Dee Dee Bridgewater) to create the flamenco
fusion project Jaleo (released in the USA by Sunnyside Records) and then started touring alternately with
Jaleo and Daniel Mille around the world (Japan, Africa, China, South America, USA…). The Jaleo project
featured him impressively mastering a custom-made new 8-strings instrument made for him, for the first
time in 2002, the SazBass.
In 2004, he recorded and toured with renowned bass player Etienne Mappé (Ray Charles, Joe
Zawinul, Steps Ahead, John Mc Laughlin) showing disarming abilities in mixing pop music and
various African styles in his playing. He concurrently started working on a second solo project
“Grand Baton” while recording and touring through 2004-2008 with Michel Jonasz, one of the most
esteemed French singer/songwriters expressly known for always hiring the best international musicians
(Larry Carlton, Steve Gadd…). Mr. Maillard recorded and performed with world-renowned drummer
Paco Sery (Nina Simone, Jaco Pastorius) for famous jazz-rock band “Sizun” as a lead singer and
relocated in 2009 in New York City, USA, to start touring with Grammy-nominated, international
artist Richard Bona (Harry Belafonte, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, John Legend…). In 2010
and 2011, Mr. Maillard started new collaborations with various artists from the New Yourk jazz scene
such as percussionist Mino Cinelu (Miles Davis, Weather Report, Sting...) or harmonica player
extraordinaire Gregoire Maret, leading him to perform at internationally-renowned venues and festivals
(Lincoln Center, NY Winter Jazz Festival, Blue Note (NY and Japan), North Sea
Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival…) and to record for renowned
producers in the like of Matt Pierson (Diana Krall, K.D. Lang, Willie Nelson, Michael Franks…)
or Fabulous Fab (Shakira, Bon Jovi, Sean Lennon, John Travolta…).
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.
After touring in North America from venues like House of Blues, Brooklyn Academy of Music, to
outdoor big stages like Louisiana International Festival. In 2013, 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 dance music.