Born in 1961 in Tunis, Tunisia, Moncef was blind at birth. Flown to Switzerland to receive treatment on his eyes at the age of 2, he was adopted by a Swiss family shortly after. At 6 he began to take piano lessons, strongly encouraged by his adoptive father, a Jazz enthusiast who would often play records by Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller at the family’s house. Blessed with a remarkable auditory memory that allowed him to learn and replicate any piece by ear, Moncef started to develop his own style. In 1987 he obtained a music teacher’s degree from the Conservatory in Geneva.
A professional musician since 1983, Moncef quickly asserted himself as one of Switzerland’s leading Jazz artists, thanks in part to the body of work he assembled with his Trio. In the course of his career he has played with the likes of Bob Berg, Alvin Queen, Reggie Johnson, Harold Danko, John Stubblefield, Joe LaBarbera, Michael Brecker, Larry Grenadier, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Stewart, Idris Muhammad, James Cammack, Jack DeJohnette, Scott Colley, and Grégoire Maret, among many others.
The 1990’s saw him tour all of Europe as well as India, Australia, Africa, Japan, the United States, and Canada as a headliner. In 1994 he delighted the audience at the Vancouver and Montreal Jazz Festivals with brilliant performances. The following year he performed in Africa, where he and Youssou N’Dour became close friends. The two have since played together on numerous occasions, developing a new African-Jazz sound, and were the main protagonists in the acclaimed 2006 documentary entitled “Return to Gorée” (CAB Productions). The project followed several musicians as they travel the route of West-African slaves from Senegal to the United States, while revisiting the musical evolution from Negro spirituals to Gospel to Jazz along the way.
Since then, Moncef has continued to grow and build his own catalogue, recording with formations ranging from the duet to the sextet, to even the symphonic orchestra. He lists Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, and Brad Mehldau as his influences, and according to multiple media outlets, he has joined some of these illustrious names as one of the major Jazz pianists of this generation.
2005 was a turning point in Moncef’s career, as he signed an exclusive recording, publishing, and management deal with Los Angeles-based Rollin’ Dice Productions. His first project for Rollin’ Dice was “Aqua,” Moncef’s 10th studio album. It brought together an impressive line-up consisting of Moncef, Grammy Award® winners Michael Brecker and Dee Dee Bridgewater, along with Bill Stewart, and Scott Colley. The project, recorded in New York City, was produced by C.Chill, who’s been Moncef’s producer ever since. It demonstrated the level of Moncef’s maturity as a Jazz composer, arranger and performer. Dubbed his most ambitious record to date, “Aqua” was released in the U.S. by legendary label Savoy Jazz. The record was praised unanimously by the most highly regarded U.S., Japanese, and European Jazz publications, and proved a major step in developing Moncef’s already growing popularity. In the years that followed, Moncef played at some of the most distinguished venues in the world, such as the Montreux Jazz Festival (in 2007 with the “Return to Gorée” All-Stars and again in 2008 in solo), the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Dizzy’s/Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, the International Festival in Carthage, Tunisia, the Cully Jazz Festival, the Opera House in Damascus, Syria (as part of a UNHCR humanitarian project benefitting refugees), and the Victoria Hall in Geneva, where he shared top-billing with Brad Mehldau and Anouar Brahem.
The next decade saw Moncef release five albums: “Métissage” (with singular arrangements of Jazz classics intertwined with Moncef’s melancholic compositions and a new collaboration with Youssou N’Dour); “Pop Songs” (his 12th album as a leader, marking an interesting and playful departure from Genoud’s traditional jazz trio sound); “Live in Cully” (his first solo album); “Walk With Me” (in duet with long-time friend and bass player Ivor Malherbe); and “Concert de Valère” (his second solo album, released in Japan by Muzak).
To highlight his return to the forefront after the pandemic that put on hold the entire music scene – and his own career – for the better part of two years, Moncef gave a solo performance at the Crans-Montana Classics in September 2022. Released in January 2023 under the title of “Introspection,” the album is a deeply moving, intimate reflection on his time during the Covid years. Now in his sixties, Moncef displays both the maturity of his age and a youthful thirst for new musical explorations that mirror his own unique and exciting life journey. He humbly invites his listeners along for the ride.