May 24, 2001
Definitely not your father's improvised music, this refined piece of European chamber jazz is built around textures and shadows rather than swing or energy intonations. Offering solo cello extemporizations and that sensuously shaped viol's interaction with guitar, tuba and trombone, the instrumentation is about as far away as your average sax & trumpet-hard bop combo as you can imagine.
Session leader, 33-year-old French cellist Vincent Courtois, is certainly no bopper. Working with ensembles as varied as rock band Les Rita Mitsouko, jazz pianist Michel Petrucianni's combo and the so-called world music group of oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil, he's obviously elaborated a philosophy of sounds evoked here in original compositions and choice of sidemen. But whether the hypothesis achieves it's full potential can be argued more negatively than positively. Concerned with defining the title in musical terms — a light which masks the exact shapes of objects — often the compositions are so short and episodic that they become diffuse. A few more minutes to make musical points would have been desirable.
Take "L'Ombre Sous Le Lit" for instance. Over a cushion of slowly shifting brass sounds Courtois knocks out a few violin-like choruses and then stops. "Soft Distortions" is even more frustrating. Fifty-four seconds only allows the instrumentalists to prove that they can do what the title promises — no more. "La Fille Et L'Affiche" proves that a Continental trombonist like Yves Robert can produce a tone as dirty as one from New Orleans — with a French horn's facility — but the mixed guitar and cello plucking in the background remain flat.
Much more successful are "Que Reste-t-il De Nos Yorks?" At almost four-and-one-half minutes, the effervescent, elementary tune is enlivened with some chicken clucks from Robert, while the cellist happily saws away. "Vol D' Éléphant (Part 2)" offers a sputtering "elephant flight" courtesy of tubaist Michel Godard, while Roberts and Courtois combine for some jokey cadences resembling freight train leaving the terminal.
Finally "Cadence Du Milieu", a solo cello excursion, gives Courtois' considerable legit chops proper display, especially when he unexpectedly doubles the tempo and intensity of the composition and goes into the cello's highest register three-quarters of the way through.
With TRANSLUCIDE, Courtois has elaborated his compositions and conceptions, which will probably please many "outside" cello adherents. For the rest of us, however, the sameness in tempo, sound and instrumentation may be insurmountable. Perhaps in future experiments should be done in direct light, not "translucide".
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Ligne Droite 2. Translucide 3. Lettre à Louis 4. Que Reste-t-il De Nos Yorks? 5. Cadence Du Milieu 6. La Fille Et L'Affiche 7. Vol D' Éléphant (Part 1) 8. Vol D' Éléphant (Part 2) 9. Soft Distortions 10. L'Ombre Sous Le Lit 11. Le Petit Cheval 12. Blanc Sur Blanc
Personnel: Yves Robert (trombone); Michel Godard (tuba, serpent); Noel Akchoté (guitar); Vincent Courtois (cello)