Dedicated to you Annick, but you weren’t listening
Vand’oeuvre vdo 0631

Demanding an overused cliché, the unwieldy-named REKMAZLAPZEP is a super group consisting of four of France’s most accomplished improvisers. Modesty would no double cause the quartet members to reject the accolade, but it’s their years of improv exploration together and in other aggregations that makes this CD so notable.

At the same time this is creativity mixed with solemnity, since the four organized as a group six years ago to honor the memory of French improvising vocalist Annick Nozati (1945-2000), with whom each had played at one point or another. The title is an ironic, and non-sappy, reference to her absence from the scene. Not that this live session is any way program music. There is no vocalist present, all the sounds are improvised and the seven tracks advanced by the unusual instrumentation – trombone, saxophone and two electric guitars – precludes sentimentality with multi-layered instrumental bravura.

Almost textbook Free Improv in its evolution, the Annick suite involves passages of extreme loudness, usually promulgated by the flanged phasers and amp distortions of guitarists Dominique Répécaud and Camel Zekri. Minimalist passages and pauses predominate as well, with saxophonist Daunik Lazro and Thierry Madiot on bass trombone and (briefly) French horn expending grunting tremolo split tones and moistened spetrofluctuation.

At the same time, Lazro, who has recorded with everyone from American multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee to fellow Gallic reedist Michel Doneda doesn’t confine his timbres to the big saxophone’s basement register. On “Sans aile” for instance, his false register obbligatos and altissmo shrieks easily match and enlarge the slurred fingering and distorted phrase-shifting from the guitarists. Both plectrumists also seem intent on exposing their inner Jimi Hendrix’s in a 1960s-stye rave up. Then again, the two know how to leave space since together they make up one-half of the all guitar band Misere et Cordes.

Standing apart from this protoplasmic mass of oscillating pitches is Madiot, whose languid horn offers mellow contrapuntal grace notes with a plunger mute emphasis. Reflective and multiphonic, the trombonist’s tone hints at his playing experience with larger formations led by the likes of percussionist Jean-Pierre Jullian and guitarist Marc Ducret.

Blending the projections of distorted fuzztones and heavily rhythmic rasgueado from the guitarists, neighing ostinato and flutter-tongued brays from the trombonist, and the saxophonist’s shifting reed slurs plus extended snarls, characterizes the climatic final track.

Clocking in at more-than-16-minutes, “Sidéral” combines conclusive shards of the previous expositions. Here Maadiot’s didjeridoo-like horn echoes and Lazro’s mellow tremolo tongue flutters join in broken octaves to aurally break through the ectoplasmic shifting and reverb buzz from the droning guitarists’ slides, smears and crunches. After palm taps and finger-style fills expose moments of silence among the continuous, almost bone-shaking resonation, the piece subsides into stops, flutters and fills.

What better definition could there be of interactive, four-person improvisation –

French variety?

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Le rêveur s’envole 2. Brulûre sourde 3. Erectile 4. Sans aile 5. Sange limite 6. Spectral 7. Sidéral

Personnel: Thierry Madiot (bass trombone and French horn); Daunik Lazro (baritone saxophone); Dominique Répécaud (electric guitar) and Camel Zekri (electroscopic guitar)