January 22, 2009
Christophe Rocher Trio
Marmouzic MAR 004
Staking out an original sound circuit where Free Improv meets Heavy Metal is this combo from the Loire area of France that could truthfully be described as a power trio that includes a clarinetist.
While the unexpected rhythmic base and technical sophistication of the performance ensures that Extenz’O avoids serious comparison with Rush, AC/DC or any metal variant, certainly the power and exuberance trio members bring to this CD would be the envy of any rock’n’roller.
At the same time communication advances such as the Internet allows one member of this close-knit trio – drummer Edward Perraud – to reside in Paris, while the other two are in Brest. Among many other projects he participates in, Perraud is a charter member of Hubbub. Meanwhile clarinetist Christophe Rocher and guitarist Olivier Benoit are leaders of different local formations plus organizers of regional festivals and improvisational meetings. Both members of the Circum orchestra, Rocher has also worked with saxophonists such as Assif Tsahar and Daunik Lazro plus l’Art Ensemble of Brest; while Benoit directs the 25-piece La Pieuvre orchestra and has played with, among others, Lazro, and Jean-Luc Guionnet, another member of Hubbub.
Perraud’s understated playing in the minimalist Hubbub becomes hard-edged for Extenz’O with embellished drags, flams, rolls, pops and rebounds. But of course that strategy is needed to mesh with the crunching riffs and sonic distortion from Benoit, as well as Rocher’s collection of vibrated trills, reed bites, circular breathing, flutter-tonguing and snorts.
On a track such as “2e Generation”, for instance, the string-reed interface is such that the output begins to resemble electronic output signals, as the glottal sluices from the clarinet plus knob-twisting delay and string-buzzing from the guitar meld. With both timbres progressively less stable, the spluttering experimentation is confirmed.
Meanwhile “Pleur de Noir I and II” encompass irregular reed breaths and hand drumming as well as string scratches and clinks from the guitarist. Puffs and squeals from the clarinetist occasionally foreshadow sudden splashes of harsh chording; at other points, snaps, rolls and bounces from the drummer line up with below-the-bridge strumming from Benoit and strangled stopping from Rocher. Moving through circular rococo coloration from all three, the connected tunes are resolved with liquid fingering from the guitarist plus dissolving tongue slaps from the clarinetist.
In contrast, spectral organization characterize the first and second part of “Tôt la Fin”. By its finale cumulative vibrations and echoes from each instrument are intermixed so that individual identification is difficult. Earlier, triple counterpoint is expressed by Perraud’s irregular drum beats and drags, an ostinato drone from Benoit’s off-centre pulsations plus flutter-tongued trills from Rochcer. Following that an episode of flanged guitar quivers output in tandem with cymbal pings.
Overall, this CD’s unique mixture of legato reed peeps, demanding drum ratamacues and distorted guitar runs confirms that inventive – and heavy – improvisation is just as apt to appear from a far-flung area, as from any of the major jazz capitals.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Jatropa I 2. Femme and Co 3. Pleur de Noir I 4. Pleur de Noir II 5. Lettre Verte I 6. Lettre Verte II 7. 2e Generation 8. II I III IIII I II 9. Tôt la Fin I 10. Tôt la Fin II 11. Jatropa II
Personnel: Christophe Rocher (clarinets); Olivier Benoit (guitar) and Edward Perraud (drums)