Sylvain Guérineau/Didier Lasserre/Jean Rougier

Improvising Beings ib12

Part of the generation of French free-form players who kept the flame of Free Jazz burning throughout the 1970s and 1980s when experimental sounds were nearly smothered under the twin assaults of Fusion and Neo-Conservatism, Paris-based tenor saxophonist Sylvain Guérineau is reveling in new opportunities.

That’s because the Vendôme-born reed man, 65, who is also a visual artist, has forged a relationship with a multitude of younger players. The resulting CDs, as evidenced by this fine disc, work irrevocably well, regardless of age and genre. Interesting enough though, following Guérineau’s spikier discs concentrating on extended techniques and jagged interpolations with bassists Benjamin Duboc or Paul Rogers, or ones providing responses to Jean-Marc Foussat’s slyly manipulated electronics, Ligne is almost a mainstream effort.

Of course with the tenor saxophonist seconded here by two of Bordeaux’s – and in the case of the percussionist, France’s – most accomplished players, this mainstream is defined by the magisterial style of late John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins in free trio form. Throughout, bassist Jean Rougier keeps the rhythm, linear with thick twanging or angled arco motions. While using only snare drums and cymbals, percussionist Didier Lasserre, who has in the past backed up players such as bassist Joel Grip and baritone saxophonist Daunik Lazro, follows or anticipates the reedist’s every timbre with pinpointed rolls, clanks and ruffs.

With the tenor saxophonist’s voicing sinewy yet chromatic, there are junctures during which his breathy note caressing moves past the Rollins and Trane inferences to connect with their inspirations – Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. At the same time Guérineau’s improvisational thought process is decisively post-modern. Although there’s insouciance in his note selection, most of the time he doesn’t give up on any tone or timbre until it has been thoroughly examined, tested, masticated, squeezed and drained of every tincture of color or sound. The nuances of arco pitch-sliding from Rougier’s bow are sometimes advanced in tandem to this renal-like examination.

Additionally during Guérineau’s stretched rubato transformation of standard reed phrases into the aleatory dissonance that most commonly structures his solos, Lasserre’s harsh pops, split-second clanks and cymbal shakes provide the perfect complement.

The lines here which stretch from rhythm to melody and from Bordeaux to Paris help define the self-invented formula that harmonizes the contributions of older and younger French improvisers. Mainstream or ultramodern, the sounds on the CD are continuously challenging and satisfying.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Cime 2. Et abîme 3. Sur la meme 4. Ligne

Personnel: Sylvain Guérineau (tenor saxophone), Jean Rougier (bass) and Didier Lasserre (snare drums and cymbals)