June 1, 2015
No Meat Inside
Facing You/IMR 003
Unlike musicians in other European countries who have developed extensive international contacts, most French improvisers are part of an entity unto themselves. Perhaps this relates to a time from the 1950s to the 1980s where expatriated American performers seemed to take up an inordinate amount of space in the French Jazz consciousness. Sadly that means few Gallic free players are known beyond their own borders
All of which is long preamble to question as to why a high-quality session like No Meat Inside, created by a quartet of veteran French-based improvisers, is unknown in North America. Recorded at a festival, the CD’s seven tracks offer up matchless glimpses of a particular brand of French improvisation. The tunes are more animated by the aleatoric discoveries of New music than the legacy of Free Jazz. At the same time it’s hard to only wave the tri-color flag in terms of this session. For a start bassist Barre Phillips is a Yank, but considering he has lived in France for nearly a half-century, describing him as an American is analogous to circa 1940, describing long-exiled Stravinsky as a Russian. Emmanuelle Somer, who plays oboe and C-melody saxophone here, has both French and Dutch citizenship, while tenor saxophonist and clarinetist François Cotinaud plus pianist Henri Roger are both from Monaco. Indicating geographical roots is one thing, but the key to No Meat Inside is that among the four, affiliations range from saxophonists John Surman and Urs Leingruber, to bassist Benjamin Duboc, the Helios Quartet, the Soundpainting Orchestra, the Klangfarben Ensemble, plus drummers “Brat” Oles and Ramon Lopez.
Consequently with this radical confluence of experience and textures, the quartet evolves uncommon affiliations and contrasts. With Phillips’ power pumping and Roger’s jarring note patterns tunes often are built up from the bottom with the horns using extended techniques to keep up. Other times pieces depend on florid expansions from singular; and still elsewhere novel contrapuntal duos are set up. A piece such as “Ocres’ for instance, attains its polyphonic shape by matching pounding keyboard with reed smears that include wide, early Jazz-like whinnies from the C-melody and focused tenor saxophone reed bites. As the strands intertwine, Roger exposes the pliable thematic line. Profoundly dissimilar is “Friche”, which hints at Bop, with Phillips hammering on his strings as if he emulating Kenny Clarke rather than a bull fiddler and Rogers extending backwards swing motions that distantly relate to Bud Powell. Completely divergent “Tribulations mandibulaires” reverberates as if is a concerto for plastic horns, with spitting peeps and narrow whistles inferring the sounds of penny whistles and kazoos, wrapping up with nasal overblowing and no rhythm section input.
After brainstorming many improvisational scenarios, the last “Ressort”, which actually refers to spring or spirit, sets up double counterpoint between bass pumps and honking saxophone on one hand and vibrated keyboard plinks accompanying a so-called moderato legitimate tone from the clarinetist. As the horn tones lighten and rhythm section become more percussive, the climax is a congenial timbral mixing, limpidly swaying, but with no overt relations to American Jazz, free or otherwise.
Track Listing: 1. Epars 2. Friche 3. Space Inside 4. Ocres 5. Tribulations mandibulaires 6, Drunk Track 7. Ressort
Personnel: François Cotinaud (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Emmanuelle Somer (oboe and C-melody saxophone); Henri Roger (piano) and Barre Phillips (bass)