Marcel et Solange Invite Samuel Blaser

Tomate et parapluie
TrioCollectif Trio CD 4

Utilizing the blustery timbres from versatile Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser to add ballast to a program of originals, the young French trio (sic) Marcel et Solange aims for more dramatic contrasts on their newest CD. Together since 2011, saxophonist/clarinetist Gabriel Lemaire, cellist Valentin Ceccaldi and drummer Florian Satche ably demonstrate that like outstanding cooking and eccentric politicians, musical invention and experimentation are still at a premium in France.

Well-integrated in a group identity, the three are also part of the 10-member Trio Collectif – there seems to be a pattern here – which like similar national associations spend time moving in and out of each other’s bands. This sense of familiarity may be the set’s limitation however as the foursome runs through the nine originals, all composed by either Lemaire or Ceccaldi. As a trio Marcel et Solange express musical closeness. But the vivid aural colors expressed by Blaser’s technical skill appear to call for more rhythmic and melodic tinctures on the trio’s part which aren’t forthcoming. So like bucolic pictures hanging on the wall of a comfortable parlor, the majority of the tunes on this CD end up being shaded in neutral pastels. That’s probably also why the saxophonist’s “Marceline” makes such a forceful impression. A tango borne along on guitar-like plucking from Ceccaldi and with a clarinet lead as clean as rustic air space, it almost doesn’t need the additional hues provided by Blaser’s mellow grace notes.

Another way though that all CD’s tracks escape being sound-painted in pallid tints is when Lemaire brings out the baritone saxophone, his strongest horn. That happens on Ceccaldi’s “Ma Douce Amie” where Lemaire’s initial timbral blast is as wide as the wind-swept plains of a classic Western, and Blaser follows him with equally chunky tones. Together they personify two tough hombres. With Satche’s backing minimized to brief bell pings and cymbal rolls and what sounds like computer generated static also present, a rewarding feeling of cinematic scope is present.

In other sequences however, especially when Ceccaldi sticks to melancholy string sawing and Lemaire to understated clarinet puffs, the narratives are somewhat of a letdown. “Paquebot” for instance is properly balanced with a tight bluesy beat, but it doesn’t really stir until banshee-like reed cries appear at the end. Unfortunately too, the title track, which encompasses disconnected cello plinks, ‘bone slurs and clarinet whimpers, tries, but doesn’t succeed in adding more color and/or drams. Overall the impression left after its conclusion is having experienced constrained near-chamber music.

Like novella vague cineastes, other experiments fail to jell. For instance, “Borsch” reaches a crescendo of sliding smearing brutish horn screams that lead to a backing out of the theme into a modal variation with mid-range baritone and trombone harmonies. But as sympathetic as the first section may be, the drum pats and pitched string resonations that later kick in lack connection with the initial sequence. The duple idea track may buttress the program, but it appears that two superior improvisations have been squished into a singular weaker one.

By exposing their own growing pains through comparison with Blaser’s assured soloing, the members of Marcel et Solange still demonstrates a musical maturity more profound than many of their peers. Coupling this with their original compositions that are working their way towards profound improv, there are high hopes for the trio breaking through to the equivalent of an auteur’s individuality.. If they can toughen their own interaction enough, next session may put aside earlier judgmental lapses and be an integrated keeper.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Pépé 2. Paquebot 3. Marceline 4. Petite Biche 5. Ma Douce Amie 6. Méandre 7. Tomate Et Parapluie 8. Borsch 9. Flamand Rouge

Personnel: Samuel Blaser (trombone); Gabriel Lemaire (alto and baritone saxophones, Bb and alto clarinets); Valentin Ceccaldi (cello, horizontal cello and melodic) and Florian Satche (drums)