Guérineau/Oki/Carter/Sato

D’un Rive à L’autre
Improvising Beings ib 47

Like carriage horses in harness, history and nostalgia are often linked. That’s why all-star sessions of Classic Jazz and Swing performers were often recorded during the 1940s and 1950s, in order to document important music performed by its originators. That longing for times past was sometimes a by-product was as inevitable as couturiers adding decorations to classic fashion when shown again.

D’un Rive à L’autre gathers together four veterans present during France’s first rapprochement with Free Jazz in the 1960s and 1970s – trumpeter and flugelhornist Itaru Oki, tenor saxophonist Sylvain Guérineau, bassist Kent Carter and drummer Makoto Sato – to explore five group compositions. The four are so familiar with the twists and turns of in-the-moment creation that they run through the pieces with the enthusiasm of four decades ago amplified by the cumulative aptitude they’ve picked up along the way. Not a working band, its four members have different histories. Oki and Sato for instance were part of the Marteau Rouge band with guitarist Jean-François Pauvros and electronic manipulator Jean-Marc Foussat, who coincidentally recorded this disc. Guérineau has worked in duo with Foussat plus in other groups, while Carter the best-known, is an American who expatriated along with Steve Lacy in the 1970s, and having settled in France occupies himself with notated and improvised music.

Throughout, Carter time-sense keeps the selections grounded And while he rarely comes out with the sort of designed walking bass line he demonstrates on “Bateau Phare” that would have been strong enough to anchor a Freddie Hubbard FreeBop exploration, his unswerving thumps and clatters gives the others a base from which to explore freeform pathway. Besides this though, he’s unfettered enough on the final and title tune to ripple out a descending tone strategy with col legno intensity. But that’s because Sato’s perfectly placed accents take his place to mark the composition’s sectional changes. Here too Guérineau’s brittle timbral blasts, which echo throughout the set, are squeezed alongside the trumpeter’s tongue-fluttering obbligato to attain relaxed grace. Like top drawer items in a high-fashion collection, sophisticated detailing is expressed in more than mid-tempo balladic interface though. The conjoined ESP the horn players’ exhibit is also upfront on a track like “Bateau Phare” where stuttering blows from the saxophonist meets notched pops from Oki without sabotaging the steadily advancing theme.

As synced as the quartet’s playing may be here and as well as the program moves, a certain off-putting distance exists among the four. There are interesting solos, demonstrated technical expertise and contrapuntal displays. But emotional wholeness seems lacking. Perhaps if the members played more frequently as a working group, the band’s rough edges would wear off – or maybe heightened for unprecedented excitement. A good start has been made with this CD, but the next step is needed.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Terre-Neuvas 2. Bateau Phare 3. Récif 4. Le Rideau de Mer 5. D’Une Rive a L’àutre

Personnel: Itaru Oki (trumpet and flugelhorn); Sylvain Guérineau (tenor saxophone); Kent Carter (bass) and Makoto Sato (drums)