Sophia Domancich Pentacle

En Hiver Comme Au Printemps
Sans Bruit sbr 023

Veder

Evergreen

Aspen 002

Not exactly in common usage outside of marching bands, the euphonium, like many other misfit instruments, is welcomed in the liberal atmosphere of improvised music. Yet because free sounds are interpreted in multiple ways, the euphonium which resembles a shrunken tuba but has a trombone-like timbre fulfils diverse ensemble functions. Veder’s Niels Van Heertum for instance uses the horn’s output to meld with others reductionist tones to create the holistic landscape that is Evergreen. On En Hiver Comme Au Printemps in contrast, Michel Marre, who elsewhere plays trumpet or tuba uses the euphonium to take the place of a trombone in pianist Sophia Domancich’s Pentacle quintet.

Van Heertum, who composed all but the two improvisations on Evergreen, is a Belgian, who has worked with many bands. So too are guitarist and banjoist Ruben Machtelinckx and saxophonist/clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst, both of whom were part of the Flock quartet, with the reedist also in Han Bennink’s trio, Trumpeter Eivind Lønning is Norwegian and part of the group Motif. On this disc, from the beginning Veder’s sounds evolve languidly and chromatically with allusions to folksay, so-called Third Stream music and Jazz-inflected improvisation part of the mix. Crucially the quartet’s individuality is most pronounced on those pieces where Machtelinckx’s banjo is prominent. Missing from leading-edge improvisational discourses since the pre-Great Depression era heyday of Danny Barker and Elmer Snowdon, Machtelinckx’s twanging frails on “sedum” are jarring enough to upset the processional, pastoral sameness that previously affects the track, the equivalent to landing a jet plane in a farmer’s field. He performs a comparable function on “lage zwaluw” as his string clinks and clanks maintain thematic flow of a narrative that otherwise undulates like a simple Baroque air.

Elsewhere the string player takes on a connective role during the session, as if he was playing double bass or rhythm guitar. With his comforting riffs and/or strums below, the trio of horn players is allowed space for contrapuntal challenges. Tugboat-whistle-like puffs from Van Heertum, clarinet peeps from Badenhorst and plunger variations from Lønning characterize “die immergrüne”, while on other tunes, the euphonium player create alphorn-like echoes and on tenor saxophone Badenhorst propels a breathy boudoir-like expressiveness. That the horns can function like a close-knit chamber-music trio is irrefutably proven on “doven”. But later dissonant and high-pitched textures created by all the players make that track more memorable and suggests other textures besides the wholesome that the band can explore in the future.

Figuratively moving from the open fields to the cramped Jazz club, the other CD features six spirited compositions by the French pianist that inhabit the space to the left of Hard Bop but with only tentative moves into freeform. Besides drummer Simon Goubert, who is her long-time partner, the quintet’s other members are trumpeter/fluegelhornist Jean-Luc Cappozzo who has played with Globe Unity; Marre who has worked with Daniel Humair; and bassist Sébastien Boisseau who is in groups with everyone from Samuel Blaser to Alban Darche.

En Hiver Comme Au Printemps stakes out its territory with “Vestiges”, the first track, fully in the Soul Jazz mode with steadfast press rolls and a backbeat from Goubert and burbling plunger tones from Cappozzo. Domancich’s styling is dramatic as well as lyrical and the instrumental blend is reminiscent of Les Jazz Modes rather than any comparable combo. Except for a protracted coda to “Monkey Business”, whose alternately descending and sprightly theme is complete by a stop-time sequence common from Roswell Rudd-Archie Shepp in the mid-1960s, the funky but polished track move along in an expected manner.

Democratically everyone gets space to shine throughout. Boisseau, for instance, shows his calming Arco bass buzzes that meet fuzzy brass timbres on “Pentecôte”, and for his just-below-the-scroll pizzicato scrapes that complement the bouncing piano line on “En El Barrio De Triana”. Meanwhile Goubert’s percussive clip-clops and cymbal propelling are dramatically showcased on “Raoul” and elsewhere. On “Triana Moods”, the pianist demonstrates that squirming patterns and key clanking coupled with Cappozzo’s harsh half-valve effects and Marre’s antithetical smoothness can produce contrapuntal excitement. As for the brass players, speedy or slow, they fill available holes with connections or challenges.

Instructively En Hiver Comme Au Printemps definition and distance from Evergreen comes on the final “Raoul”, where Cappozzo and Marre stretch out a slinky Blues exposition with the soul and finesse of Al Grey and Cootie Williams in a seasoned Swing band. It may not be heard in many situations, but here are two impressive ways to utilize the euphonium’s textures in high-quality improvised music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Evergreen: 1. fern 2. hemlock 3. sedum 4. klauwier 5. doven 6. die immergrüne 7. lage zwaluw

Personnel: Eivind Lønning (trumpet); Niels Van Heertum (euphonium); Joachim Badenhorst (tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet) and Ruben Machtelinckx (guitar and banjo)

Track Listing: Hiver: 1. Vestiges 2. En El Barrio De Triana 3. Triana Moods 4. Monkey Business 5. Pentecôte 6. Raoul

Personnel: Hiver: Jean-Luc Cappozzo (trumpet, flugelhorn); Michel Marre (euphonium); Sophia Domancich (piano); Sébastien Boisseau (bass) and Simon Goubert (drums)