Corda Bamba
JACC Records JR 036 CD

El Memorioso

Cinq forms du temps

Musique en Friche MF 007

Molding the expected Jazz combo configuration of tenor saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass and drums to more ductile processes, two European ensembles demonstrate that sound textures can be expressed in startling manners. Plus the worth of each CD lies in the freshness of each band.

Dedicated to a microtonal reflection on memory spurred by saturnine photographs and poetry is Cinq forms du temps. A first iteration of El Memorioso, the French quintet consists of trumpeter Nicolas Souchal, who has recorded with Fred Marty and Jean-Brice Godet; tenor saxophonist Julien Pontvianne part of the Onze Heures Onze Orchestra; pianist Xavier Camarasa also in the Grand Fou band; bassist Alexis Coutureau of the HEO trio; and drummer Julien Chamla, who has played with Hippie Diktat and Godet. Corda Bamba is also a first collaboration but with an international cast. American tenor saxophonist John Dikeman has played with William Parker; the British contingent, pianist Alexander Hawkins and drummer Roger Turners have worked with everyone from Evan Parker to Joe McPhee; while the Portuguese players, trumpeter Luís Vicente and bassist Hugo Antunes have been associated with Paul Lovens and Dirk Serries.

During five tracks of approximately 14 minutes each, the collective intonation of the French quintet members rarely rises above a murmur as they personify the feelings from the source material. Working through double bass string vibrations, strangled brass tones and keyboard clanks they come to a juncture of melded tones by the second track. From that point on, dyspeptic textures are separated enough to allow for plunger trumpet tones, implements clattering on hand-stopped piano strings plus soundboard reflection to protrude from the nearly opaque narrative punctuated with enervating pauses. Extended brass multi-tones and bass twangs push aside the overhanging forbearance slightly on track four before reed buzzes and mallet-driven kettle-drum-like pops issue on the final track. Most fully realized of the collection, Pontvianne’s reed smears and Souchal’s muted notes propelled without touching the trumpet valves creates singular identities. Yet true to the concept the horns join with intermittent piano rumbles, and distant drum patterning to return to a concentrated mass until the tune leaks away with a concluding double bass pluck.

As strident as the other CD’s tracks are sensitive, the two extended improvisation on Corda Bamba begin with locomotion power and grind to discordant raucousness from then on. Pulling out all stops, Dikeman’s corkscrew tongue flutters plus cymbal slams and drum top bangs dominate “Vertigem” until Vincente challenges them with clarion call expressions that continue in the background as the saxophonist begins renal slurs backed by key stabs from Hawkins. The pianist’s decelerating hunt-and-peck interlude at the mid-point is joined by Antunes’ arco slides. Percussion smacks and crashes, plus double bass pressure turn to back up tone squeezes from the trumpeter that elevate as the bass string vibrate in a descending pulse. Spreading comping, cries and crashes among the five as they elaborate the improvisation, the tune’s final section contrasts wrenching non-human cries from Dikeman and key-shaking pounding from Hawkins only to have Turner refine his beat with a rhythm that both signals the ending and refers back to the tune’s introduction. The first few minutes of “Mondego” seem almost moderato with the drummer’s sophisticated smacks and Dikeman’s pseudo-bagpipe tremors leading the way. This time however it’s Vincente’s high-pitched but rounded notes which ascend the scale before breaking into open-horned brassiness at the midpoint. Colorful smears and slurps from Dikeman follow that soon move up in pitch past penetrating to piercing as sparkling piano dynamics plus nerve beat and clip clops from Turner steady the narrative. Finally taking the lead Vincente’s showpiece of low-pitched slurs and capillary blasts clearly defines his role and the angle of the piece itself.

United only in the skill in which they tell their stories, these quintets provide fool proof illustrations of how a common ensemble can produce equally valuable but wildly antithetical sounds.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Cinq: 1. 13h43 2. 13h50 3. 13h58 4. 14h07 5. 14h17

Personnel: Cinq: Nicolas Souchal (trumpet); Julien Pontvianne (tenor saxophone);

Xavier Camarasa (piano); Alexis Coutureau (bass) and Julien Chamla (drums)

Track Listing: Corda: 1. Vertigem 2. Mondego

Personnel: Corda: Luís Vicente (trumpet); John Dikeman (tenor saxophone); Alexander Hawkins (piano); Hugo Antunes (bass) and Roger Turner (drums)