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|Reviews that mention Marc Ducret
Samuel Blaser Quartet
As The Sea
Yeah Yeah Records YY 0004
Extending the wide reach necessary to play their instrument with an equally ample range of ideas and skills, trombonists Samuel Blaser of Switzerland and New York’s Jacob Garchik confirm with these CDs that that the evolution of imaginative brass playing continues.
Blaser, whose experience encompasses working with other enlightened players like Swiss percussionist Pierre Favre and American drummer Gerry Hemingway, has composed a four-part suite to show off his prowess and that of his combo, featuring French guitarist Marc Ducret, Swiss bassist Bänz Oester and American drummer Gerald Cleaver. All-American and with a name that references the grueling club gigs of the 1950s, 40Twenty is a co-op quartet which highlights the improvisational and compositional muscle of all its members which include Jacob Garchik on trombone, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.
The four, who have racked up impressive credentials working with everyone from alto saxophonist Lee Konitz (Garchik), bassist Eivind Opsvik (Sacks) and pianist James Williams (Sperrazza), to various Afro/Cuban bands (Ambrosio), create a fast-moving imaginary club set which slides from rhythm pieces to ballads and back again. On the whole the band works in a generalized FreeBop atmosphere, but with additional antecedents.
For instance on the Sperrazza-composed “Soon Enough”, a moderato paced trombone showcase, Garchik’s glottal and moderato slide expansions seem to relate to the precision work of a stylist such as JJ Johnson, with Sacks shadowing him with low-frequency comping and the composer alternately splashing cymbals or tapping out a marital beat. Sacks’ loping “Jan 20” on the other hand emphasizes the trombonist’s command of slippery snorts à la Roswell Rudd, the better to blend with the pianist’s Herbie Nichols-style exposition. As Sacks emphasizes jittery runs and keyboard jabs are suspended over walking bass and drum rattles, both ‘bone and keys hold onto the theme.
There are more surprising asides throughout. Ambrosio solidifies his lines to slap and sway or expose low-pitched solos, while keyboard interpolations range from mere key dusting to power key clipping. Garchik’s “Gi”, another essay in rhythmic slip-sliding, features the trombonist both with full open-horn and with thinner breaths, mixing it up with piano note clusters; while the bassist’s “MajorEe MinorEe” is a complete change of pace. Featuring some of Sacks’ strongest playing, the keyboard narrative is alive with double jumps and tremolo pacing. In contrast, after Garchik demonstrates that an unhurried swing line can include sputtering triplets, tongue stops and sprays; his trombone line diverges to sound out a theme close to “Around the World in 80 Days” as the others continue with straight-ahead swing.
Now Berlin-based, Blaser is equally brass proficient. All the same, his more than 51-minute invention is concerned with bringing in varied compositional motifs ranging from modal Jazz to Heavy Metal shredding, plus a tuba obbligato copped from Wagner’s Siegfried. The latter provided the basis on which “Part 1” rests, although there are no overt, so-called classical references. As it happens the tension-release that illuminates that track is between appropriately basso-pitched lowing from Blaser and distorted flanges and staccato curved lines from Ducret, known for his gigs with Tim Berne. Inventive Cleaver provides measured thumps and rim-shot rumbles while Oester, who has also worked with Favre and Hemingway, stabilizes the narrative with vibrating intensity.
The climatic “As The Sea Part 3” is initially devoted to the challenges posed to each man. Oester’s staccato bass solo includes slides up and down the strings with a guitarist’s facility. Cleaver, one of New York’s busiest drummers, demonstrates the reasons why with his overwhelming press rolls. And then the trombonist’s centered slide guffaws presages a sinewy and polyrhythmic group explosion. The denouncement introduces a show-down between the bassist’s quivering string clicks and the guitarist’s trebly spikiness that finally locks into place.
Further distorted multi-effects from Ducret and an impenetrable bass pulse helps drive the program to a linear and sympathetic finale. But not before the composer has let loose with some spectacular flutter tonguing plus an exposition of grace notes that are stretched to the nth degree without breaking.
While As The Sea is more resolute and formally oriented compared to 40Twenty relaxed interface, it also exposes a greater number of dissonant strategies. Either high quality session confirms the residual power of trombone-featured combo,
Track Listing: As: 1. As The Sea Part 1 2. As The Sea Part 2 3. As The Sea Part 3 4. As The Sea Part 4
Personnel: As: Samuel Blaser (trombone); Marc Ducret (guitar); Bänz Oester (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)
Track Listing: 40: 1. Jan 20 2. Gi 3. Plainchant 4. Soon Enough 5. One Five 6. MajorEe MinorEe
Personnel: 40: Jacob Garchik (trombone); Jacob Sacks (piano); David Ambrosio (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums)
June 3, 2013
Angelica Sanchez Quintet
Wires and Moss
Clean Feed CF 259 CD
Towns and Villages
Barnyard Records BR 0330
Arriving in New York from his native Tucson in 1995, Tony Malaby has since made his distinctive tenor and soprano saxophone tones part of that city’s scene, both with his own bands and as a sideman – most notably with bassist Mark Helias’ trio. His high- quality improvisations are featured on both these CDs, although he does have much closer ties to one leader than the other.
That’s because pianist Angelica Sanchez, who also composed Wires and Moss’s half-dozen tracks, is Malaby’s spouse, as well as being a respected jazzer in her own right. Another session reflecting her unique vision, the disc unites the two with a top rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey plus French guitarist Marc Ducret. A responsive time-keeper who composed all the titles on his CD, Toronto-based drummer Nick Fraser calls on Malaby’s skills more platonically on Canadian Towns and Villages. The distinctiveness of this CD comes from the juxtaposition of his and the saxman’s instruments with those played by two other Toronto-based musicians. The distinctive timbres of Andrew Downing’s cello and Rob Clutton’s bass are both cleverly worked into the arrangements.
A member of the collective quintet Drumheller and the band Ugly Beauties with pianist Marilyn Lerner and cellist Matt Brubeck, the Ottawa-born drummer is so self-effacing that often it’s only clip-clops, bumps or patterns which characterize his accompaniment. Meanwhile a track such as “Albs” is built around a mellow interface that contrasts Malaby’s sweet-and-sour tenor vibrato with Downing’s rich bowed lines and timed thumps from Clutton. Even when the two string players advance contrapuntal whistles and creaks, as on the fully improvised “Sketch #10”, an innate lyricism is still present, with Fraser’s understated ratamacues softening Malaby’s thick sax slurs
In contrast the track that moves this quartet closest to Albert Ayler territory – he used similar instrumentation, but with trumpet as well – is the enigmatically titled “?”. Here Malaby’s pinched blowing and peeping is matched by the bassist’s string sawing and the cellist’s staccato creaks and crackles. While the drummer’s output is more dominant, it seems that his basic taste prevents the tune from blasting into the stratosphere.
Overall however the CD’s most distinctive number is “Sketch #12”, which sums up the fine musical line the quartet walks. The performance is neither completely straight-edged nor fully free form despite Malaby’s narrowed tremolo vibrato, disassociated slurs and reed bites. No matter, the backing stays resolutely linear. A thick walking bass line plus pops and clatters from the drummer sees to this. While there’s curiosity engendered with this clashing of sonic strategies, more excitement could have resulted if the four resolved the situation one way or the other.
Fewer tunes and more front line players distinguish the other session. Although the combo has been together for a half-dozen years, unlike the Fraser-Malaby one-off, a basic tension still exists. Malaby’s chesty moans and concentrated slurs plus Ducret’s ringing tone distortions pull the band in one direction, while Sanchez’s sympathetically and contrapuntally decorated expositions aim for an opposing game plan. With Dress and Rainey forcefully backing up the three, a disconnect between subtle and sinewy is often highlighted. Overall it’s mostly the guitarist who is the spark plug and whose playing is most disruptive to the measured narratives.
Since after all Sanchez composed all the tunes and is session leader, this effect is probably simpatico with her aims, even if it appears to conflict with her sympathetic chording and restrained keyboard dusting. Yet when Ducret’s buzzing, sliding licks on “Dare” give the impression that he`s daring the saxophonist to dispense with his previously lighter-than-air soprano lines and turn to pressurized lip vibrations is this part of Sanchez’s plans? Certainly while she has occasion to showcase a staccato interface with runs from both hands emerging for additional coloration, her main concern is melody building, with the atonal improvising left to others.
Only on the extended “Soaring Piasa” for example, when broken-octave counterpoint is advanced by Malaby’s human-sounding altissimo squeals and muscular Rainey drum ruffs, does the pianist seem intent on taking control of the rhythm section, harmonizing and integrating every other instrumental texture. Again does this pinpoint Sanchez’s collaborative skill or her instrumental shyness?
As it is the unanswered question suggests something is lacking on both sessions. Although each can be listening to with interest, the conciseness of Fraser’s performances plus the resolute linearity of Sanchez’s concepts work against a full loosening of structures and the creation of fully exhilarating dates. Perhaps next time...
Track Listing: Towns: 1. Prescott: The Fort Town 2. Sketch #10 3. Tricycle 4. Sketch #12 5. 5. Revolution 6. Albs 7 Spencerville: Home of the Heritage Grist Mill 8. Sketch #9 9 Ballad for Lydia 10. 11. “?” 12. Hundred Mile House, pop. 1885.
Personnel: Towns: Tony Malaby (tenor and soprano saxophone); Andrew Downing (cello); Rob Clutton (bass) and Nick Fraser (drums)
Track Listing: Wires: 1. Loomed 2. Feathered Light 3. Soaring Piasa 4. Dare 5. Wires & Moss 6. Bushido
Personnel: Wires: Tony Malaby (tenor and soprano saxophones); Angelica Sanchez (piano); Marc Ducret (guitar); Drew Gress (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums)
April 21, 2013
Rhapsody's 2011 Jazz Critics' Poll
From Ken Waxman
1) Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please)
2) Ken Waxman
Jazz Word (www.jazzword.com )
3) Your choices for 2011's ten best new releases (albums released between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, give or take), listed in descending order one-through-ten.
1. World Saxophone Quartet Yes We Can Jazzwerkstatt JW 098
2. Gerald Cleaver Uncle June Be It As I See It Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT-375
3. Hubbub Whobub Matchless MRCD 80
4. John Butcher & Gino Robair Apophenia Rastascan BRD 065
5. Daunik Lazro/Benjamin Duboc/Didier Lasserre Pourtant Les Cimes des Arbres Dark Tree DT 01
6. Marc Ducret Tower Vol. 2 Ayler Records AYLCD 119
7. Mural Live at the Rothko Chapel Rothko Chapel Publications No #
8. Connie Crothers/Bill Payne The Stone Set/Conversations New Artists NA 1044 CD
9. Schlippenbach Trio Bauhaus Dessau Intakt CD 183
10. Jamaaladeen Tacuma/Ornette Coleman For the Love of Ornette JazzWerkstatt JW 090
4) Your top-three reissues, again listed in descending order
1) FMP In Rückblick In Retrospect 1969-2010 FMP CD 137 - FMP CD 148
2) Steve Lacy School Days Emanem 5016
3) Sun Ra College Tour Vol. 1 The Complete Nothing Is… ESP Disk4060
5) Your choice for the year's best vocal album
There is none – 99% of so-called vocal jazz is no more than often superior pop music, if that.
6) Your choice for the year's best debut CD
Jaruzelski’s Dream-debut Jazz Gawronski Clean Feed CF 211CD
7) Your choice for the year’s best Latin jazz CD
Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura Vents psi 11.01
N.B.: Why is there a Latin-Jazz category if there isn’t a category for other hyphenated jazz music such as Klezmer-Jazz, Pop-Jazz, Classical-Jazz etc.? An exceptional so-called Latin-Jazz CD should be a good Jazz CD overall. Therefore I have chosen the best 2011 improvised CD played by two Latins – that is residents of Spain.
January 20, 2012
Tower Vol. 2
Ayler Records AYLCD 119
By Ken Waxman
Fraternal, but not identical twin to French guitarist Marc Ducret’s Tower Vol. 1, this CD features him with a completely different cast, yet is just as noteworthy. The only horn is alto saxophonist Tim Berne, whose association with Ducret goes back 15 years. Drummer is in-demand Tom Rainey and unparalleled string variations come from fellow Gaul, violinist Dominique Pifarély, who has worked with reedist Louis Sclavis.
Consisting of three, extended – the briefest is nearly 17 minutes – multi-sectional compositions, the quartet operates at a high level throughout. Organic and polyphonic, the musical narratives frequently depend on textural similarities among the three lead instruments as Rainey stays in the background with strokes, pops and bounces.
For instance, “Real Thing #3”, the first and second variation of which are on Vol. 1, finds the fiddler and saxophonist vibrating nearly identical note expansions, with individual identity only obvious as Pifarély jaggedly double-stops and dynamically stretches his lines to almost humanly vocalize alongside Berne’s straightforward ostinato and circular smears. Meantime Ducret’s output turns from scene-setting reverb to downturned strums almost rococo in their decoration.
Ducret’s shifts from folksy to febrile strumming plus Rainey’s positioned strokes mark transitions from one section to another. Subsequently, as on “Sur l’Electricité”, the violinist’s angled and speedy spiccato meets perpendicular guitar distortions. Or on “Softly Her Tower Crumbled in the Sweet Silent Sun”, the continuum is characterized by Morse-code-like stopping from the fiddler, ragged frails and distorted flanges from the guitarist plus yakety sax-like overblowing from Berne, all evolving in parallel, yet complementary lines.
This wordy-titled, concluding track ends with satisfying and lyrical cohesiveness. One would expect that if there is yet another Tower sequel it will offer as many pleasant surprises as volumes 1 and 2.
Tracks: Sur l’Electricité; Real Thing #3; Softly Her Tower Crumbled in the Sweet Silent Sun
Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Marc Ducret: electric guitar; Dominique Pifarély: violin; Tom Rainey: drums
--For New York City Jazz Record December 2011
December 5, 2011
Tower Vol. 1
By Ken Waxman
Best-known for his association with New York saxophonist Time Bern which goes back to the 1990s, Paris guitarist Marc Ducret proves with this quintet CD that sharp, spiky jazz-rock improv can still be created. But the reason Tower Vol. 1 is of such high quality is that the self-taught guitarist knows how to tweak the style so that its intellectual as well as its rhythmic qualities are emphasized.
Ducret, who has been a professional playing in a variety of contexts since he was 17, surrounds himself with a unique French-Danish line-up that’s similarly versatile. There’s no double bass here, its function taken by the blaring pedal point of Fred Gastard’s bass saxophone. The work of trumpeter Kasper Tranberg and trombonist Matthias Mahler showcases distinctive plunger solos as well as more expected stacked horn riffs. Furthermore, just as the guitarist can pump out kinetic rock-oriented licks when he wishes, so drummer Peter Bruun emphasizes the beat, but his rim shots and rebounds can be irrefutably refined as well.
Distinctively “Interlude: L'Ombra di Verdi”, doesn’t reference so-called classical music so much as West Coast jazz of the 1950s. The textures are carefully voiced so that everyone is clearly heard even when playing in unison. Despite a mid-section interlocking pulse that’s closer to rock than jazz, Ducret’s slurred fingering mated with Tranberg muted trumpet ends the piece with taut, staccato lines that are more atmospheric than brutal.
Similarly, the two “Real Thing” tracks encompass everything from muscular backbeats to jocular near-cabaret style vamps, plus polyphonic horn honks and squeals. Ducret’s undulating fills and multi-fingered string snaps impress throughout, especially in “Real Thing #2”, which is concurrently speedy and nuanced. The stop-time treatment finds the guitarist’s flanges thickly matching both bass sax snorts and trumpet triplets before the three players together relax into a multi-layered finale.
More Tower sessions featuring Durcet in different settings are promised in the near future. Hopefully they’ll be as noteworthy as this outing.
Tracks: Real Thing #1; Real Thing #2; Interlude: L'Ombra di Verdi
Personnel: Kasper Tranberg: trumpet; Matthias Mahler, trombone; Fred Gastard: bass saxophone; Marc Ducret: electric guitar; Peter Bruun: drums
October 10, 2011
Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver
By Ken Waxman
January 1, 2006
Known if at all in North America for her contributions to Tim Bernes recording of the open, coma saxophone suite, and her trio appearances with pianist Marilyn Crispell, Danish reedist Lotte Anker has a much higher profile elsewhere.
Moving among free improv, contemporary classical music and a combination of the two, the tenor and soprano saxophonist has composed theatre music and worked in Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazurs ensembles and American Maria Schneiders big band.
However there are few so-called classical inflections or the sort of mainstream jazz rhythms that Schneider prefers on these CDs. Anker, joined by two completely different casts of characters, works firmly in the Free Music mold.
An outgrowth of her trio with Crispell, Triptych could be termed the saxophonists American CD. It connects Anker with two New Yorkers, drummer Gerald Cleaver, a carryover from the Crispell trio, and pianist Craig Taborn. Both men worked together in bands led by reedist Roscoe Mitchell and violist Matt Maneri, while Taborn has played with Berne and reedist James Carter among others, and Cleaver with pianist Matthew Shipp and saxophonist Charles Gayle to name two.
Conversely, Live unites three generations of Danish avant-gardists collectively called ICTUS with French guitarist Marc Ducret, who coincidentally has toured and recorded with Berne. With Anker representing the middle generation, ICTUS consists of the slightly older Peter Friis Nielsen, who plays electric bass and preparations here, and young drummer Stefan Pasborg. Pasborg, who leads a band with Lithuanian saxophonist Liudas Mockunas, has played with innovators such as saxophonist John Tchicai and American trombonist Ray Anderson. Friis Nielsen has been in many bands with drummer Peter Ole Jørgensen and German reedman Peter Brötzmann.
Not that you would confuse Ankers improvising with anything created by other saxophonists. During the course of Lives five instant compositions, she clicks, twitters, smears and rasps, concentrating on wiggling split tones and glottal punctuation, the better to interact with Ducret. His radical string abrasions meander from guitar-hero-like pulsating fuzz tones to intricate, angled microtonal musings. Alongside then both, Friis Nielsen pointedly maintains the bass lines rhythmic functions while Pasborg shakes and rattles polyrhythmic percussion implements for auxiliary textures.
Tunes like Ping Pånk/Orbituary involve shredded drum beats and tapped bass-guitar rumbles that set up slinky smears and flutter tonguing from Anker plus shuffling, scraped guitar lines from Ducret. As the layered improvisation opens up in volume, the bassists quivering sequences serve as the anchor between flanged and distorted UFO-like sounds from the guitarist and repetitive reed vibrations from the soprano saxophonist.
Other tunes feature the guitarist turning to slurred fingering for angled microtonal effects, piling fuzz-tone pulses on top of one another as Anker responds with polyphonic trills, and spacey blocked multiphonics from both front-liners. Meanwhile Pasborg showcases compressed cymbal battering, rolls and rumbles.
Centrepiece of all this is the nearly-16-minute The Sky Below/Restoration which supplies equal time for all concerned. Beginning with modulated, echoing bass guitar runs that eventually assumes an assembly line-like continuo underneath the others, the tune opens up for reverberating licks from Ducret with surprising country & western inferences, as the drummer pops his gong and cymbals and Anker contributing funky vibrations. Pioneering a technique that sounds as if hes scraping steel wool across his strings, the guitarist downshifts to pinpointed chording as Pasborg displays scatter-shot shakes and inflatable balloon-like abrasions. With Friis Nielsen still shaping the tunes undercurrent, Ankers flutter-tonguing dissolves into reed peeps until whammy bar movement and knob-turning action from the guitarist rouse her. Countering his rubato slaps with curvature snorts and arpeggio runs from the lower part of her instruments body tube, she forces him to reconfigure his down strokes into seemingly random scrapes.
Less theatrically confrontational, Triptych, like its namesake, is more balanced. Almost from the first, it seems that the pianist and drummer are intent on expressing with rhythms and chords what the saxophonist does with vibrations and blowing. Take Cumulus for example.
Here Taborn lightly voices his keys and Cleaver barely taps and rattles his percussion, both leaving space for a series of trembling peeps from Anker. Soon however, the soprano saxophonist reverts to trilling, swelled notes, creating her own horn fantasia among the pianists deliberately metronomic chord pattern and the drummers polyrhythmic fills. Three-quarters of the way through, Ankers pinched split tones divide into vibrated nodes as Taborns double counterpoint becomes stronger and more focused. By degrees, the sounds fade away to echoing resonation from the drummers kit.
Cleavers self-effacing rhythmic calm allows other pieces such as The Hierophant to progressively fade, like an old photograph left too long under a bright light. The polar opposite of the bombastic drummer, his contributions here occasionally involve almost literally wiping not beating his snares, cymbals and floor toms as Taborn resonates wide, high frequency, harmonics in the bass clef and Anker pitchslides an irregular vibrato sideways into overblown harshness. When the pianists walking fills and the drummers beats eventually stop the piece climaxes with saxists sturdy echoing overtones.
In this collective mind meld, Taborn intermittently strums guitar-like arpeggios, and Ankers low-key soprano obbligato sporadically takes on (Paul) Desmond-like sweetness, But the notable factor linking these seven improvisations is how nonchalantly the staccato coexists with the legato, speed with languidness and silence with clamor.
Comparing the lines output by the trio members to ever-spiraling concentric circles, you can hear organic interaction on the more-than-13½-minute title track. Here Taborn taps not just notes but their voicing and vibrations from his keys; Cleaver scratches his ride cymbal with a drum stick more often than he hits it; and Ankers waveforms rebound from false register altissimo slurring to rotating grace notes, without upsetting the pool of group improvisations.
Taken together, Triptych and Live should provide a triple function. They should make Ankers talents more obvious to North Americans; introduce uninformed jazz fans to other Danish and one French improvisers; and solidify the reputation of a couple of self-possessed, maturing American sound makers.
January 1, 2006
Souls Saved Hear
Thirsty Ear THI 5751.2
Smash the Tomatoes
Catapulting drum rhythms, chiming guitar runs and inventive saxophone lines unite this American trio and Danish quartet. But each has worked out its own way to mold the excitement of rock and adroit improvisations without falling into the trap of splashy fusion.
The secret of success seems to involve original compositions from more than one band member, an imaginative fretman, a laid-back drummer and a subtle reedist. Yet interestingly enough, the young Danes and slightly older Americans are affiliated in such a way that the MS4 could be siblings of Big Satan.
Both guitarist Mark Solborg and reedist Anders Banke lived in New York -- Big Satans stomping ground -- before returning to Copenhagen. In the Apple they were part of the so-called downtown scene that includes Satans saxist Tim Berne, drummer Tom Rainey and sometimes guitarist Marc Ducret. Berne himself has done projects with Danish musicians, including saxophonist Lotte Anker who also employs Solborg. Meanwhile, Paris-based Big Satanist Ducret is featured on MS4s drummer Stefan Pasborgs first solo CD, TOXIKUM (ILK TCB 004).
One shouldnt make too much of the connection however. After all, MS4s bassist Jeppe Skovbakke, one of the busiest in Copenhagen, plays with a clutch of local groups, as well as visitors like American saxist George Garzone. Bankes gigs include a long-time commitment to Pierre Dørges Jungle Orchestra. On his own, Ducret has played with everyone from French drummer Daniel Humair to American tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby.
All and all though, its the taste exhibited by each guitarist and drummer that fully defines the two sessions. SMASH THE TOMATOES title tune for instance just skirts head banging. But Pasborg performs a bombast bypass with a shuffle thats half Reggae and half Second Line, while Solborg introduces distorted lines that simultaneously reflect country picking. Flutter tonguing and reed-biting, Banke adds some sluicing buzzes on top.
Compare that to Mr. Subliminal on SOULS SAVED. Written by Berne, it shoehorns many time and tempo changes into the barely more than seven-minute track. Ducret starts things off double flanging with chromatic guitar runs that have plenty of echo. The alp horn-like echoes from the top portion of Bernes sax soon break into split tones and squeaks so that it almost sounds as if hes playing the bagpipes. Following that, theres the intermingling of a second theme thats all spiky horn lines and slurred guitar tones. Gradually, over a steady undercurrent of paradiddles from Rainey, the guitarist works his way to country music-like licks, while the altoist seems to be sounding out nursery rhyme melodies.
Its Raineys taste and subtly that mute any power trio tendencies on the part of the others. Plus he brings that same restraint to his compositions. Hostility Suite, for instance, is a misnomer. Although initially designed as a showcase for Ducrets wah-wah pedal and his exploration of tapered echoes that could be pre-programmed from a computer, guitar lines and stops and smears from Berne combine into an intermezzo of eiderdown-smooth pulsations and extended legato tones.
Throughout the three demonstrate polyrhythmic accord and overriding numerous counterpoint. Lines intersect and break apart as Raineys ratcheting rim shots accompany peeps, flattement and doits from Berne -- to take one example. Or Ducrets heavy feedback distortion and finger slides meet the drummers double time ruffs and flams.
Snaky lines are tossed back-and-forth as on Ce sont les noms des mots, where draws back to extended acoustic guitar finger-picking from the fretman finally reveal the theme in legato smears from Berne. Raineys understated pulse balances the saxists altissimo smears and honks plus the guitarists distorted reverb until ringing chords complete the hardening and slackening of the theme.
That lead off track has echoes in the CDs final number, a strategy similar to what unrolls on SMASH THE TOMATOES. More POMO however, both the Danish bands first and final tracks are constructed out of loops and sine-wave space ship sounds sourced from elsewhere and re-imagined by the guitarist.
Bankes reed arsenal gives MS4 more scope than Bernes single horn in Big Satan however. Toast, for instance, is a full bore rocker featuring bottom-feeding baritone sax snorts and distorted reverb from the guitar, while Slow Motion floats chalumeau clarinet lines on top of strumming guitar fills and spreading ride cymbal textures.
Unspoken, a slower-moving power ballad, provides the best showcase for Pasborgs drumming which moves from chain rattling and manipulation of unselected cymbals to bata-like resonation and eventual metallic cymbal scrapes and faux tam tam rattles. With Banke exhibiting sluicing coloratura clarinet work, Solborg demonstrates his jazzy fingerpicking on Don Goppel. Sounding more like Jim Hall than Jimi Hendrix, his work adds to strength to the straightforward, happy number that is held together by Skovbakkes bass line and could be ascribed to the Hot Club of Denmark.
Skovbakkes underutilization in anything but a supporting role is one CD weakness, though. The other shortcoming confirms the MS4s comparative youth. Bromf, despite reed-biting squeals and tremolo traffic-jam reverb from the guitarist ends up as an Iron Man soundalike, meandering to rock rhythms not the superior jazz-like pulse the band maintains elsewhere.
Still everyone is allowed a few growing pains early in his career. Both these discs prove that harder and faster beats plus electric overtones can create fine discs as long as excesses are held in check.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Smash: 1. Welcome 2. Toast 3. Slow Motion 4. Smash the Tomatoes 5. Two Train Sleepers 6. Bromf 7. Unspoken 8. Don Who? 9. Don Goppel 10. Great Barrier
Personnel: Smash: Anders Banke (alto, tenor and baritone saxophone and clarinets); Mark Solborg (guitar); Jeppe Skovbakke (bass); Stefan Pasborg (drums)
Track Listing: Souls: 1. Ce sont les noms des mots 2. Hostility Suite 3, Geez 4. Rampe 5. Emportez-moi 6. Deadpan 7. Mr. Subliminal 8. Property Shark 9. Plantain Surgery
Personnel: Souls: Tim Berne (alto saxophone); Marc Ducret (acoustic and electric guitars); Tom Rainey (drums)
November 22, 2004
The sublime and. Sciencefrictionlive
Thirsty Ear RHI 57139.2
Sketch SKE 333038
Leaving well enough alone has never had particular appeal to those involved in creating electrified jazz/rock fusion music. Why keep the volume control knob turned to nine when it can reach 10? And why play for a few minutes when a half-hour or so is available?
Alto saxophonist/composer Tim Berne -- who has proven his talents in many situations ranging from working in standard-size jazz combos to writing for a classical sax quartet -- flirts with excess on this two-CD set, recorded live in Switzerland. While he and drummer Tom Rainey stick to acoustic instruments, the allure of showing off the textures available from Marc Ducrets guitar(s) and effects and Craig Taborns electric piano, laptop computer and virtual organ evidentially prove too seductive. Although in total the Science Friction band session clocks in at 109 minutes, it includes three tunes in the 20-minute range and one that rocks on for more than 30.
Sure the guitarist, keyboardist and saxist are impressive soloists in many contexts, but the acres of aural space seem to encourage combative immoderation, Because of this, Rainey, who is the most understated percussionist in other groups led by Berne or bassist Mark Helias, comes off best here. While his beat is as unflagging as it is inventive, he keeps his kit action under control, wallowing for only split seconds in the sort of jarring John Bonhamism that seem to be stock-in-trade for authentic fusion drummers.
Rainey may avoid Bonham comparisons, but there are points here that with his distortion phasers and flangers turned on full blast that Ducret appears to be trying to trump not only Bonhams Led Zepplin partner Jimmy Page, but the effects master Page replaced in the Yardbirds: Jeff Beck.
The situation is slightly more balanced on the guitarists solo disc, QUI PARLE? But as hinted at by the title, there are often times you wonder just who is speaking ... or improvising. Featuring more than a dozen additional musicians in various combinations working with Ducret and his usual rhythm section of bassist Bruno Chevillon and percussionist Éric Échampard, the guitarist seems intent on existing as musical fish, fowl and most mammals in between somewhere on the 10 tracks. There are plenty of examples of the rock-jazzer who loves Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, but more impressively there are also bouncy gigues, flirtations with electronica and musique concrète, plus voices weaving in and out of several tracks as sound sources or reading excerpts from French literature.
On THE SUBLIME, Ducret restraint means that Jalapeño Diplomacy/Traction comes across as the best selection. Even at 20 minutes plus, he fittingly restricts himself to merely showcasing his effects rather than trumpeting the wretched excess of which his axe is very capable. A groove tune with a freer tempo, it features a guitar showcase that include reverb lines morphing into duple picking in both treble and bass registers, steady flat picking in an almost Country music style and Ducret flailing away on portions of the strings below the bridge. Here, Berne, who earlier plays at the top of his range, then takes off on a stop time display of slurred reed biting, split tones and irregular vibrato, with only Raineys pounding behind him. When he introduces brassy spetrofluctuation and textures seemingly pushed out of the sax bow, these mix with Taborns flashing octaves and are given an organ vamp from his electronics and nerve beats from the drummer. Finally the tempo slows to chiming chord patterns with a rolling backbeat shading Bernes almost endlessly repeated lines.
On the other hand, at more than 30 minutes alone -- the length of some single LPs -- Mrs. Subliminal/Clownfinger unrolls at an excessive length and is literally exhausting. Maybe live the vibe was more exciting. On disc though, the tune starts off slowly with chirruped a cappella sax notes, then as the tempo gradually picks up, keyboard continuum and double time rattles and cymbal reverberations appear. Soon Ducret takes over, introducing loud, pulsing sequencer delays that turn to resonating, Sputnik-type signals. Sounding out abrasive, bottleneck tones, the guitarist seems to be using a phaser to double and triple his feedback. Taborn wedges in fleet, but fleshy electric piano timbres and Berne sounds out a repeated 15-note pattern, that is given added weight by Ducrets flanging. Rainey tries to move the piece away from onanism by playing a broken rhythm tattoo on his rims, which encourages more assured and abstract smeared tones from Berne. But with Ducret reentering with the volume and protrusion of a jet plane landing, the guitarists arching feedback and quivering wah-pedal distortion encourages more sax squeaks and surmounted keyboard electronic impulses. Soon the droning pulses and lead guitar shimmies coalesce into a mass of chunky strums and pinched reed trills.
Stuckon U -- semi-balladic, but not the Elvis version, according to Berne -- at least gives Taborn some space for faint organ-like tremolos, some outer-spacey oscillating distortions from the electronic parts of the keyboard and some high-pitched celeste-like sounds. But again his two hands, Raineys tick-tock drumming and Bernes rounded tones are no match for Ducrets reverb or fuzztones that seem to have migrated over from a Yardbirds session.
The Shell Game at a tich below 24 minutes, is more of the same, with Taborns harpsichord approximations and Bernes relaxed chirps and breezy lines intermittently audible among Ducrets chiming, echoing riffs. In response to an irregular drumbeat, at the point when Berne introduces rough reed-biting tones and doits, Ducret turns up his volume knob and almost doubles the tempo. Riffs flash through the amplifiers as if the guitarist was channeling Alvin Lees speedy performance at the Woodstock Festival, and Taborn vamps organ-like chords. Even Rainey begins hitting parts of his kit individually, working out on the rims for a time, pounding the bass drum at another and coming up with what sounds like a whirl drum at another juncture. Heavy as a metal bands output, the sounds reach a crescendo than fade away without resolution.
On his own Ducret has created a 75-minute CD that gets progressively more impressive as it goes along. Yet the convincing experimentation of the discs second half may not be enough to negate the self-indulgence that mars first few tunes.
Starting form the top, Double Entendre is nearly 12½ minutes of bouncy syncopation along the lines of what youd expect from Continental little big bands. With both Échampard and second percussionist François Verly laying down what could be two-beat Dixieland drumming, the guitar licks and electric piano vamps from Benoît Delbecq and Allie Delfau float along on a continuum provided by Chevillons slap bass and Michel Massots huffing tuba. Then, while the snaking tempo speeds up, trumpeter Alain Vankenhove waves his plunger mute and bends his notes. Soon as the oral instruments unite in the approximation of a 19th century brass choir, the pianos stay in the 21st, creating off-centre, high frequency glisses and slides. Above all, with percussion ratcheting behind him, Ducret buzzes out some distorted lead guitar riffs.
Also impressive are the two time-traveling versions of Emportez-moi, which clock in at more than 11 minutes each. The first features Chevillons low-tone arco inventions that are amplified with cello-like legato lines from second bassist Hélène Labarrière. With simple drum and cymbal patterns in the background, Ducret picks out a simple folkloric melody made up of finger patterns and near blues tones on his acoustic. The pre-suicide correspondence of Henriette Vogel and Heinrich von Kleists from 1811 is read in French by Leslie Sévenier and Philippe Agaël to the melancholy, pedal point accompaniment of Thierry Madiots bass trombone, ending the piece with a brass respiration and a bass pluck.
In contrast, the compositions second run through is definitely POMO. Beginning with Anne Magouët singing the poem of Henri Michaux (1899-1984), a Belgian-born, experimental painter, journalist, and poet, dual acoustic pianos spin out accompaniment potentially designed for plainsong. Then the piece opens up to showcase contorted electronic guitar riffs. As a secondary theme is sounded by bass trombone, double-stopping bass and shaded electric piano ostinato, a dramatic male voice reads an existential passage from Dans la labyrinthe, Alain Robbe-Grillets nouveau roman.
Somehow linked to buzzing rhythm box textures courtesy of Verly, mirrored electric piano tone and a cowbell emphasized montuno rhythm, another labyrinthe passage appears on Ce sont les noms des mots. But what it has to do with buzzing, sampler sine waves, pinpointed flat-picking from Ducret and a harsh syncopated melody is anyones guess.
Then theres Double, Simple, where Ducret, playing simple rhythm guitar licks and Dominique Pifarély playing highly amplified, near-operatic violin glissandos prove that amplification and good ideas dont make them Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grapelli. Plus theres LAnnexe (rural), which simply proves that Ducret can produce a bottleneck blues solo.
Thats not the least of the downhill turns. Abrasive guitar chording, artillery battalion drumming and slushy keyboard fill that role on other tracks, often appearing as if they migrated in from a 1970s Herbie Hancock session. Longest piece, LAnnexe evidentially tries to squeeze almost every influence together at once; the result is similar to trying to shove an elephant through a meat grinder. Africanized hand percussion, rock-style drumming, thumping bas guitar and riffing Stax-Volt horns make their appearance, with the guitar so abusing the pulsating delay effects and extended fuzztones that he almost drowns out everyone else. When the counter theme twists itself into a boogaloo, the brass and reed players contort themselves into retching out fowl (sic) cries and monkey gibbering. The end finds Ducret abusing his delay pedal to outline some cavernous, echoing solid state color.
Excess may succeed in limited situations like live concerts or truncated single releases. But, while no one is disputing their talent, technique or leadership, both Berne and Ducret could have stripped away surplus sounds and notes to produce more satisfying outings instead of the results here.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: sublime: CD1: 1. Van Gundys Retreat 2. The Shell Game 3. Mrs. Subliminal/Clownfinger CD 2 1. Smallfry 2. Jalapeño Diplomacy/Traction 3. Stuckon U (for Sarah)
Personnel: sublime: Tim Berne (alto saxophone); Marc Ducret (guitar); Craig Taborn (electric piano, laptop computer and virtual organ); Tom Rainey (drums)
Track Listing: Qui: 1. On new peut pas dancer, là-dessus*+ #& 2. Le menteur*+ 3. LAnnexe (rural) 4. LAnnexe*+ 5. Qui parle?~ 6. Emportez-moi*#&^~$ 7. Double Entendre*+#& 8. Ce sont les noms des mots*#^$ 9. Double Simple 10. Emportez-moi#&^$
Personnel: Qui: Alain Vankenhove (trumpet, bugle)*; Yves Robert (trombone track1); Michel Massot (tuba, serpent, trombone)+; Thierry Madiot (bass trombone [tracks 6 ands 8]); Julien Lourau (tenor saxophone [tracks 1 and 7]); Christophe Monniot (alto and baritone saxophones [tracks 1 and 4]); Marc Ducret (six and 12-string electric, fretless, soprano, baritone and acoustic guitars); Dominique Pifarély (violin [track 9]); Benoît Delbecq#; Allie Delfau& (piano, electric piano, sampler)&; Hélène Labarrière (bass)^; Bruno Chevillon (bass and electric bass [all tracks but 3, 5, 9 and 10]); Éric Échampard (drums and percussion [all tracks but 3, 5, 9 and 10]);); François Verly (percussion and rhythm box [track 8]); Anne Magouët (vocals [track 10]); Leslie Sévenier~, Philippe Agaël$, Laurence Blasco [track 1] (voices)
January 26, 2004
Screwgun Screwu 013
Just because many -- most? -- of the advances transmitted by jazz-rock fusion had been ground into formula by the early 1980s, doesnt means that there isnt scope for exploration with that mixture of highly amplified instruments and improvisation.
Fusion doesnt have to be what it has become -- bass guitar grandstanding, drummers using more equipment than finesse, and onanistic lead guitar indulgences -- as these two CDs set out to prove. Still its conventions are so strong that you can almost literally hear the musicians struggling to stretch the formula. Whether they prevail is open to interpretation and may depend on your history on the jazz or rock side of the fence.
Interestingly enough, while New York-based alto saxophonist Tim Bernes crew and Chicago located XMARSX led by tenor saxophonist Mars Williams tackle the conundrum in divergent ways, neither has room for a bass guitar. Jaco Pastorius rapid, empty posturing may have retarded the instruments growth for many years. Sure Williams has help from Kent Kessler, whose timekeeping would be familiar to the saxophonist from their mutual activity in the NRG Ensemble, Peter Brötzmanns Chicago Tentet and the Vandermark 5. But that bassman merely amplifies his acoustic bass in order to make himself heard, with a band filled out by improv cellist Fred Longberg-Holm and three rockers, most notably charismatic ex-MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, plus guitarist Greg Suran and drummer Dave Suycott of Slam.
Williams has worked both sides of the fence himself. Besides his improv experience, which also included Cinghiale, a reed duo with Vandermark, he was a sidemen with the Psychedelic Furs, Ministry and the Waitresses and now leads the jazz-funk band Liquid Soul.
Berne is firmly identified with jazz and improv, having over the years worked with the likes of saxophonists Julius Hemphill and John Zorn plus ROVAs Figure 8, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Joey Baron. Drummer Tom Rainey has been part of many bands with Berne and bassist Mark Helias; while keyboardist Craig Taborn has worked with saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and Bernes trio. French guitarist Marc Ducret has been associated with Berne for more than a decade, as well as gigging with countrymen like drummer Daniel Humair; and manipulator/processor/guitarist David Torn has been behind the console for Bernes last few CDs.
Starting in the Midwest, XMARSXs almost 15 minute Ultraman vs. Alienmetron seems to sum up how the rock and jazz impulses vie for primacy. One of the few times when it sounds as if Kessler is playing acoustic bass with an electric pick-up, the piece begins with the bassist and cellist bowing in unison with Williams. Suddenly, the tune explodes into a Bitches Brew-style bombast with everyone playing at top speed and volume. Williams pitch heads skyward, both plectrumists exhibit some Sonny Sharrock-style chops with heavy electronica overtones and a hint of Third-World exotica. Soon guitar feedback and altissimo screeches combine to become a claxon as one guitarist -- Kramer? -- picks out something closely resembling Purple Haze. For a time, it seems as if the 1960s have returned as both fretmen create a classic guitar freakout, with the saxist reprising the theme for the coda. Finally, a full minute of silence is brought to an end by telephone signal bleeps and the reintroduction of the thematic vamp played even louder then before. Anyone got a doobie?
In contrast, Unstuck -- one of two Suran compositions -- Punch the Monkey and Ratbastard stay in rock-jazz --as opposed to jazz-rock territory. Before the guitarist exercises his wah wah pedal, the first piece resembles the sort of instrumental heavy metallers would use to break up a set; the next features screaming guitar feedback and frenzied chording duking it out with sax lines. Most impressively, however, the third manages to incorporate country and avant influences into its basic rock structure. Beginning with a stuttering country guitar feel, fuzztones and off kilter drumming are soon added to the mix. Neither Williams chorus of reed kisses nor the integration of constantly intersecting guitar lines make it anyway MTV friendly, though.
Alternately, The Finger -- written like all the rest of the material by Williams --sonically offers up the sort of riffs the saxophonist and bassist could play with Vandermark. Horn and cello team with a smoky jazz club feel, as Williams vocalized vamps recall Windy City funky saxist Gene Ammons. All the while Kessler is strumming a constant pattern and Suycott banging out a shuffle rhythm. In the end, reed tongue slaps meet guitar feedback, the way trace of psychedelica informed soul-jazz LPs of the 1970s.
Another Chicago reedman who was the epitome of soul jazz was tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris. Hes honored here on a piece bearing his name. Highlighting a slinky rhythm that moves the drummers flams to the foreground and the guitars to the back, the tune is given added heft by powerful bass intonation. Employing Harris favorite trick of constant theme repetition, Williams honks as if it was still 1969, while the ending takes another leaf from the EH songbook by reprising the head in double time.
If part of XMARSX references fusion halcyon days, then SCIENCE FRICTION, true to a variation of its title, tries to interpose even more influences into the genre. Traces of Byrds and Fairport Convention-style folk rock suggest themselves -- though Ducret would never be mistaken for a folkie -- and besides Torns electronica and cut-and-paste sound manipulation, Ornette Colemans Prime Time and Henry Threadgills Very, Very Circus bands join BITCHES BREW as an influence, as does so-called World Music.
The clearest indication of this is on the almost 12½-minute Manatee Woman -- an Ornette allusion? Starting off with what sound like electrified percussion, it then encompasses rhythmic guitar licks, speedy hand drumming and Berne in a trilling R&B mode. Imposing here as he is elsewhere on the disc -- Ducret sashays from a strict tempo rock vamp to simple flat picking -- reminiscent of The Byrds Roger McGuinn -- to an understated amp buzzing. Simultaneously Rainey is slackening and speeding up the theme and Taborns contribution varies from electrified keyboard splashes to dancing near acoustic-sounding piano glissandos.
Sigh Fry has the same sort of electric piano sprinkles mixed with diminutive trills from the alto saxophone. In this slow moving tune Rainey produces a straightforward rock band texture mixed with Cuban guiro-like scraping, while the droning electric guitar provides the countermelody.
Conversely, Mikromaus and The Mallomar Maneuvre appear to be as much Torns as Bernes solo statements. On the first the reedmans high-pitched lines seem to be filtered through processes so that shimmering clouds of sine waves intersect with a whistling flute-like sound. On the later, ethereal saxophone split tones and smears are distilled through stuttering phase-shifting.
Finally theres Clown Finger, which as you can tell from the sardonic title is one of the tunes Berne wrote or co-wrote. Its an allegro theme based on splayed electric piano notes and a twisting drum beat, often expressed on rims not heads. Soon all that is pushed aside by Berne and Ducret. With the lowest pitches of the saxophone getting a workout, the guitarist constructs light-fingered electric filigree with suggestions of a Neapolitan mandolin. Although Taborn is at his most melodic, his sustained low notes are hemisected by knife-sharp guitar chords.
There you have it, two attempts to reform fusion, give it a more outside character and bring it into the 21st century. Thought-provoking considering the sources, the CDs deserve to be weighed and considered along with both leaders acoustic works.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: XMARSX: 1. The Worm 2. The Finger* 3. Unstuck 4. Eddie Harris* 5. Punch the Monkey* 6. Ratbastard* 7. Floaty 8. Nothin Butnet 9. Ultraman vs. Alienmetron*
Personnel: XMARSX: Mars Williams (tenor saxophone); Greg Suran and Wayne Kramer* (guitars); Fred Longberg-Holm (cello)*; Kent Kessler (bass); Dave Suycott (drums, effects, loops)
Track Listing: Science: 1. Huevos 2. IHornet 3. Sigh Fry 4. Manatee Woman 5. Mikromaus 6. Jalapeño Diplomacy 7. The Mallomar Maneuvre 8. Clown Finger
Personnel: Science: Tim Berne (alto saxophone); Marc Ducret (electric and acoustic guitars); Craig Taborn (electric keyboards); Tom Rainey (drums); David Torn (processing and manipulation)
February 10, 2003
TIM BERNE AND THE COPENHAGEN ART ENSEMBLE
Screwgun Screwu 012
Finally, after more than 20 years of recording, card-carrying New York downtowner Tim Berne is able to show off his versatility by writing for and playing with uncommon aggregations.
Not that the alto saxophonist hasnt created impressive -- some very impressive -- work using the standard horns-and-rhythm-section of traditional jazz trios, quartets and sextets. Yet in apparently less doctrinaire European countries, unusual combinations can be rehearsed and recorded. Recently a CD featuring notated compositions written for his alto and a Swiss classical saxophone quartet was released. Now theres this fine two-CD set, recorded in 2000. It features Berne plus two of his close associates, American trumpeter Herb Robertson and French guitarist Marc Ducret, performing his music along with a conductor and the 10-member Copenhagen Art Ensemble (CAE).
Given the color field available from the additional brass, reeds and rhythm of this established group, the composer/improviser is able to express his ideas in greater depth and definitely at greater length. There are only four pieces spread over the two CDs, clocking in at more than 28, 46, 33 and just under 42 minutes each.
Just as importantly, unlike earlier efforts by some other jazzers, these tunes arent designed to be showcases for the foreign soloists with the complacent big band used for heft and background. Berne, who arranged three out of four pieces as well -- conductor Ture Larsen, a veteran of The Danish Radio Big Band and Thad Jones Eclipse did the other -- takes full advantage of the band members skills. Not only do many of the Danes get solo space, but with the creations fully orchestral, they also benefit from the interactions among musicians who have been playing in this formation since 1995.
As can be expected, besides the music, the usual Berne/Screwgun quirks are on display as well. A sticker on the package reads: As herd (sic) on the Opie Book Club), and notes that the two discs -- labeled 9 and 117 instead of 1 and 2 -- supposedly have their labels reversed.
Working on that supposition, the massive eye contact is the piece closest to traditional big band jazz, with Robertson and Ducret both in the spotlight. Almost immediately CAE proves its worth by framing the trumpeters Harmon-muted lines, but never getting so loud as to drown him out. Following a blaring free-for-all tenor saxophone section, the quiet soprano saxophone of Lotte Anker, echoed by other horns, constructs a tranquil countermotif that resembles an orchestral concerto. So hushed that bassist Nils Davisen stinging lines can be heard, the swinging theme is then reprised, making room for an extended, wailing guitar solo from Ducret. Able to meld a rock-like rhythmic thrust with jazz sensibility, the guitarist has worked with Berne since 1991 as well as countrymen like clarinetist Louis Sclavis and drummer Daniel Humair. Yet while his attack may be strictly POMO, the riffing orchestral lines behind him are constructed not unlike how West Coast bandleader Gerald Wilson would have arranged a Joe Pass showcase for his big band. Eventually the piece is resolved with some rubato alto saxophone lines, speedy guitar licks, trumpet fanfares and press rolls from drummer Anders Mogensen.
An associate professor of music when hes not touring, Mogensen, is a traditionalist, but one whose skills on a tune like the purported title track show that he can almost effortlessly and frequently vary the rhythm without calling attention to himself. Built on a floating Gil Evans-style orchestration, much of the contrast comes from Adolphe Saxs inventions growling and honking while clarinetist Peter Fuglsangs coloratura tone produces slurs even more legit-sounding than Benny Goodmans after he changed his embouchure late in life. A uniform walking bass line, rock-inflected drumming that turns the beat around then rights it shortly afterwards vie with Fender Rhodes spikes that cut through the massed horns like a serrated knife slicing warm bread. Swelling horns, seemingly directed by Berne as lead altoist, resolve the theme before the coda.
On the other disc, the legend of p-1 suggests what could have happened had Count Basies horn section met up with a player piano. Soon, call-and-response exhibitions are succeeded by a brassy half-valve excursion from Robertson accompanied by just bass and drums. Electrified guitar runs on top of a low-key, swaying, stop-time bluesy background ushers in some braying from the trumpeters as the tempo doubles and Mogensen exhibits his only heavy-handedness -- and leaden foot -- of the date. Bernes alto saxophone explodes from the centre of all this, climbing into ever higher ranges and herding the other horns into a coda of rough, craggy unison smears.
Arranged by Larsen in a similar manner the almost 42-minutes long impacted wisdom cements Bernes individual directions -- that include piano arpeggios, saxophone tongue slaps and smeary, soaring trumpet lines -- into a unified whole. When the composer surmounts this backing with some creamy alto lines sprayed like whipped cream on top of a cake, the internal structure is revealed with drum rolls, cymbal accents and assisting bass lines. Slip-sliding into other keys, the sax soloist uses squeaks and split tones to produce overtones that soar to higher pitches and fall to the instruments lowest register. Meanwhile the theme is gradually being reintroduced, first by clicking piano keys, then muted trumpet then jangling guitar. Soon with the horns hocketing back-and-forth, Robertson, who has had experience in a similar role with Bobby Prevites Miles Davis tribute band, breathes out a quasi-Bitches Brew solo with undulating Fender Rhodes chords behind him.
As the groove takes hold the band morphs from a 1950s-style studio creation to resembling one of those horn-heavy jazz-rock aggregations like 10 Wheel Drive. Robertson spits out some trumpet lines while Berne double-times and smears. Eventually the vamp becomes as all pervasive as the riff at the beginning of Joe Zawinuls Birdland.
As a composer and improviser, Berne has never settled for something as simplistic as that Weather Report groove piece. Aided and abetted by the CAE on the other hand, these discs provide a proper showcase for many of his advanced ideas. Hopefully this sort of large-scale performance can be repeated soon.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Disc 117: 1. open, coma 2. eye contact Disc 9: 1. the legend of p-1 2. impacted wisdom
Personnel: Herb Robertson, Lars Vissing (trumpet); Kasper Tranberg (cornet); Mads Hyhne (trombone); Klaus Löhrer (bass trombone, tuba); Tim Berne (alto saxophone); Lotte Anker (tenor and soprano saxophones); Thomas Agergaard (tenor saxophone and flute); Peter Fuglsang (clarinet, bass clarinet); Thomas Clausen (piano, Fender Rhodes); Marc Ducret (guitar); Nils Davisen (bass); Anders Mogensen (drums); Ture Larsen
December 9, 2002
Dancers In Love
Splasc (H) Records CHD 742.2
New World 80586-2
Voiced properly, a saxophone quartet can perform with either the delicacy of an chamber string configuration or with the vigor and tempo of a New Orleans brass band. Because its musical history is so brief as well -- Adolphe Sax only invented the instrument circa 1840 -- the possibilities for invention and innovation with four reeds also seem almost limitless.
Each of these discs offers an excellent take on the joys of sax. More traditional, the Italian-based Arundo Donax ensemble follows aggregations such as the World Saxophone Quartet that create an all-reed showcase for jazz standards. Each soloist also gets to show off his improvisational prowess.
Conversely, Brooklyn-based alto saxophonist Tim Berne presents a combination of written and improvised sections on his CD. Two of his through-composed pieces feature the Swiss-based, ARTE (saxophone) Quartett, while others are showcases for French guitarist Marc Ducret and American guitarist/remixer David Torn. The more-than-25 minutes of the longest track add Berne on alto and guitarist Ducret to improvise on top of ARTEs reading of his score.
Named for the herbaceous perennial grass from the Mediterranean thats the source for woodwind reeds, the Arundo Donax quartet for the most part performs numbers from the canon of the preeminent American 20th century composer: Duke Ellington on DANCERS IN LOVE. During his long career as a bandleader, Ellington wrote many features for saxophone sections and Arundo Donax undertakes a combination of famous and obscure tunes written between 1928 to 1968. Uniformly creamy reed voicings bring out the comeliness of the tunes, but unfortunately the arrangements dont approach any of the toughness that Ellington brought to the same material.
Still, the four are proficient enough to sometimes provide an original take on familiar tune, as they do with 1928s The Mooche. Arranged, like the majority of the other numbers by Naples-born tenor saxophonist Mario Raja, it shows the sure hand of a man who has written and arranged for movies, television and groups ranging from combos to orchestras, including New Yorks Mingus big band and bands led by himself and pianist Giorgio Gaslini.
Taken at a higher pitch than Ellington did, and given a more modern cast, featured soloist is baritone saxophonist Rossano Emili, who has played with the Italian Instabile Orchestra as well as with Gaslini. As the others modulate in lockstep, Emili creates variations on the theme, producing enough swing with one horn to take the place of an entire orchestra.
Altoist Pietro Tonolo bundles Ellington and Billy Strayhorns 1956 composition The Star Crossed Lovers, into a blanket of notes. Venetian-born, he has worked with other arch romantics like Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and as part of pianist Gil Evans Orchestra. Here Rajas arrangement allows the four together to sound like a string section and to blend their tones together into unison prettiness. Another highlight is Tonolos variations on Ellingtons UMMG. Well-recorded enough to isolate each of the reedmans individual sounds, the tune approximates the sounds of New Yorks upper west side. After a while, though, you wish that the band didnt so often resemble a MOR vocal group like the LA Voices, always playing in unison.
This irritation is compounded on non-Ducal fare like After The Kiss, written by soprano saxophonist Pasquade Laino, whose background encompasses membership in the Italian klezmer band KlezRoym, pop-jazz with Mango and theatre music. With Raja exhibiting a light (Stan) Getzian tone and the massed saxophone notes cascading like a waterfall, the smoothness of the performance seems to inch it towards sweet band rather than swing band territory.
All in all, DANCERS IN LOVE is pleasant enough and rife with impressive arrangements. But Arundo Donaxs use of the voices of the sax quartet is as conventional as its use in any number of similar groups.
Thats not something you would say about THE SEVENS, which showcases original concepts to each of its six tracks. Most traditional is Repulsion, featuring a straight reading of Bernes score by the classically oriented ARTE Quartett, whose other collaborators have ranged from Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber to American composer Terry Riley. Performed mostly in unison with the four saxophones phrasing as if they were united as a giant many-pitched instrument, the wistful tune ends with the music gradually leaking into the air.
Reversion, Torns remix of the track, manipulates the quartets source material as constant percussive sounds and cartoon-like calliope sounds. The endproduct finds his fiery guitar playing looping over the massed horn samples. He does something similar with Ducrets bottleneck guitar solo, adding feedback guitar treatments and pseudo organ washes in such a way that Tonguefarmer morphs from an acoustic recital to something moved by a Bo Diddley beat.
Centrepiece of the album is the more than 25-minute Quicksilver, featuring all five saxophones and Ducret. Beginning with the ARTE's four members playing lockstep in different keys, you can make out the sigh of the soprano, the altos mocking tone, the screech of the tenor and the burbling rumble of the baritone. Then with the other horns cushioning him, Berne starts playing variations on his theme, trilling, overblowing and double-timing. Modulating down to a march beat, he then ratchets his solo up with some quasi-funk, complete with honks and wheezes. An unaccompanied interregnum from the altoist, deliberately played sharp, is done allegro as the others stay andante. Later on, Ducret joins in to move the proceedings into what is almost a definite dance tempo, as Berne begins circling around and trading licks with the guitarists steel strings. Finally, turning pastoral he gradually decelerates the sounds as a crescendo of unison quartet reeds combine into what sounds like a woodwind harmonium.
Taking advantage of the saxophone quartets many voicings, Berne has created a memorable, original composition which overshadows Arundo Donaxs proficient, but technical recreations.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Dancers In Love 2. Meditation 3. The Mooche 4. Ein Bokek 5. UMMG Variations 6*- 12.
Personnel: Pasquade Laino (soprano saxophone); Pietro Tonolo (sopranino* and alto saxophone); Mario Raja (tenor saxophone); Rossano Emili (baritone saxophone)
Track Listing: 1. Repulsion^ 2. Sequel Why+ 3. Reversion^% 4. Quicksand^*+ 5. Tonguefarmer+% 6. Sequel Ex+
Personnel: ARTE Quartett [Beat Hofstetter (soprano saxophone); Sascha Armbruster (alto saxophone); Andrea Formenti (tenor saxophone); Bert Kappeler (baritone saxophone)]^; Tim Berne (alto saxophone)*; Marc Ducret (acoustic guitar)+; David Torn (electric guitars, loops, sonic redistribution)%
September 23, 2002
Sketch ske 333018
Astute, inventive and tasteful, Swiss-born percussionist Daniel Humair, 63, has long been one of the revered patriarchs of mature European jazz. A resident of Paris since the late 1950s, he was an integral part of French pianist Martial Solals trio in the 1960s and altoist Phil Woods European Rhythm Machine in the 1970s. Recordings have seen him seconding stylists as different as Swing trumpeter Bill Coleman and cerebral saxophonist Lee Konitz, and working in a variety of original settings with other Europeans like French bassist Henri Texier and German keyboardist Joachim Kühn.
Still, if there has been a better monument to the fully developed accomplishments of Humair as a player and composer than this two CD set, its hard to imagine. Recorded live in front of a respectful audience at Paris Swiss Cultural Centre, the drummer and his band members express themselves on eight extended tunes, mostly written by Humair or his long time associates. With Mutinerie, the shortest piece, clocking in at a little more than 9½ minutes, and the longest -- Urgence -- nearly 19½, theres obviously plenty of space for band members to exercise their chops.
What chops they are as well. Featured throughout are loose-limbed American tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, who usually plays with his own trio as well on discs with bassist Mark Helias; and French, rock-inflected guitarist Marc Ducret, who has had a decade-long association with the bands of American saxophonist Tim Berne and French clarinetist Louis Sclavis. Rounding out the quartet is unobtrusive bassist Bruno Chevillon who has been in Sclavis band as well as Ducrets trio.
Those who fear that so-called free players like Ducret and Eskelin would have to mute their more exhibitionistic tendencies to play with Humair, or that his mainstream timekeeping would be compromised by the young avant gardists, obviously dont realize the versatility of all concerned.
For a start, in the past, Eskelin has recorded an album honoring soul/bop tenor icon Gene Ammons, while Ducrets rock guitar appropriations involve texture and velocity rather than volume and effects. While he may fire out passages, as on Amalgame, which sound as if a moderated Jeff Beck has joined the band for a few minutes, most of his solos are fully in the modern jazz guitar tradition. Plus his loose, swinging pulse on his own Urgence show that his allegiance lies as much with Jimmy Raney as Jimi Hendrix.
Furthermore, considering that over the years, while staying true to himself, Humair has played classic jazz and hard bop with their originators, as well as Kühns EuroFusion and folklore-aligned themes with long-time associate Texier, hes not suddenly going to be disoriented by freer sounds.
Complementary drum breaks, rather than ponderous solos are his stock in trade anyhow. When he does let loose as at the beginning of Kühns Missing A Page; its for solos that can be measured in minutes, not millennia, as with some self-obsessed percussionists. Relaxed, Humair knows which parts of his kit to emphasis at which times, but hes more likely to appear to be caressing them, then doing them damage.
Tempo-wise the tunes range from straightforward swingers like the drummers Triple Hip Trip to more languid, impressionistic manifestations such as IRA Song, also from Humairs pen. The tenor saxist builds up to hurricane force then moves into some freak note experimentation on the former, matched by swift finger picking, followed by fret board exploration on the guitarists part. The later, emphasized with some military style percussion from its composer and a fusillade of pinpointed notes from Ducret, slows down midway into a bottom of the strings solo from the bassist, but without losing its prickly edge. It suggest what could happen if someone fore fed caffeine to musicians wandering in the ECM mountains.
Drummers like Max Roach and Art Blakey kept going into their seventies and we would hope the same for Humair. As it stands now, though, this session seems a monumental autumnal achievement.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Disc 1: 1. Give Me the Eleven 2. Urgence 3. IRA Song 4. Missing A Page Disc 2: 1. Triple Hip Trip 2. Salinas 3. Mutinerie 4. Amalgame
Personnel: Ellery Eskelin (tenor saxophone); Marc Ducret (guitar); Bruno Chevillon (bass); Daniel Humair (drums)
January 1, 2002