Daniel Erdmann’s Velvet Revolution

January 24, 2017

A Short Moment of Zero G
BMC CD 239

Joëlle Léandre/Théo Ceccaldi
Cipsela CIP006

Not unlike a young actor who appears to be in many TV shows and movies at the same time, violist/violinist Théo Ceccaldi suddenly seems to be everywhere in the European improvised music scene, especially in France. Not only is the Orléans-born Ceccaldi a member of the Paris-based Orchestre National de Jazz, and leads own ensembles, but he’s commonly tapped to work in other groups led by the likes of violinist Régis Huby, guitarist Ronny Graupe and saxophonist Alexandra Grimal. Extending his range, these high-quality small-group efforts find him in sympathetic if widely different company.

Elastic captures completely improvised intercommunication between the violinist and the doyenne of Gallic improvised music, bassist Joëlle Léandre. Recorded during a Paris house concert, the seven part inventions allows you to eavesdrop on the equivalent of an actor’s studio creation between a venerable thespian, say Meryl Streep, and a promising character player like Ryan Gosling. Deviating from this veteran-tyro relationship A Short Moment of Zero G has Ceccaldi as member of a trio led by and playing the compositions of German tenor saxophonist Daniel Erdmann. Wolfsburg-born Erdmann who is part of many other groups apparently sees the Velvet Revolution as his take on Cool/Chamber Jazz. Auxiliary textures don’t upset these 11 cultivated performances since the third player is Colmar-based, British percussionist Jim Hall, who limits himself to vibes here.

At a home with Léandre, like lovers at a first meeting, the two dedicate the first few improvisations to seek out one another’s tics and techniques. Outputting rhythmic strums, harmonium-like drones and spiccato split tones and squeezes, eventually they torque the interface up enough so that tones that previously brushed against one another now crash with the ferocity of tides hitting the shore during a storm. Atmospheric and dramatic, “Elastic #5” is one highpoint where the multiphonic string combination creates the idea of two string sets lobbing lightning bolts – with affiliated thunder – at one another.

From that point on, the duo builds to a crescendo of textures which are often as shrill as they are descriptive, building matchless passion out of double and triple stops, guitar-like plucks and shuffle bowing. So sonically vivid is the climax that Léandre’s string pumps and Ceccaldi’s equivalent bounces are almost visible. This faultless connection is sustained on the concluding “Elastic #7”. Looping techniques add melody to the technical expertise. Meeting and matching string sets it’s as if all eight merge into a single entity that doesn’t distinguish the player from the theme from the instrument. A connective calm defines the finale.

Trading the French for a Velvet Revolution the trio disc is more welcoming and less pressurized. But the ability to create defining statements is weakened by the sheer number of short tracks. It’s like contemporary schools which refuse to acknowledge that some students are superior to others in certain situations, weakening the cumulative program. Not that Erdmann, Hart and Ceccaldi are aiming for the musical duplication of remedial education. Yet some of the tracks are so bubbly and reasonable that entertainment replaces energy.

On the other hands the unique instrumental configuration gives the Velvet Revolution the ability to establish its own parameters. Not a cool player per se, Erdmann’s heavy-tone comes out of the breathy Coleman Hawkins school. He demonstrates this with aplomb and energy in his solos on tunes such as “Velvet Revolution” and “Quand j’étais petit je rêvais d’être pauvre.” Not program music, the former is resolved in a hard-hitting fashion with vibes’ sheen and fiddle obbligatos; the latter, folds ringing mallet work, strung strums and reed slurps into a rustic-styled Blues.

The most profound showpieces, however, are those such as ” I See a Strange Light” and “A Short Moment of Zero G”, which like the director’s cut of a film are given enough room to develop into coherent statements. The latter, whose concept is further prolonged during the following track, “Try to Run”, designed as a solo showcase for Hart with carol-like incandescence throughout, is actually a Blues. Melding sax honks, string splutters and metal-mallet reverb into a pleasing pastiche, the trio proves that swing and simplicity can animate in as engaging a manner as serious sound exploration. ” I See a Strange Light” does just that with col legno string swats, dark smoky saxophone noises and a climax which finds resolution after Ceccaldi’s tremolo rubbing push all three to an elevated demonstration of polyphonic timbre mixtures.

Ceccaldi and the others acquit themselves memorably on both discs. The string player also confirms that were he a thespian, that he would be as notable in supporting as in leading roles.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Elastic: 1. Elastic #1 2. Elastic #2 3. Elastic #3 4. Elastic #4 5. Elastic #5 6. Elastic #6 7. Elastic #7

Personnel: Elastic: Théo Ceccaldi (violin) and Joëlle Léandre (bass)

Track Listing: Short: 1. A Pair of Lost Kites Hurrying Towards Heaven 2. Infinity Kicks In 3.Velvet Revolution 4. Quand j´étais petit je rêvais d´être pauvre 5. Les agnettes 6. I See a Strange Light 7. Swing für Europa 8. Les Frigos 9. A Short Moment of Zero G 10. Try to Run 11. Still a Rat

Personnel: Short: Daniel Erdmann (tenor saxophone); Théo Ceccaldi (violin and viola) and Jim Hart (vibraphone)