Alban Darche

June 12, 2021

Le Gros Cube #2
Yolk Records J 2060

Orchestras Brez Meja/Senza Confini
Live in Nova Gorica
Klopotec Records IZK CD 116

Ever since they began organizing larger groups, musicians have craftily arranged and refined the resulting instrumental colors. Even in standard big band configuration permutations can be limitless. The Slovenian-Italian Orchestrer Brez Meja/Orchestra Senza Confini (OBOSC) and the French-based Le Gros Cube #2 (LGC2) confirm this with programs that are equally fascinating but completely unlike. Directed by a conduction from Slovenian percussionist Zlatko Kaučič and Italian bassist Giovanni Maier the 20-piece OBOSC cannily negotiates the peaks and valleys of a nearly 55-minute creation, with expressive group work suggesting Jazz, folkloric and New music considerations. More traditional, the 17-piece LGC2 mixes Swiss, French and American musicians to perform in organized sections and freeing solos a 10-part composition by tenor saxophonist Alban Darche, who is also involved in many other international projects.

Shifting through a collection of timbres, pitches and moods, Live in Nova Gorica begins slowly with bell clinks, double bass thumps and tremolo accordion drones, with the muted brass tones and warm flute movement a portent of the accelerating reed tones challenges that follow. Each passing motif brings more timbral additions up to a series of crescendos. Fortifying the musical architecture are expressive plucks from the three double basses, Rock-like vibrations from guitarist Vitja Balžalorsky, bass clarinet snarls from Mimo Cogliandro and flute bites from Massimo De Mattia or Paolo Pascolo. Accordion squeezes and flute flutters define another sequence in tandem with mumbling vocal growl from cellist Mariano Bulligan and vocalized skittering cries from accordionist Elisa Ulian. Refocused following another crescendo, layered saxophone vamps and screechy brass flutters play off against electronic-infused splashes and tremolo string augmentations to finally harmonize as squirming polyphony confirms the chromatic motion. Successively frenetic flute overblowing and contrapuntal rhythm section swing give way to brass lyricism from cornetist Gabriele Cancelli or trumpeter Francesco Ivone ending with vocal harmonies that introduce an oasis of calm as clarinetist Clarissa Durzzizotto and Ulian play what could be a traditional Baltic melody, spiced with decorations from Giorgio Pacorig’s electric piano. The final sequence is a grand tutti that chugs through altissimo reed screeches and distended split tones, organ-like keyboard jabs and stentorian thumps from the three percussionists. A coda of prestissimo flute mewls pushes the entire group to a climatic finale.

Composed and arranged not suggested by conduction, the tracks on the other CD flow logically with the undulating themes often moving with a Count Basie-like swing mixed with Kenton-Evans augmented coloration, The dexterity implicit in Darche’s arrangements is that no matter how heightened the churning theme elaboration or interspaced solo variations become each instrumental tone can be clearly heard. This is demonstrated on a track like “Arcane Le Diable” where Darche’s reed dabs intersect with the Belle Epoque-like melody until his cheerful tenor saxophone exposition is interrupted by stop-time blasts from the eight-person brass section, given bottom ballast by Rémi Sciuto’s baritone saxophone snorts and underlined by Marie Krüttli’s piano comping. Individual parts adhere latterly before the track wraps up. Similarly a stop-time Latin sound suggestion is preserved in sections of “Arcane XXII – Le Mat” as alto saxophonist Loren Stillman slurs and slides as his flighty vibrations advance his ideas which take flight on top of swaying brass, reed and rhythm solidity. Guitarist Gilles Coronado pulses with expressive flanges and bassist Sébastien Boisseau slips up and down his strings with aplomb creating notable theme variations on “Beauty and Sadness”. But these interjections don’t stop the deliberate paced suite narrative from preserving a foot tapping andante roll out. Other tracks such as “Le Mort Joyeux” and “Le chemin (vertueux)” are lower key but no less moving. Besides the horns sumptuously blended so that tones bleed from one section to another, Krüttli’s positioned glissandi creates a formalist interlocution on the first, while a burnished showpiece for artful swing and slides from a trombone choir of John Fedchock, Jean-Louis Pommier and Samuel Blaser illuminates the latter.

Live in Nova Gorica may lean closer to Free Music, while Le Gros Cube #2 is firmly anchored to contemporary Jazz. Yet both are equally valid expressions of how to create high quality large ensemble sounds.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Gorica 1. Live in Nova Gorica

Personnel: Gorica: Gabriele Cancelli (cornet); Francesco Ivone (trumpet); Clarissa Durzzizotto (clarinet, alto saxophone); Mimo Cogliandro (bass clarinet); Gianfranco Agresti, Jure Borsič (alto saxophone); Cene Resnik, Flavio Brumat, Boštjan Simon (tenor saxophone); Massimo De Mattia, Paolo Pascolo (flute): Giorgio Pacorig (piano, Fender Rhodes)Vitja Balžalorsky (guitar); Mariano Bulligan (cello, voice); Carlo Franceschinis, Costanzo Tortorelli Matjaž Bajc (bass); Žiga Ipavec, Marko Lasič (drums); Gal Furlan (percussion); Elisa Ulian (voice, accordion); Zlatko Kaučič and Giovanni Maier (conduction)

Track Listing: Gros: 1. A la bougie 2. Ping-Pong 3. Arcane Le Diable 4. Arcane XVIIII – Le Soleil 5. Le Mort Joyeux 6. Beauty and Sadness II 7. Le chemin (vertueux) 8. L’Oiseau qu’on voit chante sa plainte 9. Arcane XXII – Le Mat 10. Le Cercle

Personnel: Gros: Joël Chausse, Geoffroy Tamisier, Jean-Paul Estiévenart, Olivier Laisney (trumpet); John Fedchock, Jean-Louis Pommier, Samuel Blaser (trombone); Matthias Quilbault (tuba); Jon Irabagon, Loren Stillman (alto saxophone); Alban Darche (tenor saxophone); Matthieu Donarier (tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet); Rémi Sciuto (baritone saxophone, flute); Marie Krüttli (piano); Gilles Coronado (guitar); Sébastien Boisseau (bass); Christophe Lavergne (drums)