Matthieu Donarier

April 5, 2023

Bestaire #01| Explorations
BMC CD 304

Having decided to compose a modern version of a Bestaire or volume of Medieval moralizing fables about real and mythical animals, Matthieu Donarier recruited three other improvisers to bring his observations to musical life. Besides the French tenor saxophonist/clarinetist who has recorded with Hubert Dupont, this bestiary include two other Gauls: percussionist Toma Gouband, who has worked with Evan Parker; and pianist Eve Risser who leads many of her own bands; plus German cellist Karsten Hochapfel, who works with Naïssam Jalal.

During Explorations’ 11 tracks, the quartet interprets the composer’s mammalian observations with a mixture of harmony and discord, aggression and amiability; and formal or fitful sequences. Note how this operates by comparing “Bon Voyage” and “Restless Spin”. The former finds the pianist’s introduction creating thumping pedal point coloration following harmonized chording as Donarier’s unbroken clarinet glissandi turn into a flurry of broken octave shrills. “Restless Spin” meanwhile matches rhythmic piano comping with Gouband’s stone thumping and cymbal shakes plus cello strums. Breathy saxophone gusts are heard soon afterwards echoes by hard smacks from the drummer until the piano and saxophone blend for a stop-time ending. The drummer’s plants and stones commotion aren’t the only unusual textures on the session. In order to create more of Donarier’s tonal images, Risser introduces vibes-like juddering preparation to her strings and at points involves soundboard vibrations as much as keyboard clips and stops. Hochapfel’s pizzicato twangs suggest Andalusian tempos as much as his arco cello variations. Meanwhile, coupled with Gouband’s hard clanks and gong-like sonance from Risser’s key stops a meld among African, Arab and Techno is also suggested. The climatic “Thin Ice” propels this groove with shattering metallic percussion, keyboard rumbles and honking saxophone flattement. As the others warble a continuum in a slowing descending range, menacing cello buzzes and harsh clarinet tremolo confirm the atmospheric and ambulant measures of this suite. Donarier and associates aptly demonstrate how these explorations embody the creation of Bestaire #01. One will be anxious to hear what other versions of this menagerie will reveal.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Arcs 2. Field – At Dawn 3. Bon Voyage 4. Exploration #01 – Night Camp 5. Restless Spin 6. Field – At Dusk 7. Drafted 8. Exploration #02 – Firelight 9. Thin Ice 10. Exploration #03 – Wide Sky 11. Cairns

Personnel: Matthieu Donarier (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Eve Risser (piano, prepared piano); Karsten Hochapfel (cello) and Toma Gouband (drums, stones, plants)