Portail du journalisme et de l'activisme musical de François Couture.

Home of François Couture's music journalism and activism.

2010-05-03

2010-05-03: Brennan/Doran/Amstad/Héral, Gratkowski/Nabatov/Schmickler, Reto Anneler, Quartet of Happiness, Le Orme

Journal d'écoute / Listening Diary

2010-05-03


JOHN WOLF BRENNAN, CHRISTY DORAN, BRUNO AMSTAD & PATRICE HÉRAL / Triangulation: Whirligigs (Leo Records)

J’ADORE commencer la semaine avec une surprise totale comme ceci. Comprenez-moi bien: je suis très familier avec la musique du pianiste John Wolf Brennan et j’ai entendu sa première collaboration avec le guitariste Christy Doran et le percussioniste Patrice Héral, parue sous le titre Triangulation il a deux ou trois ans. De la bonne impro libre. Voilà qu’arrive ce deuxième disque sous le titre Whirligigs. Bon. Le trio est devenu un quatuor avec l’ajout du vocaliste Bruno Amstad (de New Bag). Bien. Mais dès le début du disque, force est de constater une transformation totale: ce quatuor fait dans le jazz-funk groovy avant-gardiste. La musique est improvisée, mais repose constamment sur le rythme. Le chanteur n’est pas un chanteur au sens traditionnel, mais il vocalise tout de même, quelque part entre le dub, le funk actuel de Dean Bowman et les techniques étendues d’un Phil Minton. Un disque un peu long (75 minutes, sans que l’approche varie vraiment), mais splendide, plein de bons grooves, de riffs tordus, d’explorations vocales. Brennan est plutôt discret, mais son jeu d’orgue vaut le détour.

I just LOVE starting the week with something unexpected like that. You see, I’m very familiar with Swiss pianist John Wolf Brennan’s output, and I have heard (and liked) his first collaboration with guitarist Christy Doran and percussionist Patrice Héral, released under the title Triangulation two or three years ago. Fine. The trio has now become a quartet with the addition of vocalist Bruno Amstad (of New Bag). Cool. However, right from track one, this new album proves to be a total transformation: the new quartet is playing groovy avant-garde jazz-funk. The music is still improvised, but it relies on rhythm, constantly. And the singer is not really a singer, but a vocalist whose style falls somewhere between dub, Dean Bowman’s avant-funk stylings, and the extendes techniques of a Phil Minton. The album is a tad long (75 minutes without much diversity), but splendid, with tons of good grooves, twisted licks, and vocal experiments. Brennan is rather discreet, but his organ playing is worth the price of admission.


FRANK GRATKOWSKI, SIMON NABATOV & MARCUS SCHMICKLER / Deployment (Leo Records)

Le saxophoniste allemand Frank Gratkowski est une valeur sure chez Leo Records. Ces disques d’improvisation libre sont toujours au moins intéressants, parfois brillants. Deployment penche vers la brillance, parce qu’il repose sur une relation bien établie avec le pianiste Simon Nabatov et l’ajout d’un facteur x, l’électronicien Marcus Schmickler. Certains trouveront que ce dernier se fait trop discret, mais ses textures apportent juste ce qu’il faut de déstabilisation pour empêcher Gratkowski et Nabatov de tomber en mode free jazz. Réussi.

German sax player Frank Gratkowski is what you could call a sure value in Leo Records’ catlogue. His free improvisation records are always at least interesting and occasionally brilliant. Deployment tends toward the later. It rests on a firmly-established relationship with pianist Simon Nabatov and the addition of an X factor in electronician Marcus Schmickler. Some will find Schmickler ot be too discreet here, but his textures bring just the right amount of destabilization to prevent Gratkowski and Nabatov from falling back on a free jazz mode. Successful.

RETO ANNELER / Trottoir (Unit Records)

Simplement trop jazz à mon goût. Mais une écriture intéressante, qui rappelle parfois, dans ses meilleurs moments, Steve Lacy.

Too jazz for my personal taste. But the writing’s nice and rmeiniscent, in its best moments, of Steve Lacy.


QUARTET OF HAPPINESS / The Monster Returns! (Creative Nation Music - merci à/thanks to improvised communications)

Quartet of Happiness est un étrange groupe de jazz qui vaque à la frontière de la comédie et de la pédagogie: moitié groupe jazz d’humoristes, moitié projet éducatif pour écoliers. Mais leur approche est originale, leur musique créative, leur projet pavé de bonnes intentions, et je comprends le guitariste avant-jazz Eric Hofbauer de leur faire une place sur son étiquette. L’aspect pédagogique peut devenir lassant sur disque, mais certains numéros comiques ont un petit côté Frank Zappa très agréable (“Who’s Got Rhythm?”, un concours rythmique; “So You Think You Can Jazz?”, une parodie de télé-réalité; “Music History”, une histoire de la musique comprimée en neuf minutes).

Quartet of Happiness is a strange jazz quartet working on the edge of comedy and education: it’s half a comedy jazz group, half an educational project for students. But their approach is original, their music creative, and their project lined with the best intentions, so I understand why avant-jazz guitarist Eric Hofbauer signed them to his label. The educational aspect gets a little tedious on record, but some of the comedy numbers have a very enjoyable Frank Zappa flavor (the rhythm contest in “Who’s Got Rhythm?”, the reality show parody “So You Think You Can Jazz?”, the nine-minute “Music History” lesson).


LE ORME / Collage (Universal)

Wayside Music offrait un coffret de l’intégral de Le Orme à petit prix, il n’était pas question que je résiste. J’ai plus qu’une connaissance de passage des grands du rock progressif italien (PFM, Banco, Area, etc.), mais, étrangement, j’ai peu croisé la carrière de Le Orme. Alors plongeons, en commençant par le premier disque, Collage, 1971. Rarement a-t-on vu groupe produire un premier album d’une telle qualité. Tout les éléments du son Le Orme sont déjà en place, ou presque. Il y a l’exception d’un certain élément pop, reste de Formula 3, formation mère de Le Orme. La pièce-titre demeure un classique du genre. J’aime le fait que Le Orme soit un trio ayant à sa tête un claviériste sans que ça ne paraisse vraiment - pas de gros showcase de claviers à la ELP. L’écriture demeure reine, pas la virtuosité. Ce n’est pas le plus renversant des Le Orme, mais c’est un premier effort diablement mûr.

Wayside Music was offering a box set of the complete albums of Le Orme at a small price, so I just couldn’t say no. I have more than a passing acquaintance with the Italian prog rock greats (PFM, Banco, Area, etc.), yet, strangely, I have very rarely crossed Le Orme’s path. So let’s dig in, starting with their first album, Collage, 1971. Rarely has a band released such a strong debut album. Le Orme’s elements are all in place already, except for the lingering pop feel, a remain from Formula 3 (the band that preceded Le Orme). The title track remains a prog rock classic. I like the fact that, for a keyboard-led trio, Le Orme is not showcasing keyboards a la ELP. The songwriting reigns, not flashy chops. This is not the most striking of Le Orme’s records, but it’s a darn fine debut.


LE ORME / Uomo di pezza (Universal)

Wow. Que dire de plus? Oui, c’est la première fois que j’écoutais Uomo di pezza. Oui, ça manquait à ma culture. Définitivement. Je suis enthousiasmé au possible. Voilà un TRÈS grand classique du rock progressif, qu’il soit italien ou d’ailleurs. Ce disque a tout pour lui: une écriture complexe mais compacte, variée mais soutenue; une prestation fabuleuse, un très bon son. Aldo Tagliapietra livre ici certaines de ses meilleurs prestations de chanteur. “Una Dolcezza Nuova” et “Alienazione” s’imposent à la première écoute, mais j’ai l’impression que les sept pièces de ce disque finiront parmi mes préférées. Ce disque est l’égal de Per Un Amico de PFM, Darwin! de Banco et Crac d’Area. [Ci-dessous: Le meilleur des deux mondes: un medley de “Sguardo Verso Il Cielo” de Collage et “Una Dolcezza Nuova” d’Uomo di Pezza, en concert, avec orchestre, en 1972.]

Wow. What more can I say? Yes, this was my first exposure to Uomo di pezza. And yes, it was lacking to my culture. I am extremely enthusiastic about this, Le Orme’s second album (1972). This record has everything going for it: complex yet compact, varied yet unfailing songwriting; great performances; very good sound. Aldo Tagliapietra gives some of his best-ever vocal performances. “Una Dolcezza Nuova” and “Alienzione” stand out on first listen, but I have a feeling all seven tracks will end up in my list of favorites. This album is on par with PFM’s Per Un Amico, Banco’s Darwin!, and Area’s Crac. [Below: The best of both worlds: a medley of “Sguardo Verso Il Cielo” from Collage and “Una Dolcezza Nuova” from Uomo di Pezza, live with an orchestra, 1972.]

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