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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sonny Simmons, Delphine Latil & Thomas Bellier - Beyond The Planets (Improvising Beings, 2013) ****

By Stef 

In 2011, the French label "Improvsing Beings" released "Symphony Of The Peacocks" by Sonny Simmons and Delphine Latil, an amazing album with the most rare of duets on English horn and classical harp. 

You could call this "Beyond The Planets" as a continuation of the earlier release, with Latil playing the first four tracks solo harp, in a very minimalist way, without genre, yet full of musical influences from across the globe, yet with an unmistakeable zen quality in its quiet pacing. Simmons joins on his "cor anglais" and later on alto, on the 45-minute long "Sacred Moments", joining the vast sonic expanse that Latil creates with sustained notes and phrases full of solemn spiritualism. 

Jazz is usually a very nervous genre, in which things have to move and interact at high speed, yet here you have the exact opposite, and hence it's also hard to call this jazz, but that's all semantics. This is the music of tranquility, not the one of lazyness or lack of thoughts, but the tranquility of wonder, admiration and in a way self-sufficiency. The duo plays as if the only things they need and want are here, in this calm development of sonic beauty. 

On the second CD, Simmons plays duets with guitarist Thomas Bellier, a French rock musician residing in the US, and whose band "Blaak Heat Shujaa" sounds a little like Hawkwind (as a reference for the old guys reading this), call it space psychedelic rock if you want. The combination of Bellier's rock guitar works well with Simmons long and moaning howls, although as we make progress, it becomes gradually less clear how the tracks differ. They are all built around a few chords and the improvisations circle around the same tonal center, and even if both musicians change the sound of their instruments, Simmons switching to alto, or Bellier using his pedals, the core of the music does not change. That of course offers great coherence to the music, yet limits variation. 

That being said, Simmons' sound is unique, and that is a great achievement. 

Watch Simmons and Bellier live at the Vision Festival in 2012, in the company of William Parker and Warren Smith. The music is very similar to what you find on the second disc of this album. 


Blinzelbar - HeinerM. said...

It doesn't work, the groove, the sound, the feeling?- i cannot say, but my impression is that.

Liam Gray said...

It seemed to me they purposefully avoided that, that the first disc was looking towards the continuous flow of chamber music and the second explore blues in its hard psychedelic contemporary sound.

OK, not for everybody, but Simmons' sound I found was on par with his 60s outing rather more than on this label's previous releases.

Liam Gray