For its fourth release in as many years, Dark Tree Records returns to the trio that launched the label in 2011. Portant Les Cimes Des Arbres was superior in almost every aspect one could consider: a powerhouse line-up, challenging, unorthodox performances, a pristine recording, and beautiful package design. In all those respects, Sens Radiants presents as welcome déjà vu.
Recorded at the Écouter pour l’Instant Festival in the summer of 2013, Sens Radiants showcases an hour-long performance of Lazro on baritone saxophone, Duboc on bass, and Lasserre on a stripped-down drum kit. In true European tradition, the trio has always presented a music that seems completely divorced from any of free improvisation’s jazz heritage. Like Portant Les Cimes Des Arbres, Sens Radiants is steeped in rhythm, though not of the toe-tapping, beat-counting sort. There’s something more organic at work, a subliminal regularity like breathing or waves. It’s music that feels mythical, spiritual, ritual.
Perhaps what Sens Radiants calls to my mind the most is the solemn, ceremonial air of Noh theatre music—its use of space and the obscure rhythmic groundwork that serves as a guiding principle. An incredible mastery of tone is on display throughout the performance. By tone I don’t mean the pitch or source of sounds, but rather the consistent, expressive quality that is particular to the performance, that is indicative of this trio at that moment in time. It never suggests anything less than total cohesion and command.
It almost goes without saying that the entire performance should be absorbed in one sitting, though a few highlights can be noted. It’s always remarkable to hear how much an extension of his own body Lazro’s saxophone is; in his moaning, screaming, humming performances he becomes one of the most sensuous, stirring hornsmen working today. Half an hour in, the music gathers from quiet corners into a colossal knot of friction, Lasserre’s scraped cymbals sounding like he’s tearing at the very air with his drumsticks.
Around the 37 minute mark, Duboc hits upon as virtuosic an arco soloas you’re likely to find in free improvisation. It reminds me of two great Italians: the stunning touch of the late Scodanibbio with a bow, and the tense, abyssal atmosphere of Sciarrino’s Sui poemi concentrici. Perhaps that hints at what feels so special about Sens Radiants as a whole. Many have difficulty discerning the difference between some modern classical music and improvisation. Here, we have improvisation that feels like a great modern composition: controlled and cohering, so certain of its own aesthetic that it’s hard not to think of it as Lazro/Duboc/Lasserre, Opus no. 2.
Available from Instantjazz.