Pierre Dorge – Blui (SteepleChase, 2015) ****Chris Haines
Firstly it’s nice to hear Pierre Dorge in a more intimate setting again (after 2013’s Like Salamanders We Survive), with most of his recorded output having been focused on the large forces of the New Jungle Orchestra. Blui harks back to Ballad Round The Left Corner, an early album that he made before the first releases of the NJO, featuring a quartet and including John Tchicai on saxophones. Blui also features a quartet of Kirk Knuffke (Cornet), Hamid Drake (Drums), Thommy Andersson (Bass), and Dorge (guitar), as well as a couple of new versions of pieces that were originally off Ballad…
The album gently eases it’s way in with Else Belse Bird Beard which starts quite freely before Kirk Knuffke pulls it together with a relaxed and cool toned melody that forefronts a laid back and loping piece, which seems to gain a bit more energy through Dorge’s guitar work just before the end. Xongly and Happy As A Cow are fairly faithful to the originals, with Knuffke’s cornet taking over the parts Tchicai played on sax. Their both good versions, but I can’t help prefer the performances on Ballad… mainly because I feel Dorge’s guitar parts are far superior and have a real excitement and energy that these versions slightly lack. Other highlights include Cha Cha Lupa with it’s interspersed and fragmented sounds where the quartet is effectively creating a single line at times, klangfarbenmelodie style. This then develops with its rhythmic impulse carefully driving it forwards. Also All The Things We Are, a faster paced piece with some quick angular passages moving towards a much more traditional sounding free jazz type arrangement, if there is such a thing.
This is a creative and worthwhile album that the Pierre Dorge has put together with his compatriots, containing some technical and subtle playing that takes some time to really absorb as a listener. In some ways it’s also quite refreshing to hear him play outside of the machinery of the NJO because as you would expect it pushes a different side of his playing to the fore, and within the more intimate setting of the quartet allows the music to be much more fluid and adaptable.