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Friday, May 11, 2007

François Corneloup - u.l.m. (Circum Girum, 2007)****

François Corneloup on baritone sax, Marc Ducret on guitar and Martin France on drums, bring us U.L.M, which stands for Ultra Léger Musical, in analogy with Ultra Léger Motorisé, the light motorized planes. The definition is a good descriptive for the music : flying, light, agile, yet with a strong propulsion, and a route map, and not just drifting around on the wind. The trio works with clearly delineated compositions and structure, with influences from free jazz, avant-garde and prog rock, and that of course fits perfectly well with the instrumental skills of the musicians. Ducret, whom we know from his solo albums, but also from his collaborations with Tim Berne, has a very recognizable rock attack in his playing and also in the sound of his instrument, yet he masters guitar jazz to perfection, although I think he cares more about what he gets out of his instrument than about the genres he's playing. Corneloup has a very warm, emotional tone, varying from lyrical to powerplay, and in that sense the drumming of Martin France is a perfect match, adding light accents here and there, but a real hard-hitter at times. And that's the fun part about this CD : a journey full of surprises for the listener, without repetitions or recognizable structure (and yet it's there, but you can't anticipate it), and the melodies are abstract and beautiful, with at times abrupt and high tonal changes, and all this with a very coherent vision and with an exciting drive. Corneloup is a wonderful soloist, and the warmth of his playing is the trump card which helps this band avoid the pitfall of so many emotionally distant avant-garde music. A great flight, without clichés, rich in ideas, and sensitive, and a flight to take many times in order to appreciate it fully.