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Friday, November 20, 2020

Relay: three releases of passionate improvisation, four discs, and someone always passing the baton

By Stuart Broomer

Jean-Marc Foussat/ Daunik Lazro/ EvanParker Café OTO 2020 (Fou Records, 2020) ****½


Jean-Marc Foussat is a recording engineer responsible for many great tapes of improvised music, stretching back some forty years. Some have appeared on Potlatch and other labels, and many have appeared on his own, Fou. Foussat is also a genuinely exploratory player of old analogue synths, creating fascinating extended improvisations sometimes in conjunction with his electronically manipulated voice. This two-CD set documents a performance at London’s Café Oto from January 22, 2020.

Disc One, Inventing Chimaeras, is a solo set, a half-hour long piece which becomes increasingly involving as it goes along, Foussat building complex rhythmic dialogues within an expanding range of electronic sounds, while simultaneously developing vocal parts, multiplying his rich, repeating melodic fragments into complex, haunting music.

Disc Two, the 45-minute Présent Manifeste, adds two of Foussat’s closest long-term associates to the mix, Daunik Lazro on tenor and baritone saxophones and Evan Parker, sticking to his soprano here. Foussat works with similar electronic materials (if anything they grow denser), while his partners expand the material tremendously. Lazro’s baritone is often a thick, whirling, charging sound, summoning up primeval beasts, twisting the sound of the entire trio into a maelstrom, while Parker creates long melodic lines that float through the hive of charging lower saxophone, dense electronics and multiplied voices. The music doesn’t particularly evolve, but it doesn’t need to: it has a tremendously dark, almost infernal power of its own, that one should experience.

Jubileum Quartet - A UIŠ? (Not Two Records, 2020) *****

It’s hard to argue with an insistent combination of experience, expertise and fierce commitment, and that’s exactly what happens with this quartet recorded live at the Cerkno Jazz Festival in Slovenia in May of 2018. I have to assume that readers of this site are familiar with bassist Joëlle Léandre, saxophonist Evan Parker, pianist Agustí Fernández and percussionist, Zlatko Kaučič and know that of which they’re capable. In terms of previous encounters, the group take up the final two discs of Léandre’s eight-disc A Woman’s Work (Not Two, 2015), one disc a quartet, the other duets with Léandre. There’s a consistent joy here, sometimes for extended stays, sometimes in rapid exchanges, a constant give and take in which each musician comes to the fore and in which every permutation of the group seems to arise. But it’s the sense of an animating expressive passion that give this its richness, power and meaning. There’s also a fineness of detail here, a mix of precision and exactitude of response from each musician that raises this to a different level. They aren’t planning or playing to do the same thing over again, and that’s not the saving grace of these senior improvisers’ music, it’s the exalting grace.

Alipio Carvalho Neto/ Zlatko Kaučič/ Gal Furlan Bora: Blasts of Chance (IZK, 2020) ****½

Zlatko Kaučič is the connecting link here, adding a large electric zither to his instrumental voices and in so doing adding to his range many of the effects possible on a harp or the amplified interior of a piano, He also finds many echoing effects along with evocative runs across chromatic scales or plucked clusters that sing across the music. The Brazil-born, Italy-resident Alipio Carvalho Neto plays several saxophones here, with tenor, alto and soprano evident, though there are moments when it sounds like there might be a tarogato or stritch set loose as well. He’s a powerful musician who provides an elemental focus to this very intense work, whatever the pitch-range on which he’s focussed. The third member of the trio is percussionist Gal Furlan, contributing substantially to this forceful music. The music begins with a dense, concentrated, yet quiet momentum that sustains a gritty, almost hollow-sounding tenor exposition; gradual evolutions arrive at a weirdly muffled, sometimes ululating soprano saxophone cast against the drama of the roaring zither and raging cymbals. At one point, Neto plays a superb unaccompanied tenor solo, full of subtle mutations of pitch and timbre, eventually with what sounds like a vernacular flute joining in, sounding like the morning of the world. At another point, the music turns into a detailed seascape. This is constantly shifting, often surprising work: it’s always focused and definitely has a vision of its own.