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Friday, November 19, 2021

Jean-Luc Guionnet/Will Guthrie –Electric Rag (Ali Buh Baeh Records / Editions Memoire, 2021) *****

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Ok now, this is a great one. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but very rarely these days do I listen to a recording thinking that this is something fresh and, maybe, absolutely new. Electrig Rag did this to me. I can definitely say that it already has a place on my best of list for 2021. On a further comment I think that this duo, along with XT (the duo of saxophonist Seymour Wright and percussionist Paul Abbott) are among the very few who are definitely pushing the envelope in the field of modern improvisation. Probably more accurately stated and without labeling them, in the field of modern music.

I first listened to Jean-Luc Guionnet in his free jazz duos with the great drummer Didier Lasserre in the late 00’s. He has definitely traveled a long way since then, distancing himself from the free jazz milieu and experimenting as much as possible. Lately he has even abandoned the sax for other instruments. All the above seem to me like a wordless statement of intent, one which has experimentation as its basis and nothing less.

Free jazz also brought me close to Will Guthrie through the great trio Ames Room (in which Guionnet was also a member). In a similar trajectory to Guionnet, he also has distanced himself from jazz, collaborating, but also making solo recordings, with anyone willing to follow his vision. Electric Rag, which comes out only on vinyl, seems and is a fitting continuation of their explorations.

On Electric Rag Guionnet is on electric organs, electronics and alto saxophone. Guthrie utilizes drums and percussion plus various electronics. If you don’t give time to the music, you can easily comment about its rhythmic nature that takes over the entirety of both sides of the vinyl. But that would be too shortsighted. By utilizing any possible use of the aforementioned instruments both musicians create a sonic environment (musique concrete rhythmology via a collaborative ethos) that defies categorization. Apart from the percussive nature of the music, you can get easily caught in its maelstrom without knowing who plays what. Both of them took their egos and buried them deep in the ground, in order to present a recording that is a collective effort and feels like the work of one mind at the same time. I guess knowing each other for a long time also helps in so many practical ways.

All tracks are full of energy, pathos and a feeling of not knowing where it will go next. Sometimes the music gets aggressive and the feeling that this is jazz (or free jazz? or jazz freed from everything?) for the 21 st comes easily into mind. Amazing stuff.

To listen and buy, go here: