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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Michel Doneda – Path Under (Micro Label, 2021) ****½

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Michel Doneda’s work doesn’t need any introduction, so I will not get into that as a prologue. I consider him one of the most important innovators on the saxophone (especially the soprano) of the past three decades. One of the few that took Evan Parker’s radical approach, and tried to form their own non-verbal language. But, to be honest, making comparisons, or providing references doesn’t do good to the saxophonist. His voice and approach is always unique, making him one the few of artists of today that I always wait eagerly for any new recording.

This small edition cd was recorded in the forest near where Michel Doneda lives and fits perfectly in the aforementioned thoughts. Totally improvised as it is, calls for attention because the focus is not just on the music. Doneda tried deliberately to involve himself, to be a part of, the piece of land (the forest of Saou) he chose to play. As he says, he practices a lot on the outside, in nature.

Here, on the five untitled tracks of the cd, the boundaries between practicing and playing are totally blurred and this is one of the ideas about music that I enjoy for a long time now. On all the five tracks (clocking just over fifty minutes, if that has any significance) you can clearly feel the total lack of the pretentiousness that involves the line “now we are recording” or anything similar to that.

Doneda on his soprano seems absolutely relaxed with himself, channeling a feeling of companionship and total integration with is surroundings. In fact I had this ghostly feeling that nature –its ambience with faint noises- is the second participant on Path Under. A flexible, always moving, co-player who resonates along with Doneda’s breathing, while he is trying to find (or create a new one maybe) his voice through all this.

From the above you might have assumed that his playing is relaxed, conscious even with the calmness of the natural surroundings. But nature isn’t always calm, but a never ending environment of changes. Just like the music Michel Doneda presents on this cd. Sometimes fluently relaxed, other times anxious to build a sound through it, many times aggressive while blowing notes and melodies.

Quite a few times the changes in breathing coming from the reed are audible, resembling metaphorically, a struggle to follow the small scale changes around him while he plays (or practices?). Trees moving, crackles, the slow noises made by the wind, body movements. Everything in unison integrating as one body. Quite interestingly, as you listen to the cd, the focus moves from being a recipient of the music to an audio observer of the wholeness of the sound that reaches you. And this is the biggest success, the biggest truth more correctly, of this cd.



Kreilly said...

Another gem from Michel.