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Friday, April 28, 2023

Bertrand Denzler/Jason Kahn – Translations (Potlatch, 2022)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

This CD was released during the last days of 2022 and captures live, from one year before in Paris, two important figures of today’s electroacoustic improvisation. Bertrand Denzler might have made a name as an improviser closer to jazz based musics (playing the tenor saxophone makes it always easier to get labeled), but his choices during the past years place under the moniker, which is another label I admit it, of electroacoustic improvisation. Jason Kahn, born and raised in the United States but for a long time now living in Europe, always presents works that are far more flexible and audibly playful compared to the stagnation of any experimental “school”.

As I’m always interested in the use of titles, I tried really hard to pin down the choice for titling this CD. I failed. At the beginning I thought that this would be their verbal way of translating (sic) their different choices in playing and how those form a unique understanding that runs through the entire length of the CD – just over half an hour that is. This thought persisted in my mind as, at some point, realized that Denzler uses, or utilizes as a technician, the timbres of the sax, it’s droney nature, to accompany the electronic sounds that Kahn produces. I was never sure if this was a translation, one that always leaves room for mistakes and minor audio accidents or a funny way to ensure that the listener will try to realize that their interaction is impeccable, always on the forefront of what you are listening.

You may have realized by now that I enjoyed this CD. I should have noted that I really respect artists like Bertrand Denzler who tries to get rid his instrument’s burden (call it tradition) and totally baptize it as something fresh and new. In this gradual, I believe, transition, Jason Kahn is ideal as he navigates willingly and blindly –now that’s a guess that I feel strong about it…- through the uncertain paths his use of electronics follow.

The abstract nature of their music presented on this cd as a live version in real time plus the duo formation (always a preference for me) seems like the dialogue John Stevens was writing about in the liner notes of SME’s mid-70’s masterpiece, Face to Face, when he was describing his and Trevor Watts playing: like two friends who sit face to face, casually talking about trivial stuff, laughing, arguing and whatever else comes to mind. I really would like to write “free improvisation at its best” but since this would be another crude labeling, I’ll say that Translations is great free music. 

Listen and buy here: