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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Louis Sclavis "L'imparfait des langues" - Taktlos 2007

On Sunday I caught Louis Sclavis' new quintet at the great Taktlos festival in Zurich, Switzerland. Sclavis' four sidemen are Marc Baron on alto sax, Paul Brousseau on keys, Maxime Delpierre on guitar, and the great François Merville on drums. Merville has already played with Sclavis before, most notably on the 2002 ECM album "L'affrontement des prétendants". The music of this band mixes jazz of various kinds - boppish lines, ostinato grooves, free playing - with a European sense for melody and influences from rock and electronic music. The bass part largely played by Brousseau, both he and Delpierre don't shine as soloist often, rather they provide a great framework for the two horns to shine, while Merville lays a groovy foundation. Sclavis shines on bass clarinet and soprano sax displaying a beautiful sound on both his horns, while Baron (who is just 24 years of age!) takes a different approach, using much fewer notes and playing with a pretty rough and big tone on his alto. But now and then, he'll break out into boppish quicksilver lines, in a way that reminded me of Steve Coleman's bebop playing in the frame of his own Five Elements' providing a very different, totally un-boppish surrounding. All of this creates music of great variety and full of surprising moments, ranging from virtuosic unisono playing of the two horns to intense outbursts and cries, from grooving funky sounds with a kind of retro touch coming from Delpierre's weird synthetic sounds, to very intense, rock-music like passages. And it's always driven by Merville in a great way - his own solo then, in one of the most intense tunes of the set, was an act of slow deconstruction and hence caught the audience with surprise - he played less and less, while everyone expected just the contrary, until he ended up actually playing hardly more than nothing... a terrific drummer, definitely one to watch!

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