Just to show that I'm not completely 'anti' European Improvised music, here's a review from a few years ago of a fascinating CD by French pianist Mevel.
Now seems to be a good time to post the review, given the nature of the 'Artificial Amnesia' piece I've done for Lift The Bandstand.
If there are any internal inconsistencies within my point of view, and I suspect there may be given my often emotional response to this peculiar musical process, then I'm more than happy for people to put me 'right'. Who knows, with your collective help I may even be open to a bit of Country & Western one of these days...
LEO RECORDS (LR 376)
Un Oiseaux Sur L’Epaule; Le Pencheur De Balance; La Marchands Speculoos; Valse Soudaine; Judex; La Valse Naturelle; Perlude; Le Temps Est L’Orange; Un Autre Oiseaux
Gaël Mevel (p); Jean-Jacques Avenel (b); Thierry Waziniak (d).
No recording date provided.
In the last issue of JR Andy Hamilton spoke of ‘classical’, as opposed to ‘jazz’ or ‘improv’ style of improvisation, when describing a new disc by Sylvie Courvoisier. I haven’t heard that recording, but I suspect that the same distinction could equally apply to this recording. All but Steve Lacy stalwart Jean-Jacques Avenel were previously unknown to me, and although a cursory airing slots Danses Parallèles into an obvious niche, that is really only just the beginning.
This is a highly enigmatic, even bewildering, recording that works on many planes simultaneously. Delicately spun musical circles hang in free time and for much of the way the music of the three players seems to exist in isolation. Moments of overlap, when the circles intersect, assume great drama and caused this listener to speculate just how much of this music is really driven by chance.
Some may ask, ‘what’s new?’ Isn’t all European improv supposed to be about individuals doing their own thing whilst hoping for felicitous moments where everything seems to connect? Perhaps the ambiguous nature of this trio’s freedom, a feeling that they know exactly where each other are even when obscured from view, is the difference. The individual parts make so much sense when listened to in isolation that you feel as though a composerly guiding hand renders the apparent separation of the trio as illusory. Only the very short ‘Judex’ has any unison playing in the conventional sense, and Mevel explains his thoughts in a slightly cryptic sleeve-note. From any three points a circle can be drawn, he states.
It follows that however close or distant the three men appear to be, they’ll always be somehow connected and nothing can ever separate them while they’re playing together. The game is to see how far these parallel dances can be pushed whilst still making musical sense. Danses Parallèles can thus become either a fascinating musical kaleidoscope or a nauseating headache, depending on how hard you, the listener, are prepared to work.
(Jazz Review, December 2003)