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Now's The Time 3: Focus On France & Luxembourg

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Now's The Time 3: Focus On France & Luxembourg
Now's The Time 3: Focus On France & Luxembourg


The much-anticipated third instalment of Kevin Le Gendre's acclaimed and NTT series. The first two volumes of Now's The Time showcased contemporary jazz from many geographical sources: the Americas, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Europe. This third edition of the series places a loudspeaker on the improvised music of a single territory, France. It is a country that has had a lengthy and fruitful relationship with the artform pioneered by African-Americans with visionary ideas on how harmony, melody and rhythm might swirl into new structures and sensations, how a horn might wail in wa wa, a bass might walk, a cymbal chatter. Paris swooned to these new sounds. It went 'into the hot.' Jazz runs deep in Gallic culture. Ragtime resonated in French cities in the '20s, the surrealist magazine Documents lauded the genius of Duke Ellington and American players, of which Miles Davis was the most iconic, later sojourned in the land with no prohibition on le bon vin. Eventually France produced its own hot club, and from the founding fathers Grappelli and Reinhardt came such prodigies as Urtreger, Michelot, Tousques, Portal, Texier, Lourau and Mezzadri. Now's The Time III presents a cross-section of some of the significant figures in contemporary French and Francophone [Luxemburg] jazz who have both built on and extended the legacy of those players. The strength of this collection lies, as was the case with previous editions, in its stylistic diversity. Sonically, it is really a case of access all areas. Hence, to the putative question of what is French jazz, there is no quick and easy answer, for the differences rather than similarities in approach to improvised music are a defining feature of our play list. The album starts with a big band, the Orchestre National De Jazz, and ends with a duo, Marc Demuth and Sophia Ribeiro, and this movement from expansive, multi-layered, richly hued textures to spare, intimate, enticing tones is as good a leitmotiv as any for the vast range of music on Now's The Time 111. In between these two pieces are duos, trios, quartets, quintets etc. The ensembles come in all shapes and sizes. Different as they may be, ONJ and the Demuth/Ribeiro duo are bound in another way: they are international collaborations. The former sees France's National big band, directed by Daniel Yvinec, interpret the music of the American drummer-composer John Hollenbeck while the latter brings together Luxemburger bassist Demuth and Portugese vocalist Ribeiro. Francophone jazzers like to look beyond their borders. We have several other transcontinental groups: pianist Benoit Delbecq features stellar Americans, saxophonist Mark Turner and bassist Mark Helias, while bassist Stéphane Kerecki has another great American saxophonist, Tony Malaby, in his band. Donkey Monkey is a meeting of French pianist Eve Risser and Japanese drummer Yuko Oshima. Unit is a highly original French band that has two excellent Finnish musicians, drummer Mika Kallio and accordionist Veli Kujala, in its ranks. Beyond its cosmopolitan character, French jazz has a wily imagination, and, as our selection makes abundantly clear, a certain way of conjoining intellect, emotion and provocation. On the one hand, there is the puckish metric intricacy of pianist Benjamin Moussay's Hopalong and Lionel Belmond's 3+2+3, both of which explore approaches to time outside of 4/4. On the other hand, there is the pounding, ominous backbeat of Stéphane Kerecki's Palabre or the stark, stuttering snap of Metal-o-phone's Karter, two pieces bolstered by hard, rugged tonalities that serve as a timely reminder that improvised music can rival rock or electronica in terms of the 'heaviness' of its groove. Then again, Orchestre National De Jazz's Tongs Of Joy has, by way of both its crystalline production and subtle descents into sub-bass, a clear sophisto-Techno subtext while Benoit Delbecq's Yompa is an earthy extrapolation of vibrant African rhythms amid swish harmonies. A seductively lazy, hazy half time blues pulse marks Alban Darche's T.b.b.m and in complete contrast stands the frankly nutty collision of twisted stride riffs and oriental chants on Donkey Monkey's Blues Nippon. Vocals of an entirely different kind come courtesy of the silken timbre of Sofia Ribeiro who joins forces with double bassist Marc Demuth on a reprise of the timeless bossa standard Danca Da Solidao. Indeed, the long running love affair that the Francophone world has had with the music of Brazil is cemented by trumpeter Médéric Colignon's gilded version of the legendary Hermeto Pascoal's Nem Um Talvez. Further proof of how to make music with the utmost delicacy comes in the shape of Here We Gong by the excellent Luxemburger vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher. It is a fleeting but deeply affecting tone poem. Every music scene in the world can only be sustained by new blood and the emergence of a number of important young artists via collectives such as Yolk and Coax has been a key feature of the French jazz scene in the last decade or so. Both Alban Darche and the group Unit, whose Wavin' is a brilliant exercise in serial composition, are members of the Yolk family. As for Metal-o-phone, they hail from the exciting Coax wellspring that has also launched young tyros Irene and Rétroviseur. Yet of no less importance is the veteran bass clarinetist Denis Colin. His Sujet A Changement is a highlight of Now's The Time 111, an enchantingly subtle mood piece whose tremulous flickers of guitar, rustle of drums and gently whispered reeds produce a fraught, wistful impression of late afternoon light that is gradually dimming to dusk. The English translation of the piece is Subject To Change and that could be something of a manifesto for French jazz. There has and continues to be stylistic evolution, unpredictability, and a charming strangeness that is graphically symbolized by the artwork accompanying Colin's music. A man stands tall and proud with a coat of autumn leaves and a thatch of hair that is swept back into a towering tree, a branch of which has become a perch for a bold blackbird. The Surrealists would have surely loved it. They would have found the music head turning too. Kevin Le Gendre


  1. Name
  2. Tongs Of Joy
  3. Hopalong
  4. t.b.b.m
  5. Yompa
  6. Palabre
  7. Blues Nippon
  8. 3+2+3
  9. Sujet A Changement
  10. Wavin
  11. Here We Gong
  12. Nem Um Talvez
  13. Karter
  14. Dança da Solidão
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