|Cécile McLorin Salvant at Jazz Sous les Pommiers Photo: Mathieu Dutot|
Moutain Factory Quintet (F) led by brothers Louis & François Moutain on drums and bass respectively, opened quietly with a delicious trumpet sound coming from Christophe Monniot’s alto played in unison with Manu Codija’s guitar, heralding an upbeat set of spiky fusion, recalling in various ways McLaughlin & Shorter, the latter specifically conjured in Wayne’s Melody. The brothers – who wrote and arranged everything else – gave a terrific display of restrained invention in their superbly rhythmic duetting. They were a good opening act for the evening’s main course: Joshua Redman (USA) with the Michel Reis/Marc Demuth/Paul Wiltgen Trio (Lux). I’ve seen Redman pair up with The Bad Plus and on that occasion felt both he and his trio were transformed by the pairing. The same magic is worked here. I’m unfamiliar with pianist Reis & drummer Wiltgen’s work but as composers of all numbers, they’ve put together an outstanding set. The ballad No Storm Lasts Forever was commandingly beautiful, reminding me a little of Langer/Costello’s Shipbuilding, with a classical tone: the lines throughout were symphonic, much more than hooks and riffs. They are also consummate players, Demuth’s bass so assuredly ringing out as well as being the pivot for Wiltgen’s rolling rhythms and Reis’ & Redman’s commanding melodies. I heard plenty of sure-footed reed work during the week, but Redman’s tone really is a thing of plangent beauty, right across the full-range of the tenor. He can of course do fireworks, but there were a few opportunities for that where he and the band simply spiralled up, while he rarely broke a sweat. And yes, he’s a serious intent musician, but he can be joyful and exuberant, echoing Rollins. Under the ever-inventive lighting of the packed Salle Marcel-Hélie turned blue, Redman’s muscular stature grew, reminding me of Dr Atomic in the film of Watchmen – a completely assured demi-god…
|Cathedral de Coutances with Dave Liebman in the nave and Andy Emler on the screens Phone snap: Richard Lee|
The following evenings each provided similarly magisterial experiences from the American mainstream tradition. The festival closed with the Foursight quartet featuring Renee Rosnes (pno), Jimmy Greene (tnr) & Payton Crossley (drms) and led by 82 year-old bass legend Ron Carter. A towering and confident figure at his bass, he took the band through standards and some lesser known tunes, while only claiming one extended solo, which he never grandstanded, but held the audience in most rapt attentiveness, thrumming a pedal, finding harmonics that genuinely surprised but never sounded “clever”. Rosnes is of course hugely experienced and respected, and it was a treat to hear her introducing a standard like My Funny Valentine so simply; but once she had remarkably Chopin’d the heck out of it, Greene (even taller and as imposing as Carter) made his complex post-bop take on the classic look and sound effortless. On the hottest night of the year so far, while the audience sweltered, this was the relaxed demeanour of New York cool suits and twin-set, note-perfect and not a tie undone. You might say they exemplified the art of classic quartet playing. However…
The previous night, Kenny Werner (pno), Peter Erskine (drms), Benjamin Koppel (alto) & Scott Colley brought their vast experience from Coltrane to Weather Report via Ives, to come together as The Art of the Quartet, and thus signalling their intention, that really is what we saw at work. It’s pointless to try and get the cigarette paper of difference between quartets of this calibre: Redman & Co were stellar, Foursight was the art of latter-day cool, and each of us would undoubtedly have our favourites. This foursome were pointedly presenting a collective lifetime’s experience and in their very name laying down a gauntlet to be judged on that. And it worked. A simply astonishing performance, illustrating how that fourway thing should best happen. As well as the five beautiful original numbers stretching over 90 minutes, they took Zawinul’s Directions to new heights, not least in Werner’s sizzling piano solos and comping. The speed of thought and interplay, the lightness of touch by Erskine & Colley, and Koppel’s sublime alto lines had a late night audience transfixed. They finished on a setting of William Walton’s Touch Her Soft Lips and Part composed for Olivier’s wartime Henry V. Possibly one of the most beautiful renditions of a formal tune, I’d compare this with Keith Jarrett’s Shenandoah, played with minimal but perfectly judged flourishes.
|Théo Girard Trio and Orchestre Circulaire in the Magic Mirrors Phone snap: Richard Lee|
All the songs are essays on love, its failure and the work to put it right, to hold on to it. She’s apparently been doing it in various ways for years but when she sings “I tried to keep our love going strong but no matter how I tried, something went wrong” acapella, sitting at the piano with Fortner, and finishing on “I will bury the ghost of our long lost love”, you could feel the hall hold its breath.
They are nothing less than the true heirs to that wonderful pairing of Ella Fitzgerald and Ellis Larkins in the early ’50s, and while they and many of the acts I’ve praised could be seen elsewhere on the circuit, this particular programme, on balance, was more than enough for me to recommend you consider booking for 2020.*
NB: There are too many gigs that I had to miss because of timings – Gwilym Simcock playing with baritone player Céline Bonacina, for instance. Hopefully, that might surface eventually but meanwhile, there are extracts from some of the concerts I’ve mentioned and a whole lot more here, courtesy France TV.
*Incidentally, accommodation is relatively limited and while there’s plenty in the surrounding district, the wonderful ambience of the town square packed with pop-up food wagons, bars and late night events really does encourage one to find accommodation within falling distance – so do think about making arrangements for 2020 soon! LINK: Jazz Sous Les Pommiers
Categories: Live reviews