CD reviews

Samuel Blaser & Marc Ducret – “Audio Rebel”

Samuel Blaser & Marc Ducret – Audio Rebel (Blaser Music. Download Review by Alison Bentley)

Some music is made to be firmly in the foreground. This highly original album by Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser and French guitarist Marc Ducret brings the listener right into the room with them. The music rewards intense engagement with its mix of free improvisation, jazz, blues and rock. Blaser has “revisited his recording archive” to uncover this gig, recorded live in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro in a concert space named Audio Rebel – it suits the music, and provides the title for the first track as well as the album.

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Samuel Blaser Audio RebelIn opener Audio Rebel, viscous electric guitar notes slide discordantly with laughing trombone. Momentum builds in Derek Bailey-ish rushes; chromatic notes slip off deep trombone sounds. There’s humour as the instruments improvise together like underwater creatures. Sometimes you can hear boppy arcs and jazz fragments in the trombone (Blaser started off playing hard bop) but the notes are unpredictable. There are agile leaps as the two have an excited buzzy conversation. Sometimes Ducret hits the guitar hard – the scratch of the strings makes abstract patterns. Rio combines delicacy and toughness. Guitar notes hop birdlike over the trombone’s split note drones. They merge in electronic splurges, and the guitar takes on a heavy metal distortion. The trombone lumbers behind as the guitar sculpts pieces of a jazz scale, then Blaser solos melodically.

Most of the tracks are credited to both, and sound spontaneous; three are by Ducret, including L’ampleur des dégâts and La voie grise. The first has an infectious recurring blues-rock riff, with a few extra beats thrown in every so often so it doesn’t get too settled. There’s silvery guitar chord work and blues-drenched trombone. (Blaser’s 2018 album Early in the Mornin’ reworks classic blues tunes.) La voie grise is more delicate: a blend of blues and modern jazz, with ruminative trombone bass lines. The sombre unison theme is enlivened by intriguing harmony and skittish guitar harmonics.

The Brazilian city of São Paolo is known for its subversive musical traditions, and the eponymous track has an anarchic fervour. The duo seem to provoke each other into scratchy sounds, spikes, gravelly grunts and electronic clangs. They resolve into a rocky riff with blossoming harmonics. Cabo Frio seems to grow out of the previous track; as the strong trombone stalks around, the guitar bursts into flakes of jazz-blues. In Ducret’s groove-based Le blues de l’Ombra, earthy guitar notes bend away from the ursine trombone riff, like blues underwater. The harmonies draw you in but also disorientate.

The album repays total concentration with its attention to detail and imaginative musicality. For Blaser, music is “all about discovery and communicating new ideas” and you feel as if you’re joining in their discovery.

LINK: Sample Audio Rebel and purchase online at Bandcamp

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