Thursday, January 24, 2019

Armonicord - 1977 - Esprits de Sel

Esprits de Sel

01. Deuxième Jour 11:30
a. El Serreno
b. Sur L'Erre
c. La Gomme Arabique
d. Passe Océan
e. Ahora
02. Premier Jour 11:30
a. Île De Pâques
b. Le Manoir De Mes Rêves
c. Gumbri Pitch
03. Troisième Jour 22:00
a. Ecolong
b. Wings
c. Mercurio
d. Contact
e. Ecolong
f. La Colophane Des Moujiks
g. Bollets Acides
h. Île De Pâques
i. Pour L'Heure

Alto Saxophone, Oboe, English Horn, Flute – Jean Querlier
Saxophone, Guimbri, Contrabass Clarinet, Piccolo Flute, Flute – Jouk Minor
Drums, Percussion, Horn – Christian Lété
Harpsichord – Odile Bailleux
Trombone – Joseph Traindl

Recorded on June, 14, 15 & 16, 1977 at Studio Chateaufort.

French saxophonist Jouk Minor, born 1947, played on essential free-jazz releases of the 1970s, including Michel Portal’s Splendid Yzlment in 1971, Bernard Vitet’s La Guêpe or Pierre Favre’s Candles Of Vision, both 1972, Alan Silva’s Seasons and The Shout, 1970 and 1979 respectively, and later appeared on Un Drame Musical Instantané’s À travail égal salaire égal in 1982. Minor’s own group Armonicord, formed in 1973, first included Bernard Vitet, Kent Carter and Rachid Houari. For the sessions of the band’s unique 1977 LP, the line-up had changed so as to expand the wind section and incorporate trombone and harpsichord players, which was to be Armonicord’s typical sound signature. The cover of Esprits De Sel, or Salt Spirits, opens to reveal a Jean Tinguely sculpture whose structure is used by Jouk Minor to draw each track’s graphic score on the front cover. The disc was the sole release of both Armonicord and L’Electrobande label.

This LP comprises 3 long tracks, of which the first one is a straight, effusive and free-flowing free jazz effort in the style of Alan Silva’s Celestial Communication Orchestra, while the other 2 are more complex, varied and less categorizable musical endeavors. Track #2 Premier Jour, especially, is a strange alchemy of harpsichord, steel drums, mourning bass horns in unison, and guembri – a Gnawa, goat gut stringed instrument, played by Jouk Minor. This pensive, semi-improvised elegy goes through many false starts and dead ends, but rewards the listener in eschewing predictable jazz gimmicks or other familiar traits, for that matter. On tr.#3 as well, Odile Bailleux’s harpsichord brings a unique, baroque touch to the proceedings. The saxophone is sometimes heard in the background of the mix, with harpsichord or drums at the front. The drummer uses a varied set of percussions including bells, steel drums, rain sticks or gongs. The meditative mood is maintained through various atmospheres and instrument combinations. Great disc, among the best French free jazz has to offer, along Operation Rhino, for instance.

Dharma Quintet - 1971 - End Starting

Dharma Quintet
End Starting

01. Tormilina
02. Tonton SFP
03. End Starting
04. Cirrus

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute – Jeff Sicard
Bass – Michel Gladieux
Drums – Jacques Mahieux
Electric Piano – Patricio Villarroel
Guitar – Gerard Marais

For Gérard Marais, guitarist with Dharma (the quintet), from this third album (in fact he replaced Gérard Coppéré, one of the two saxophonists present on the first album), Albert Ayler’s instruction to play your own music was the detonator. This did not fall on deaf ears, and was particularly appropriate as it would have been difficult, even for a musician attracted to free jazz, to make something of his own from the esthetic and political direction taken by Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp or Sun Ra. What could be summarised as ethnic differences. The quest was to find one’s own music, whatever the more or less apparent roots. 

For, at the beginning of the 1970s, Gérard Marais and his comrades in the Dharma Quintet were overwhelmed by electric period Miles Davis. Not the band with Pete Cosey, which was still gestating, but the one fascinated by electronic keyboards and the famous Fender Rhodes which added so much to the atmosphere of In A Silent Way. 

From the beginning of Dharma, but without ever copying anyone, Patricio Villarroel played the role of Chick Corea with Miles Davis. While Gérard Marais whose fulgurant playing dynamised the group, was at the level of John McLaughlin, or Sonny Sharrock at the same period. Another important soloist, alto saxophonist Jeff Sicard was as inventive as Byard Lancaster, Noah Howard, Gary Bartz, Marion Brown or Sonny Simmons. It’s difficult to do any better! 

Questioned by a critic, years after the group split, Gérard Marais insisted on it being an idea born of the seventies, which seemed the only creative way to enable written music and improvisation to co-exist. This was a philosophy that he would continue to develop within Michel Portal’s group, on Splendid Yzlment, but also in a great duo with Joseph Dejean (of Full Moon Ensemble), and yet again in a trio led by drummer Stu Martin, with two guitars the other being Claude Barthélemy. 

The Dharma Quintet, made their mark, appearing under the letter D, between Dedalus and Dies Irae, on the list of major influences created in 1979 by Nurse With Wound.

Very free work from the Dharma Quintet – a group who've shifted a bit since their debut, by trading a guitarist for one saxophonist, and using electric piano throughout the set – often with a nicely fuzzy tone! The sense of understanding between the group members is great – they're clearly improvising strongly, but also have a way of holding together too – yet, despite the electricity in some of the instrumentation, never in a way that's prog at all – although we could say that the strength of this album might be a good lesson to some their less-skilled prog contemporaries! Players include Jeff Sicard on alto, tenor, bass clarinet, and flute – with Gerard Marais on guitar, Michel Gladieux on bass, Jacques Mahieux on drums, and Patricio Villarroel on some mighty nice electric piano. Side one features the very long "Tormilina"

Dharma Quintet - 1970 - Mr Robinson

Dharma Quintet
Mr Robinson

01. Augure 12:05
02. Jerkologie 5:45
03. Balada Y Tres 18:30

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet – Jean-François Sicard
Bass – Michel Gladieux
Drums – Jacques Mahieux
Piano, Electric Piano – Patricio Villaroel
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Gérard Coppéré

Recorded in Paris, July 27, 1970.

In an interview with Jazz Magazine in the early 1970s, Dharma, as a collective voice, outlined their method: “we try to reach, within free jazz, the same sort of rhythmic cohesion as in Bop, a cohesion based not exactly on tempo, but something which feels like tempo. A kind of underlying pulse”. 

Evidence of these ideas can be heard immediately on listening to Mr Robinson, the first album by the Dharma Quintet, for whom community living seemed obvious, in order to add to the aforementioned cohesion. Through this, the group members played together on a daily basis, trying out things which were worked on day in, day out. They were also listening to a lot of records, with of course a preference for free jazz, but not forgetting Miles Davis in his electric period, notably for the keyboards of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. To which should be added esthetical-political concerns based on a refusal of hierarchy, and a desire to escape from a restrictive academic approach… 

It was within this framework that Jef Sicard and Gérard Coppéré (saxophones, flute, bass clarinet), Patricio Villarroel (electric and acoustic piano), Michel Gladieux (bass) and Jacques Mahieux (drums) formed the first version of a collective united by structured intentions. Because, within Dharma, individual improvisation cannot be envisaged outside of a clearly designated framework, even non-tempo. The result is a beneficial cohesion, and moments of great beauty born of a collective excitement and giving rise to ambiances which seemed almost possessed. The use of modes could seem to link Mr Robinson to the spiritual jazz of the past but that is without taking into account the fact that the benevolent spirit of Eric Dolphy seems to watch over this album. In France, a similar desire for cohesion could be found in the Cohelmec Ensemble, who had parallel preoccupations, to the point where their bassist, François Méchali, ended up by joining Dharma: there is unfortunately no recorded trace of this, just the memories. 

As a quintet, with however some personnel changes, Dharma recorded three albums (there is also one as a trio, under the name of Dharma Trio), which are all of fundamental importance (Dharma would also accompany, and to great effect, the songs of Jean-Marie Vivier and Colette Magny). Individually, the members would record with musicians passing through (notably Anthony Ortega, Dave Burrell) and participated in other key groups including Machi Oul and Full Moon Ensemble.

The first amazing album from Dharma Quintet – an important force on the French avant jazz scene at the start of the 70s, even though most of their outside attention was from their work with other musicians! Yet together, there's a power to the group that's really striking – almost a step back from the complete freedoms of the post-1968 moment – as they seem to balance improvisation with a very keen ear for the larger structure of their performance with a sympathetic understanding that seems to belie their youth together as musicians. We're not saying that the album's not outside, as it's got plenty of those moments too – but there's a cohesive energy that's beautiful, flowing from the saxes of Jean-Francois Sicard and Gerard Coppere, the piano and electric piano of Patricio Villarroel, the bass of Michel Gladieux, and drums of Jacques Mahieux. 

Dharma Trio - 1970 - Snoopy's Time

Dharma Trio 
Snoopy's Time

01. Minton's Memory 6:00
02. End Starting 5:21
03. Enafrito 4:35
04. Leon Smirglub Von Bischmouck 11:38
05. Glouglou's Mood 4:00
06. Snoopy's Time 6:09

Bass – Michel Gladieux
Drums – Jacques Mahieux
Electric Piano – Patricio Villarroel

Dharma as they were simply known, at the time when they were still playing, englobed all the incarnations of the group, trio, quartet (essentially as a live band) and quintet built around the stable core of pianist and bassist Patricio Villarroel and Michel Gladieux.

Snoopy's Time is their second album, concentrated on the rhythm section including the ever-faithful Jacques Mahieux on drums, and recorded three months after Mr Robinson, the first album, made as a quintet including Jef Sicard and Gérard Coppéré, both at the time saxophonists with Claude Delcloo’s Full Moon Ensemble.

It is the most classic album in their discography, marked by the influence on Patricio Villarroel of the electric explorations of Miles Davis’ pianists from 1968, that is to say Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Keith Jarrett. Indeed, the use of echo, reverb and saturation by Patricio Villarroel is similar to that of his famous counterparts. It would be a year later in France, but with a sound all his own, that Siegfried Kessler would undertake similar experiments playing with Perception, a group similar in spirit to Dharma.

Specialists may also evoke Paul Bley, notably on Scorpio and Sweet Earth Flying, or even Richard Beirach with Dave Liebman on Drum Ode, but these albums came out a few years after the innovative Snoopy's Time surprisingly released in 1970. Even amongst all the instrumental funky music of the time it is rare to find such a communicative energy, magnified all the more by the subtle use of effects and an innate sense of groove.

Snoopy's in the title, but the music here is quite far from the Peanuts jazz of Vince Guaraldi – given that the Dharma combo were one of the most on-fire avant combos of the French scene in the 70s! The group here is a trio, not their usual quintet formation – a lineup that really gives a lot of space to pianist Patricio Villarroel, who's working with an electric version of his instrument that has lots of sharp tones and edges – almost like one of those keyboards you might have heard Sun Ra using at the time! The tracks move effortlessly from structure to freedom – with wonderful work from Michel Gladieux on bass and Jacques Mahieux on drums – while Villarroel finds a way to make his instrument as tuneful as it is noisy – sometimes hitting moments of dark beauty that almost remind us of the Model Shop soundtrack.

Cohelmec Ensemble - 1974 - 5 octobre 1974

Cohelmec Ensemble
5 octobre 1974

01. Cohelmec 20 H 45 4:47
02. Les Cloches De Montoinou 10:37
03. La Croix Fry 1 0:16
04. Teotihuacan 1 6:19
05. Teotihuacan 2 8:58
06. Saturations 9:32
07. The Alpaca Cassok 5:44
08. "Éparpiller Sa Mémoire Dans Une Fureur D'Aveux" 7:15
09. Cohelmec 21 H 50 3:50
10. La Croix Fry 2 3:03
11. Fouchtra 1:59

Double Bass – François Mechali
Drums, Vibraphone, Timbales, Percussion – Jean-Louis Mechali
Guitar – Joseph Dejean
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Alto Clarinet – Jean Cohen
Trumpet, Bugle, Flute – Jean-François Canape

Concert recorded on October 5, 1974 at the Theatre de l'Est Parisien

Out of the musical effervescence in post May 1968 France were born the labels BYG and Futura Records. The concept of collective creation appeared as essential, of which Cohelmec Ensemble was a typical example: in such procedures, individual identities can of course still express themselves but framed within a non-hierarchical common thought process with the emphasis on experimentation. Music making becomes a shared pleasure with an established vocabulary, and is often accompanied by militant left wing activism; which feeds into an ethical form of creation.

For their third, and what would turn out to be final, album the Cohelmec Ensemble chose to save for posterity their live performance work, on which their reputation was based. A concert recording was made, notable for the inclusion of trumpeter Jean-François Canape, and the group lost none of its subtlety in moving from studio to stage. On the contrary the situation galvanised them on to higher energy levels, without leaving behind the typically complex structures, to which were added potent, flowing improvisations, longer than usual, confirming the high standard of free jazz being played in France in the 1970s. This was demonstrated not only by the Cohelmec Ensemble but also, in similar or quiet different registers (who cares), by formations such Perception, Dharma Quintet, Free Jazz Workshop, Machi Oul or Armonicord. 

Cohelmec Ensemble - 1971 - Next

Cohelmec Ensemble

01. Teotihuacan (Ou EncorRe Le Tambourinaire Des Limbes) 6:40
02. Nadine Ô Sort / Colchique Dans Les Prés 3:44
03. …! 4:34
04. Desert Angel 4:34
05. Culculine D'Ancone 4:32
06. Le Tic-Tac Sapopitheques 1:00
07. Danse Finlandaise 1:21
08. … ? 0:10
09. Le Passeur 2:35
10. Boa Constrictor 7:58
a) Le Boa Constrictor
b) Le Héron Chagriné
c) L'ours Qui Frappe Du Pied
d) Ligeïa's Alabaster Azalea
11. Fouchtra 2:00
12. Anti-Blues Coarazien 3:38

Contrabass, Effects [Wah-wah Pedal] – François Mechali
Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone – Jean-Louis Mechali
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Joseph Dejean
Flute, Bass Clarinet – Evan Chandlee
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Jean Cohen

The COHELMEC ENSEMBLE celebrate above all the pleasure of collective music-making. A group without a designated leader, they base their approach on reciprocal listening and equal responsibilities. This is reflected in their name, created from the first syllables of the founding member’s names, which would remain unchanged in spite of the subsequent personnel changes: COH as in Jean Cohen (saxophones), EL as in Dominique Elbaz (piano) and MEC as in the brothers François and Jean-Louis Méchali (respectively, amongst others, bass and drums), Evan Chandlee joined them after they had already been playing together for a while, at the time they recorded their first album. The follow-up (appropriately named Next) saw the original pianist leave, to be replaced by guitarist Joseph Dejean, who had already played with the Full Moon Ensemble, known for having accompanied Archie Shepp at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1970.

In spite of the personnel changes the understanding and cohesion remain total within Cohelmec. They also maintain their trademark ambitious mix of written and improvised material. From this point of view, Next is even more audacious than its predecessor Hippotigris Zebrazebra. Relatively brief tracks follow hot on the heels of one another bolstered by a poly-instrumentality which stands out even more than in the past, giving the album the feel of a contrasting suite. There is a lot going on, leading to evocative atmospheres in which rigour and fantasy go happily hand in hand.

Which is enough to say that this album should please fans of a style of free (chamber?) jazz which includes intelligent composed structures, a form in which French musicians have always demonstrated a personal approach, as in the example of Œil Vision by Jef Gilson in 1964.

Profoundly original and, it has to be said, seminal!

Their second LP, from 1971, with guitarist Joseph Dejean from the Full Moon Ensemble propelling the music forwards

Cohelmec Ensemble - 1969 - Hippotigris Zebrazebra

Cohelmec Ensemble
Hippotigris Zebrazebra

01. Aventures Terrestres Et Aquatiques
02. Asia Minor
03. Soupir
04. Tarpotom
05. Hippotigris Zebrazebra (Terrestre)
06. Callopin' Bambin
07. For Paule
08. Silences / La Marche De Satan
09. Lude / Panama Red
10. Hippotigris Zebrazebra (Aquatique)

Bass Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo Flute – Evan Chandlee
Double Bass – François Mechali
Drums, Vibraphone – Jean-Louis Mechali
Piano, Harpsichord – Dominique Elbaz
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Jean Cohen-Solal

The COHELMEC ENSEMBLE celebrate above all the pleasure of collective music-making. A group without a designated leader, they base their approach on reciprocal listening, but also on a dialogue between written and improvised material, in which all members have an equal responsibility whatever their instrument. This is even demonstrated in their name: COH as in Jean Cohen (saxophones), EL as in Dominique Elbaz (piano) and MEC as in the brothers François and Jean-Louis Méchali (respectively, amongst others, bass and drums), joined for this album by Evan Chandlee, known for his participation in Love Rejoice by Kenneth Terroade, and accepted, of course, as a full group member.

Fitting together like hand in glove, the five musicians build something together, rather than trying to destroy an established order, as was the done thing at the start of the 1970s, leaving the expression of an openly political agenda to others. In France there was a tendency to explore an imaginary folklore which allowed certain elements of free jazz to be circumvented without being ignored. Which is why we can be reminded of, in the melody of Hippotigris Zebrazebra when played with collective intensity, the best of American cosmic jazz, while also occasionally hearing McCoy Tyner or even Cecil Taylor under the fingers of Dominique Elbaz, or the vibraphone of Walt Dickerson evoked by Jean-Louis Méchali.

Globally, however, their identity is original (even seminal), a fact which was to be confirmed by their next two recordings. For the record, it should be noted that the first album by the Free Jazz Workshop (from Lyon), another French group with a similar approach, would only be published two years later.