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Boiron/Chevillon/Gastard - Là

Nick Ostrum, The Free Jazz Collective


resulted from a several month residency that saxophonist Baptiste Boiron spent at the Domaine de Kerguéhennec in Brittany, where he composed the album. On this recording, Boiron is joined by Bruno Chevillon on double bass and Frédéric Gastard on bass saxophone.

There is a lot to this double release. In a sense, it fits into the bunch covered here, though largely because it is a far step from the spiritual free jazz and free improv that made Ayler Records such a formidable label in its early days. Traces of that inspiration remains in the syncopation, the periodic tortured elements, and some of the phrasing. , however, sounds more like an opus out of the conservatory. It balances neoromantic melodies with post-jazz extended technique, yet it combines these poles rather than pushes them to their extremes. One can hear this already on the first track, "MAlin né délivré", which offers a lively study of sweet and spirited phasing. The alternately honking and wispy second track, "Là", and the racing "Trace de Fard Gris" and "hAt noyant Bronx", show that Boiron, Chevillon, and Gastard have their textural sound painting chops. Then come some of the more airy and probing compositions like the "J’etais cet homme", the fluttering "Trace de Fard Gris", and more intimate statements such as "avec StyLe" and "Prayer" (Keith Jarrett). Mixed among these are the utterly serene "Fleurette Africaine" (Ellington), the shorn abstraction of "Lonnie’s Lament" (Coltrane), and the damp, sweltering noir piece, "Le sourire à travers les larmes", which is a fitting tribute to Charlie Chaplin and Tom Waits. (I hear the Waits influence, though whether it’s from his pre-Swordfishtrombones ballad days or his early millennium Kurt Weil/postindustrial blues I cannot say. And, now that the idea is in my head, I can certainly picture Chaplin expertly stumbling around on a flickering black and white screen to this music at some contemporary live-accompaniment retrospective.)

This brings me to another fun peculiarity of this release. If you were curious about the odd track names and unconventional capitalization, join the club. Most of the titles are anagrams of artists who have inspired Boiron in the construction of the album. Sometimes, these anagrams help unlock a musical puzzle. Other times, it seems these pieces are less odes to an individual than delicate amalgamations of disparate influences. Many will be familiar, even if they are worked into in bits, pieces, deconstructions and, sometimes, full pieces: Anthony Braxton (hAt noyant Bronx), Roscoe Mitchell, Thelonious Monk (nus, MonoliThe ok), Stravinksy, Reich. The musicianship is clearly here. The meticulous conceptualization is, as well. As much as those features, however, it is the wide breadth of musical territory traversed over these two discs, and the compelling reconciliation of the contemporary classical, contemporary jazz, and other experimental acoustic worlds that make this album such a success. A true standout among a string of strong releases and currently among my favorites of 2021.