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Didier Lasserre - Silence was pleased

Stef Gijssels, The Free Jazz Collective


A most stunning and unusal album is French drummer Didier Lasserre's "Silence Was Pleased", inspired by the John Milton's (1608-1674) "Paradise Lost", and then especially the following few lines of this lengthy poem. 

"Now came still Evening on, and
Twilight gray Had in her sober livery all things clad;
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale.
She all night longer her amorous descant sung:
Silence was pleased". Now glowed the firmament
With living Saphirs; Hesperus, that led
The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light,
And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw;
... Silence ...

The album's track titles are all taken from this poem in the right sequence. The text is sung by Laurent Cerciat, whose baroque alto falsetto is uncanny in this environment of forward-thinking musicians who weave a texture of sonic lace based on Lasserre's compositional instructions. They are among the crème-de-la-crème of French musicians, with – next to Cerciat on voice and Lasserre on percussion – Benjamin Bondonneau on clarinet, Christine Wodrascka on piano, Jean-Luc Cappozzo on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gaël Mevel on cello, with Denis Cointe creating live ‘tinnitus’ sounds and Loïc Lachaize for sound machinery conception & recording. 

Needless to say that the music evolves around silence, its presence the essence around which Lasserre's composition is built with clear anchor points to which the musicians have to work their way, slowly and gradually. On most tracks, the number of musicians is limited to just a few playing at the same time. 

Even if silence and quiet interaction are predominant, this does not mean that outbursts of high volume intensity are avoided (the clarinet, piano and drums at times have their moments of power), resulting in an experience of stark contrasts and maintained tension. 

Even if it is Lasserre's first ambitious compositional work, it is a winner from the start. It may take some time to accept the baroque voice in the context of avant-garde music, but it works. Lasserre demonstrates the quality of music without historical boundaries.