Lazro/Cappozzo/Lasserre - Garden(s)

Ken Waxman, JazzWord

With his creed Free Jazz, as it has been since the 1970s, French saxophonist Daunik Lazro doesn’t often record standards. Yet his dissident treatment of John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament”, Albert Ayler’s “Angels”, plus “Sophisticated Lady’ and “Hop Head”, two Duke Ellington tunes here serves notice that the 72-year-old tenor/baritone player unequivocally considers himself part of the Jazz tradition.

Although the number of right-wing ideologues forcing dogma on others seems to be intensifying politically, the neo-con Jazz movement may have runs its course. At least three generations of advanced French improvisers were able to work together on this rarified yet relaxed CD. Lazro, who has partnered musicians like reedist Joe McPhee, is joined by trumpeter/flugelhornist Jean-Luc Cappozzo, 63, who often works with bassist Joëlle Léandre; and drummer Didier Lasserre, 46, who has recorded with bassist Benjamin Duboc. Together they create a close-knit Three Musketeers-like configuration.

The slogan of Dumas’ fanciful swordsmen, “one for all, and all for one” could easily be applied to Garden(s), since the tracks are built on close listening, with the parts as closely attuned as a screw and nut.“Joy Spirit’ for instance lines up Cappozzo’s soft exposition and Lazro’s deconstruction of it with irregular vibrations. Slowing the pace with martial rolls and rattles, Lasserre creates a landscape on which the trumpeter’s lyricism and the saxophonist’s slurred staccato become complementary. Versions of “Garden(s)” range from short-story-length with “Garden 2”, which weightlessly mixes muted trumpet puffs and saxophone squeaks, to elaborations of novella –“Garden 1” – or novel –“Garden 3” – durations. Moving from Lasserre’s metered pulse and Cappozzo’s soothing vibrations on “Garden 1”, Lazro demonstrates d'Artagnan-like individuality by splintering the narrative with altissimo whistles then baritone snarls. This pressurized intensity becomes so paramount that moderated clanging from Lasserre to usher in limited swing comes as a relief. Extending martial indications, the bugle-like introduction to “Garden 3” could be “Reveille”, with the saxophonist disrupting the parade-drill with a buzzing rasp that eviscerates every tone extension while paralleling the trumpeter’s output. Percussion shading from Lasserre completes an improvisation that abandons neither its delicacy nor its disruptive tendencies.

Improvisational surprises are just some qualities displayed on Garden(s). Yet each standard underlines the trio’s ability to make things new. Vocalized and screechy, with hard drum beats and reed split tones, the group still demonstrates the liveliness and rhythmic sophistication that underlines “Angels”. Ellington's Jungle Band may have originally animated “Hop Head” in 1927, but Lasserre’s cymbal patterns, Cappozzo’s metallic embellishments and Lazro’s timbre slathering remove the rinky-dink from the tune. And while the saxophonist recasts “Sophisticated Lady” into a minimalist abstraction her gravitas and grace remain.

Worthwhile greenery to explore, Garden(s) shows that propagating certified classics with new compounds plus seeding the grounds with unique improvisations allow these sounds to flourish.