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Marc Ducret - ICI

Gary Chapin, The Free Jazz Collective


Guitarist Marc Ducret offers up some-place based music in this quartet recording, Ici, which means “here.” In the notes, he points out that it was recorded during the lockdowns. He thought “since it [was] currently impossible to play THERE, let’s make some music HERE.” Very good albums have been strung out on thinner concepts. If you need an excuse to get this great quartet together, go with it.

And it is a great quartet with Ducret on guitar; Fabrice Martinez on trumpet, flugelhorn, and tuba; Christophe Monniot on sopranino, baritone, and alto; and Samuel Blaser on trombone. All four compositions are by Ducret, each named for a season (Le Printemps, ici; L’hiver, ici , etc.) and are framed as explorations of the changes that occur in a place over time — light, weather, tides etc. Aside from this programmatic slant, the vibe harkens back to Ducret’s work with Tim Berne and Big Satan , which is a pretty heavy compliment coming from me.

Considering Ducret’s the lead and the composer this is a decidedly non-guitar centric recording. Not that guitar is absent or understated, just that this is very much an ensemble recording. The varied instrument choices mean the three horn players sound, at times, like a small brass quintet (or a large trio). The writing, orchestration, voicings, etc. add to that feeling. There’s some genuinely beautiful, evocative horn writing here, along with the improvisation.

The first track (L'été, ici) opens with the sound of summer buzz and roadwork (in Maine, US, we say there are two seasons, winter and roadwork), and then goes into a more frolicsome space, like friends walking together (but at COVID safe distance—there’s a lot of space) bantering and playing off one another. They take shots at one another. At nine minutes in, we’ve entered a marchlike space, the guitar keeping pace while the individuals sound off. Fantastic interplay between the brass.

Having no drums or bass makes a difference. L’automne, ici is more rhythmically hip and swaggery, with much collective improv. The story goes through phases and ends on a—dare I say it?—autumnal note. L’hiver, ici is darkness and ice cracking. Le printemps, ici is a more emergent piece (sorry, can’t help myself), an extraordinary trombone solo kicks in around 2:40 and just takes the top of your head off with its quizzical nature, then goes into a clockwork duet with (I’m guessing) the flugelhorn. Other solos follow. They’re like rivulets of water, running around the temporary islands of the ensemble.