The Fish - Live at Olympic Café & Jazz à Mulhouse

Ken Waxman, Coda

Screaming, screeching Energy Music – but with cerebral insight – this two-CD set confirms that no-holds-barred Aylerian Free Jazz continues to thrive and vibrate in France and elsewhere. Paradoxically enough though, The Fish’s alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet and drummer Edward Perraud are also members of Hubbub, the French quintet whose approach to improvisation is hushed and minimalist to the extreme.

Yet on the three long tracks here, recorded in a Paris café and at an Alsatian jazz festival, Guionnet plays with boisterous, unbridled, piercing intensity, as Perraud rolls, rebounds and smashes in a Rashied Ali-like fashion. Third Fish is bassist Benjamin Duboc, veteran of many other Euro improv bands, who alternately thumps powerful beats or shuffle bows and resonates unexpected arco string patterns.

Playing with a vibrato so wide it seems to engulf both his mouthpiece and reed, Guionnet use shrill slide-whistles, sharp reed-biting expansions, fog-horn lows and snorty smeared tones to emotionally express an impetus that move the two circular, twisting Paris improvisations forward.

Impelling the musical ferment another notch higher a year later at the jazz festival, the saxophonist’s agitated, bravura performance opens up still further so that the drummer and bassist are properly showcased as well. Besides the stuttering glossolalia and heraldic guttural honks of the saxophonist, the timbral kaleidoscope is distinctively stretched by perfect unison between thwacking power-strokes from Duboc and piercing elongated scrapes on Perraud’s thick ride cymbal.

This set proves beyond doubt that not only does Energy Music still thrive, but its practitioners can impress in varied musical setting. More listeners should hook The Fish.