home » cd catalogue » The Fish - Olympic Café & Jazz à Mulhouse » Marc Medwin, Signal To Noise

The Fish - Live at Olympic Café & Jazz à Mulhouse

Marc Medwin, Signal To Noise

This double disc, culled from two live concerts in 2005 and 2006, represents an act of courage.
The tradition of "blowing" long-form "free jazz" has birthed many masterpieces but even more disasters. Those that would follow in the footsteps of late 'Trane, Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler have their work cut out for them; constant invention is paramount, but more often than not, empty rhetoric carries the day, inducing boredom at best, frustration at worst.

This French trio is admirable, certainly for its virtuosity, but foremost for beating the odds and presenting long-form improvisations that maintain a consistently high level of interest.
Alto saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet is largely, though certainly not exclusively, responsible for getting the ball rolling, as "Heleginus" opens the album with his beautifully Eastern-tinged melodies floating over bass and drums.
Bassist Benjamin Duboc, whose work I have enjoyed in other contexts, is the first to engage Guionnet fully, initiating a series of sweeps and glides early in the 37-minute track.
Drummer Edward Perraud soon follows suit with expert rolls and thuds, but the first moment of real group glory occurs at around 2:35, when everything comes to an unexpected and thrilling halt. Just for an instant, time is suspended, a moment of synchronicity that only a well-formed and long practiced group executes convincingly – and is that an audience member expressing admiration? Over the long haul, a special relationship between Guionnet and Perraud becomes evident, first at 4:19, where the drummer picks up on a Guionnet motive and they hurl it to the sky. Yet, Duboc, intent on multiple rhythms and rapidly varied attack rather than on razor-sharp lines or overtones, supports both of his comrades, alternately another melodist and a drummer of sorts in his own right. His contributions are most apparent during "Gracilus"'s opening moments, but repeated listening shows him to be engaged similarly throughout, even if sometimes overshadowed by the others.

The set just gets better with every listen, revealing intricacies that can be lost on initial listening due to high energy and high volume.