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(40:53, Great Winds Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dune 3:38 2. Osiris 5:47 3. La Dance du Metal 7:04 4. Desintox 2:54 5. Kebiang 5:16 6. AO 5:16 7. Kobalt 1:48 8. Chanson Rouge 4:40 9. Trou Noir 4:30 LINEUP: Hugues Mayot – sax, clarinet Jean Lucas – trombone Jerome Fohrer – contrabass Frederic Guerin – drums
Prolusion. The French band LA POCHE A SONS was formed back in 2002, and released their self-titled debut album in 2006. "2010" is their sophomore effort and was issued by Musea Records on their Great Winds imprint in 2011.
Analysis. Art rock is a genre that encompasses a multitude of different stylistic expressions and approaches, from music worked out and planned down to the most minutiae detail to creations improvised and recorded there and then, never again to be performed in just that manner. The latter approach has been a part of the art rock movement all through its history and is also a common feature among jazz artists, in particular among artists fond of experimentation and innovation, of which La Poche A Sons appears to be a good example. Personally I'm not too fond of jazz, and in particular the more experimental and free-form varieties of this style tend to leave a negative impression on me. High-pitched screeching instrumental displays, chaotic arrangements and a general lack of harmony are all details that leave me less than intrigued in general. Thankfully some exceptions come my way from time to time and this is one of them. As with most types of improvised performances, drums and bass (contrabass in this case) are the pillars of these performances, catering for their roles in a lazy manner or with energetic displays, depending on the need at the moment. As one might expect from a jazz unit, the sticks tend to explore a quirky pattern with a slight emphasis on subtle percussions, while the bass is given much room to freely wander about, and we're treated to a fair few instances of bass soloing before this disc ends. But the limelight is shared between the trombone and the saxophone, and according to the credits, the avid listener will encounter some instances of bass clarinet to boot, although I'll readily admit to not being able to separate out the latter myself. That is of lesser importance however, as the music itself is a stunning experience, at least to my ears. From the lazy, relaxed opening effort Dune to forceful, energetic displays like the one encountered in the second half of Chanson Rouge, these performances mesmerize, captivate and dazzle. Not always to perfection, and fairly often with timbres and nuances that can be both straining and rather challenging, but in most cases coming together in relaxed moments of gentle beauty or raw, driving escapades that cross the border into the truly brilliant with ease. With ample amounts of variety too, from sparse arrangements featuring contrabass soloing supplemented with careful details from the brass section to careful bass motifs with either sax or trombone freely soloing on top; from forceful escapades with the trombone partially harmonizing with the contrabass foundation and the sax soloing on top to harmonized brass sequences supplemented by careful bass and drum displays. Ranging from the careful and subtle to the rough, raw and forceful, these nine cuts challenge and soothe the mind both, with a slight preference for staying put within the darker ranges of the register, and with something of an emphasis on developing the individual creation in subtly unexpected ways. Jazz aficionados might not be as impressed as this novice listener, but personally I found this production to be one meriting frequent revisits.
Conclusion. Instrumental jazz of the improvisational and innovative kind is what we're dealing with in the case of French quartet La Poche A Sons, with the trombone and saxophone as the dominating instruments, skillfully and effectively supported by drums and contrabass, the latter also given ample opportunities for soloing and wandering improvisations throughout. These are high-quality performances by skilled instrumentalists, and if my own perceptions may reflect that of others, this is a production that may also well find favor among those who generally aren't too fond of jazz in general and the improvised variety of it in particular. A production well worth investigating if you're interested in or curious about experimental instrumental jazz.
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