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Yochk'o Seffer - 2010 - "Condor"

(193:23 3CD, Musea Records)


****+

Prolusion. Hungarian born composer, musician, sculptor and avant-garde artist Yochko SEFFER has a long and distinguished career in which he's been active in musical projects one way or the other for most of his life, and where his tenures in the bands Magma and Zao arguably can be said to be ones which have drawn the most attention. In 1976 Seffer initiated a solo career, with just over a dozen original productions issued in his name since then. Condor" is the most recent of these, and this massive 3-CD production was released by Musea Records on their Musea Parallele imprint in the fall of 2010.

Disc 1 - Puma (69:48)
****+

TRACK LIST: 

1.  Miert 5:31
2.  Jo Hutazast Testver 6:53
3.  Izzad Testu Hold 6:23
4.  Ritualish Alkotas 7:30
5.  Sanglots 3:50
6.  Apaisement 3:00
7.  Rage 1:36
8.  Voyage 4:30
9.  Nap-Nap-III 5:04
10. Sikos Terep 5:28
11. Rea 6:19
12. Ontudat 4:32
13. Menes 4:06
14. Eszaki-Zur 5:06

LINEUP:

Yochk'o Seffer  saxophones 
Jean-Pascal Molina  drums 
With:
Joelle Leandre  contrabass (5-7)
Analysis. The first part of this latest triptych by Seffer has been given the name Puma, which is an apt name for this opening chapter, considering the musical contents it employs. All these efforts are of a lean and minimalistic nature, where the saxophone is paired off with just one additional instrument on each of the 14 creations at hand. All of these efforts are energetic and spirited affairs to boot, and there is something of a wild and untamed nature to them as something of a recurring theme. Voyage is arguably the piece that will be best remembered, due to the nature of the instrument chosen to contrast with Seffer's mournful sax. The steel drum isn't an instrument encountered too often, and it's easy to understand why pioneer Victor Brady preferred the term steel piano for this instrument when listening to this fine piece, in this case handled by Francois Causse in a nice, melodic and energetic manner that brings forth the beauty of the instrument brilliantly. Blended with the slower, sad sax improvisation of Seffer, this creates a unique and compelling atmosphere. The three pieces featuring Leandre on contrabass are also fine and intriguing ventures (arguably the most adventurous on this disc), featuring dark, twisted and frequently distorted contrabass motifs with Seffer's sax carefully contrasting with lighter, distorted sax textures in brief runs. The ominous, haunting and almost alien mood conjured up by these instruments are well worth sampling, with Apaisement as my favored choice, a good example of just how brilliant minimalistic improvisational music can be according to my personal musical tastes. The rest of the material is of a more singular nature, where Seffer's sax is paired off against the frantic, spirited drumming of Jean-Pascal Molina. A few exceptions aside, I'd describe these efforts as technically rather than musically impressive, with a singular stylistic expression that makes it hard to distinguish between the tracks. Unless you're a dedicated fan of free form minimalistic music featuring these two instruments, that is. There's good flow and momentum at hand though, and an effective utilization of recurring themes and theme variations sees to it that the improvisational beast is tamed on this occasion. It all adds up to a CD filled with material that should satisfy fans of Seffer quite nicely, and those who appreciate minimalistic free-form ventures of an improvisational nature should also find this first of three discs to contain material catering for their musical tastes. In particular if they have a soft spot for either drums or saxophone.

Disc 2 - Anaconda (71:24)
****+

TRACK LIST: 

1.  Bolcso Dallama 7:20
2.  Rancos Profil 8:00
3.  70-Szuz-II 6:30
4.  Testver-II 6:57
5.  Bulent-II 4:31
6.  Vagy 6:12
7.  Kigyo 5:12
8.  Knom-13 9:50
9.  Szurd-Meg 2:37
10. Sirato 8:30
11.  Anaconda 5:45

LINEUP:

Yochk'o Seffer  piano 
Sylvain Miller  saxophone 
Analysis. The second chapter of this musical trilogy is vastly different from the initial one. The main similarity is that these efforts, like the ones on the first disc, are made up of duets. In this case Seffer leaves the saxophone duties to Sylvain Miller however, and has chosen to handle the ebonies and ivories of the piano instead, which results in 11 creations exploring a rather singular musical expression, the piano crafting the foundation for the saxophone to improvise upon, but also with a distinct improvisational nature to many of the motifs crafted by the tangents. In style we're dealing with efforts going back and forth between the jazz-oriented and the classically-inclined. Frequent use of slight atonalities and staccato fluctuations from the keys catering for the former and free flowing tangent runs for the latter. A few forays into avant-garde territories appear as well, like in the brief piece Szurd-Meg, but by and large these tendencies appear mainly as occasional inserts among the melodic classical, sophisticated jazz and playful ragtime inspired passages that all are visited in most tracks. Seffer comes across as a highly skilful pianist, able to craft pace-filled double-handed free-flowing motifs with an ease many younger musicians would struggle hard to reproduce or replicate. Gently hammering staccato themes with subtle alterations and resonating notes, utilized to produce melodies of a more minimalistic nature, are created just as naturally, and there's always room for a few slightly dissonant resonances and disharmonic details, no matter what the current dominant expression is at the time. Miller's saxophone is less free form-oriented than what I presume Seffer himself would have performed, but the often slow and mournful and occasionally frantic and adventurous escapades suit these creations quite nicely, be it as strict improvisations, in sophisticated interwoven motifs, or when harmonizing with whatever antics Seffer has set up. Final track Anaconda, which has been chosen as the name of this second CD that makes up the "Condor" trilogy, functions more or less as a summary of all the preceding excursions, incorporating most if not all the elements explored on this production. A well-made disc in general, but one I would presume will be mostly of interest to jazz aficionados and fervent piano fans.

Disc 3 - Condor (52:11)
****

TRACK LIST:

1.  Trabla No-12 29:30
2.  Ima Video 22:41 (b/t)

LINEUP:

Yochk'o Seffer  saxophone 
Jean-Michel Goury  saxophone 
Laurent Matheron  saxophone 
Guerino Bellarosa  saxophone 
Adele Couzin  saxophone 
Zachary Pfau  saxophone 
Lucas Gaudin  saxophone 
Mark Michalak  saxophone 
Samuel Havard  saxophone 
Holly Decaigny  saxophone 
Vincent Dreyer  saxophone 
Coline Feler  saxophone 
Joel Diegert  saxophone 
Phil Pierick  saxophone 
Camille Maussion  saxophone 
Francois Causse  steel drum 
Analysis. The third and final CD that makes up Seffer's latest production "Condor" explores a third dimension to his creative output: Classical symphonic music, in the shape of Trabla No 12, written for and performed by saxophones that is, and with an emphasis on elongated standalone soloing. I presume Seffer caters for most of the latter himself, with partially improvisational sounding excursions that in some instances might be replicated by violin or flute but more often than not are genuinely unique expressions of the instrument at hand. One of these elongated standalones also features Causse on steel drum accompanying in a rather adventurous and challenging excursion. The saxophone orchestra ties the different soloing journeys together and most commonly establishes and explores a basic theme, from which Seffer's improvisational sounding escapades later will seize hold of and then explore without additional instrument backing, eventually ending up with a rather different sounding motif the additional saxophones take on, explore and transform until the next solo appears. It is a well made and well performed creation, but presumably for a select audience. Personally I found it to be more interesting than intriguing, with the full-force symphonic passages, mainly so due to the difference in expression the saxophones reveal when compared to a regular symphonic orchestra. Those who appreciate both jazz and classical music should find this one an intriguing experience though, especially if they have a particular fancy for the saxophone. Filling up the free space on this third disc is a bonus video, Seffer's composition Ima, captured live in 2010. This addition should please existing fans of Seffer and this particular work, adding even more value to what is a mammoth production.

Conclusion. "Condor" is a highly ambitious production, showcasing many different aspects of Yochko Seffer as an artist, composer and musician, including depictions of his own artwork in the booklet. With flawless performance and impeccable production, this is a high quality production, of the kind where your own musical taste will be the sole deciding factor for whether or not you'll enjoy it. And while the stylistic expressions covered explore territories ranging from classical to avant-garde jazz, I'd think that the primary audience for this release, other than existing fans of the artist, will be a jazz-oriented crowd, in particular those who have a deep and true affection for the saxophone.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Jan 14, 15, 16, 2010
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Yochk'o Seffer


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