The Emile Parisien Quintet at Marciac

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SFUMATO LIVE IN MARCIAC / CD: PARISIEN-TOUÉRY-GÉLUGNE-DARRIFOURCQ: Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine I-III. LODGE: Temptation Rag. KÜHN: Transmitting. Missing a Page. PARISIEN: Balladibiza I & II. DVD: PARISIEN: Préambule. Poulp. KÜHN: Missing a Page. Transmitting. Arôme de l’Air. / Emile Parisien, s-sax; Joachim Kühn, pno; Manu Codija, gtr; Simon Tailleu, bs; Mario Costa, dm; special guests: Wynton Marsalis, tpt; Vincent Peirani, acc; Michel Portal, bs-cl / Act 6021-2 (live: Marciac, April & August 2017)

For American listeners, hearing an accordion lead into a jazz concert is a bizarre sound, but French and Swedish jazz has long used accordions as a jazz instrument, and although the opening introduction and first chorus of Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine is played as a sort of French waltz by Vincent Peirani, once soprano saxist Emile Parisien comes into the picture, the rhythm and harmonies shift to a jazz tendency. Welcome to the unusual music of Jazz Marciac!

Despite the jazz feeling, however, there remains a sort of French film music sound about this, at least until Michel Portal comes in for a strange but inventive solo on bass clarinet. After a brief ensemble passage, the tempo shifts to a slow, sinuous 4 as Joachim Kühn plays an excellent piano solo, then back to the ensemble where the theme undergoes a strange transformation to the minor. The one drawback to this set is the rock-drenched guitar of Manu Codija; every time he started playing, I wished he would shut the hell up and go away. But modern audiences seem to just love hearing rock guitars in jazz nowadays. I don’t.

Henry Lodge’s Temptation Rag, on which special guest star Wynton Marsalis is featured, is played with verve and brio by the group, without the rhythm section. The tempo slows down when Parisien and Peirani come in to play the middle strain, and later on the leader’s solo has a hint of Sidney Bechet about it (sans the French vibrato). Marsalis plays a wild lick or two, then the band increases the tempo and rides it out.

Transmitting starts out with a bass lick, and rhythm, quite similar to Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia, but the melody is quite different. Marsalis plays on this one, too, a slow but rather interesting solo in which he interjects some Dizzy-isms (not played as cleanly as by the master himself, but with a beautiful tone). The rock guitar again spoils the mood, but Kühn revives it. Portal plays a busy solo on bass clarinet. We then hear the two-part Balladibizza by Parisien, a slow, moody piece, beautifully crafted in an almost classical form. This one moves into a slow sort of shuffle rhythm with a slight Latin feel to it, featuring the ensemble for an extended period of time—until Codija comes screaming in again with his shitty-sounding guitar to muck things up. It’s a shame, because his style is completely incompatible with the surrounding material in every track on which he appears…sort of like having a football player show up at a production of Swan Lake to play Prince Siegfried.

The CD ends with Kühn’s Missing a Page, a cleverly-written tune that sounds like a bebop number except that it’s missing one beat in each bar—a beat that mysteriously appears once we reach the improvisations. On this one, Codija’s guitar doesn’t sound any better tonally but he at least tries here to fit into the surrounding material. The leader is very good on soprano sax, however, and Kühn is also excellent.

The bonus DVD duplicates much of the same material on the CD (Missing a Page, Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine, Temptation Rag, Transmitting and Balladibiza) but includes three different selections, Préambule, Arôme de l’air and Poulp. In addition to being able to watch the group as they perform, it has the benefit of even better, more realistic, almost surround-sound compared to the DVD. Préamble is an interesting piece with a slow, Mingus-like introductory section, interrupted by quadruple-time piano from Kühn, then back to the ensemble until Peirani comes in on soprano. I’m not as big on watching jazz or classical concert DVDs as some people are; I just zero in on the music and ignore the stage antics. Much to my surprise, however, our bassist and drummer are very young whereas the bass clarinetist is very old. Not surprisingly, Codija is also fairly young-looking. (He does have good chops, mind you, but he says nothing. Just a load of noise.) The one thing I did not like about the DVD, however, was the track indexing. If you select a specific title, it goes to it, but that title then runs continuously through the rest of the concert without notifying you of a change of track.

As it turned out, Arôme de l’air was a noisy piece of rock crap, but Poulp, by Parisien, was a rather quirky tune combining a Latin-type rhythm with very strange dribs and drabs of melodic licks strung together in an odd manner. A bit eccentric, to say the least, but I liked it. A couple of minutes in, it suddenly becomes an uptempo bop swinger, propelled by Kühn’s excellent piano and the rhythm section, although the tempo suddenly drops in half in his second chorus. Surprisingly, bassist Simon Tailleu also gets a rare solo on this one, as does drummer Mario Costa, though the latter’s solo goes on a bit too long. Interesting stuff!

Bottom line: great performances all round except for Shoot the Guitarist.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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