L'affrontement des prétendants

Louis Sclavis Quintet

CD18,90 out of print

Louis Sclavis, now recognized as one of the most important voices in European jazz, introduces a new band, with only bassist Bruno Chevillon retained from his previous ECM recordings. Blending strong jazz soloing (with trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozo making a particularly impressive showing) with elements drawn from contemporary composition, free improvising, and real and imaginary folklore, Sclavis has come up with a very convincing musical statement. Compositions include the suite-length "Hommage à Lounès Matoub", dedicated to the memory of the Algerian protest singer murdered in 1998.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 1999, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes les Fontaines

Original Release Date

29.01.2001

  • 1L'affrontement des prétendants
    (Louis Sclavis)
    08:41
  • 2Distances
    (Louis Sclavis, Vincent Courtois)
    03:16
  • 3Contre contre
    (Louis Sclavis)
    06:36
  • 4Hors les murs
    (Bruno Chevillon)
    02:50
  • 5Possibles
    (Louis Sclavis)
    05:20
  • 6Hommage à Lounès Matoub
    (Louis Sclavis)
    16:55
  • 7Le temps d'après
    (Louis Sclavis)
    08:02
  • 8Maputo introduction
    (Louis Sclavis)
    02:32
  • 9Maputo
    (Louis Sclavis)
    06:27
  • 10La mémoire des mains
    (Bruno Chevillon, François Merville, Louis Sclavis)
    02:29
 
 
Jazzman, Choc du mois
 
This is the most exciting of Louis Sclavis’s recent album projects, and listening to it recalls in vivid fashion the initial impact of first encountering his music in the mid-80s. Sclavis, who is heard on his customary clarinet, bass clarinet and soprano saxophone, has assembled a new band for this disc, with only bass player Bruno Chevillon retained from his previous line-up. The excellent Jean-Luc Cappozzo comes in on trumpet, and provides an exemplary foil to the clarinettist, while Vincent Courtois adds the timbre and colour of cello to the mix, with François Merville on drums. The band may be new, but that is apparent only in the freshness of their approach. Everyone is self-evidently plugged into the clarinettist’s original, idiosyncratic wavelength, and they interpret his often demanding music in enthralling, sympathetic fashion. ... Sclavis has never claimed to be a conventional jazz musician, but his feeling for the music is always palpable, wherever he chooses to take it.
Kenny Mathieson, Jazzwise
 
Nirgends ist der Jazz lebendiger als an den Rändern. Von dort her erneuert er sich, und am Ende ist es gleichgültig, ob diese Musik am Ende noch so heissen wird – Hilfsbegriff war das Wort, das vielen seiner Protagonisten ein Unwort scheinen wollte, schon immer. Louis Sclavis ist dafür das jubelndste Beispiel. ... Sclavis ist so vielseitig, dass, wer ihn nicht kennt, erst einmal Charakterlosigkeit vermutet. Weit gefehlt. In allen Facetten ist er immer auch als er selbst zu erkennen. ... Dieses teilt sich überall und immer auf Anhieb mit, auch auf der CD mit dem rätselhaften Titel L’affrontement des prétendants, die diesen Kolumnisten wieder einmal seinen inflationären Umgang mit Superlativen bedauern lässt. Sie ist nicht weniger als hinreissend. Nicht nur präsentiert uns Sclavis mit Jean-Luc Cappozzo einen neuen, unvergleichlichen Trompeter – sein ganzes neues Quintett ist so etwas wie eine Big Band in nuce. ... Jede der Kompositionen scheint länger, als sie ist, in jeder ist mehr los, als man nach der Zeitangabe des Booklets glauben möchte. Schon jetzt sei die Behauptung gewagt: Dies ist eine der Platten des Jahres. Nicht nur in Europa.
Peter Rüedi, Die Weltwoche
 
Er ist auf der Höhe seines Könnens, ein brillanter Techniker, ein passionierter Spieler – und ein Draufgänger. In seiner Musik gibt es kein Zaudern, seine Konzerte fahren ab: Die spielerische Lust der Volksmusik und die Energie afrikanisch-amerikanischer Freejazzorgien kommen selbst bei kammermusikalischen Stücken oder bei Jazzballaden zum Tragen. ... Neun stimmige Kompositionen, klug konstruiert, federleicht gespielt, reich an Schattierungen, Farben und anregenden Improvisationen.
Patrik Landolt, Die Wochenzeitung
 
Es ist müßig zu erwähnen, dass Louis Sclavis’ Musik immer wieder dadurch besticht, dass sie keine amerikanischen Vorbilder kopiert und sich trotzdem eine Leichtigkeit bewahrt, die tief in dem Boden verwurzelt ist, in dem sie entsteht. Sclavis erfüllt alle Kriterien des Prädikats Jazz, und doch ist seine Musik nichts weniger als afroamerikanisch. ... Der Klarinettist erreicht mit seiner Band ein Höchstmaß an motivierter Interaktion, die von gruppendienlichen Soli durchzogen wird. ... Kein Solo findet nur um des Solos Willen statt, sondern alles hat einen vorbestimmten Platz im Ganzen. ... Sclavis ist nicht nur ein Spieler, nicht nur ein Interpret seiner eigenen Schöpfungen; er ist ein Künstler, der vor unseren Ohren Welten generiert, ein Gartenarchitekt, dessen Kreationen uns immer tiefer in ihr labyrinthisches Innere locken und auch beim hundertsten Kontakt nichts von ihrer Faszination verlieren.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik
 
Neben geradezu ekstatischer Spielfreude bietet Louis Sclavis auf seiner neuen CD L’affrontement des prétendants vor allem musikalische Erkenntnisse, die sich aus den Eindrücken seiner zahlreichen Afrika-Erkundungen ergeben haben. ... Auch das Titelstück, das die CD eröffnet, basiert auf afrikanischen Rhythmen. Herzstück des Albums ist jedoch die siebzehn Minuten lange Hommage à Lounès Matoub. Das Stück beginnt mit einem Klagegesang des Cellos, dem einem Trauermarsch ähnliche Passage folgt, die wiederum von Capozzos majestätisch klingender Trompete dominiert wird. Doch nach zwei Drittel des Wegs verwandelt sich das bewegende Würde ausstrahlende Erinnerungsstück plötzlich in einen rhythmischen Hexenkessel, über dem Sclavis’ Klarinette jubiliert. Das Quintett durcheilt ganz unterschiedliche Rhythmen, die Musik feiert den Triumph des Lebens über den Tod.
Rolf Thomas, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 
L'affrontements des prétendants ist eines jener außergewöhnlichen Alben, die so reich an Ideen, so hinreißend logisch zwischen den Extremen vermitteln können. Die Oberfläche der Musik scheint von kaum merklich widerständigen Splittern durchsetzt, die den Blick der Aufmerksamkeit immer wieder neu brechen, prismatisch auffächern und immer neue, immer rätselhaftere Vexierbilder hervorzaubern. ... Selten wurde der Konflikt zwischen Improvisation und Komposition auf so wundersam kluge und überzeugende Weise ausgetragen, selten erschien der Glaube an die ewige Gültigkeit dieses alten Antagonismus so künstlich und so hinfällig.
Harry Lachner, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Drawing upon a pool of close associates, players of wide ranging experience, from whom he perms groups appropriate for each project, Louis Sclavis has, over the last 15 years, created a body of work unique in the history of French jazz. 'The projects change,' he has said, 'but the musicians stay the same - most of the time.' In fact, the cast of characters shifts, from record to record and on 'L'affrontement des prétandants' he introduces a new quintet: only bassist Bruno Chevillon is retained from Sclavis's previous ECM discs. 'Inviting different musicians allows me to reinforce and enrich the proposition.' That proposition was substantial from the beginning. Sclavis has paid more attention to the role of composition and arrangement than many of his colleagues in jazz but then, as he has said, 'I was never a 'real' jazz musician in the first place' ' which of course raises questions of definitions. A Herald Tribune portrait opined that the young Sclavis 'followed Luciano Berio and Pierre Boulez rather than John Coltrane' and Sclavis's study of modern music has been thorough, but it is clear from the spiralling soprano sax on 'Hommage à Lounès Matoub' and 'Maputo Introduction' on the present disc that the Coltrane legacy hasn't escaped him entirely: how could it'

Sclavis, born 1953, studied classical clarinet in his native Lyon, came to jazz via Sidney Bechet and was transfixed at age 17 by the music of Sun Ra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. From there he moved backwards and forwards through jazz history. He played with Michel Portal, Chris MacGregor, the Workshop de Lyon, appeared with Cecil Taylor's magisterial European Orchestra in 1988, and continues to play free improvisation as part of an ongoing personal research. Free playing is one of many music-making methodologies that Sclavis employs; he also makes use of elements and influences drawn from European art music from the renaissance to the 21st century, and of folklore real and imaginary, as well as the jazz tradition. He's as likely to pay homage to Rameau as to Ellington, and has done both in previous projects. His numerous musical associations have included work with Trio de Clarinets (with Jacques di Donato and Armand Angster), Pierre Favre, Aldo Romano and Henri Texier, Dave Douglas, Jean-Marc Montera, Arkady Shilkloper, Daniel Humair, Dino Saluzzi, Fred Frith and many others.

Several of Sclavis's earlier records have had an overriding subject matter or have proceeded from a musical-philosophical standpoint illustrated or argued out in the playing. It's not the case this time. 'L'affrontement des prétendants' has more in common with such discs as 'Rouge' or 'Acoustic Quartet' where the principal aim was to introduce the ensemble, and the leader is excited by the range of possibility of his newest line-up.The album's enigmatic title does not lend itself readily to translation. Who are these confrontational 'pretenders'' And should the term be read in the sense of 'those with a claim to a throne or title'' And if so, is it the Sclavis band members who are staking their claim here' Louis Sclavis prefers not to specify. Let listeners and critics make their own interpretations, he says.The first solo statement on the first track (also the title track) certainly serves to introduce a powerful 'new' presence. Trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo will seem to non-French listeners to have sprung fully formed out of nowhere. His style has the dark growls and slurs that seem to reach back in jazz history to players like Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams (sources Lester Bowie and Leo Smith also mined) and he clearly has tremendous facility. 'A beautiful player,' Sclavis says, 'and getting stronger by the day'. Cappozzo, born 1954, has been a long time member of the Lyon-based association L'ARFI (Association à la Recherche d'un Folklore Imaginaire) and plays with two of its key bands ' La Marmite Infernale, and the Trio Apollo.

'Distances' is a beautiful duet for Sclavis's clarinet and the cello of Vincent Courtois. Courtois (born 1968) has been recognised as one of the most outstanding exponents of his instrument in jazz and jazz-related settings over the last decade and has recorded prolifically. He has five albums as a leader and appears on more than 30 others with musicians ranging from Michel Petrucciani to Rabih Abou-Khalil via Christian Escoudé and Khaled. He has furthermore performed in concert with Tomasz Stanko, Martial Solal, Joachim Kuhn, Jim Black, Dominique Pifarély and others.

Bruno Chevillion solos on 'Hors les murs', a powerful feature for his exemplary bass work. In addition to his work with Sclavis and a burgeoning cast of international associates including Michel Portal, Joachim Kuhn, Paul Motian, Frances Marie Uiitti, Barre Phillips, Tim Berne, Ray Anderson, and Dave Douglas. Chevillon has been playing solo concerts since 1994. Solo bass is a demanding format, and his assurance on 'Hors les murs' is a testimony to the depth of his experience in the unaccompanied zone.

Central to the album is the seventeen minute suite 'Hommage à Lounès Matoub', dedicated to the Algerian protest singer who was murdered in 1998. The rigorously independent Matoub, who lived for a time in Paris, was highly critical of a succession of corrupt and repressive regimes in Algeria and equally opposed to militant fundamentalist Islam. His songs were unsparingly outspoken. Both controversial and highly popular (not least amongst the Berber minority whose rights he championed), Lounès Matoub amassed dangerous enemies as well as followers. Shot by the police in 1988, kidnapped by assailants (who also murdered Rai singer Chab Hasni) in 1994, Matoub was finally gunned down four years later by a dozen assassins outside his native village, and died at the age of 42. The government blamed 'terrorists', the public blamed the government, and thousands rioted in the streets. The opening 'movement' of Scalvis's tribute is informed by a deep sorrow ' conveyed particularly in the soulful playing of Courtois, Chevillon, and Cappozzo. The piece moves through North African rhythms with Merville's beats suggestive of the pulse of frame drums, and progresses toward a conclusion that is distinctly triumphant in tone, leaving us with, one feels, a celebration of Matoub's spirit and courage.

'Maputo Introduction' (delivered as a fleet soprano solo) and 'Maputo'( a vehicle for interval-leaping bass clarinet over broken time drums) also touch on African subject matter. The capital of Mozambique has of course been frequently in the news in the last year, both as a disaster area (more than two million made homeless by floods) and latterly as a site of summit meetings aimed at resolving political crises in Rwanda and the Congo. Though the music reveals no programmatic intention, Sclavis has been a regular visitor to Africa since 1990, particularly in the group with Aldo Romano and Henri Texier, and is naturally affected by what he has seen and heard there. In his titles, he sometimes draws attentions to issues in the way a Coltrane or Rollins or Mingus might once have done. Didacticism is avoided.

Finally , 'La mémoire des mains' is a three way improvisation by Sclavis, Courtois and François Merville, a speeding piece where interaction takes place at an intuitive/instinctive level ' the experienced hand, as much as the mind, dictating its flow. To this modest afterword, Merville brings a wealth of knowledge gleaned in diverse contexts. He was originally a classical percussionist and his credits include work with l'Ensemble Inter-Contemporain under the direction of Pierre Boulez, jazz with Jacky Terrasson, improvising with Noel Akchoté and more.

Sclavis knows how to make the most of his players' gifts and stories, interweaves them into something larger. Unsurprising, perhaps, that Ellington is amongst the jazz musicians he most admires: Louis Sclavis is similarly amongst the outstanding instrumentalists of his day, yet in the context of his other achievements this is almost incidental. His instrument is really the ensemble: he knows how to make his group sing, uniquely.

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