Napoli's Walls

Louis Sclavis

CD18,90 out of print

French clarinettist/saxophonist Louis Sclavis has brought many new impulses to contemporary jazz with his uniquely conceived programmes, concepts and bands. “Napoli’s Walls” – the name of both his new quartet and his new album- is the latest in a distinguished line which has included such important projects as “L’Affrontement des Prétendants” and “Les Violences de Rameau.”
    “Napoli’s Walls” is a lively meditation upon the town of Naples, perceived not only through the filter of the city’s past and present but also offering pieces inspired by the artwork of radical French painter/interventionist Ernest Pignon-Ernest.

Featured Artists Recorded

December 2002, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes les Fontaines

Original Release Date

07.10.2003

  • 1Colleur de nuit
    (Louis Sclavis)
    10:35
  • 2Napoli’s Walls
    (Louis Sclavis)
    07:21
  • 3Mercè
    (Louis Sclavis)
    03:07
  • 4Kennedy in Napoli
    (Louis Sclavis)
    06:25
  • 5Divinazione Moderna, part 1
    (Louis Sclavis)
    03:38
  • 6Divinazione Moderna, part 2
    (Louis Sclavis)
    03:30
  • 7Guetteur d’inaperçu
    (Louis Sclavis)
    08:23
  • 8Les apparences
    (Louis Sclavis)
    04:44
  • 9Porta segreta
    (Vincent Courtois)
    05:03
  • 10Il disegno smangiato d’un uomo
    (Louis Sclavis)
    07:16
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Bestenliste 1/2004
Jazz Magazine, Disque d’émoi de l’année
Jazz Magazine, Disque d’émoi
Jazzman, Choc de l’année
Jazzman, Choc du mois
 
Ce nouvel et inattendu chef-d’œuvre de Louis Sclavis commence par une évocation magnifique de la nuit, l’une des obsessions du clarinettiste-saxophoniste. Écrit en hommage aux fresques réalisées par le sculpteur et dessinateur Ernest Pignon-Ernest à partir de 1988, Napoli’s Walls est lui-même construit comme une fresque bigarrée, combinant les sorties iconoclastes de Médéric Collignon (voix, cornet, percussions, samplers…), la guitare mystérieuse et atonale d’Hasse Poulsen, les volutes de Sclavis et les déclamations tragiques du violoncelle de Vincent Courtois, un pot-pourri harmonieux mêlant folklore, rythmiques « électro » ou world music, rock et influences classiques. Cet album parfait parvient de plus à allier mélancolie et humour, folie furieuse et poésie charmeuse avec un aplomb qui force le respect.
Bertrand Ravalard, Jazzman
 
Sclavis wanted to paint musical pictures of Naples and its traditions of popular song and opera, but he also wanted to make paintings in sound devoted to a real painter: the contemporary French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest, a kind of Renaissance-inspired Banksy, whose ghostly silkscreens of Neapolitan life nestle in alcoves and on walls all over the city. To this end, Sclavis has deployed himself on reeds, Médéric Collignon on pocket trumpet, voices and electronics, Vincent Courtois on cello and Hasse Poulsen on guitar Napoli’s Walls sounds like a classical album at first, with its long, sombre cello sounds turning into a melancholy falling-cadence melody with Collignon’s trumpet. But soon Courtois erupts into an improvised solo of dark chords punctuating sweeping legato lines, while Poulsen releases harmonics and dissonances behind him. … It’s a bold, uncompromising piece of contemporary music joining the familiar and the unfamiliar, the tonal and the abstract, the graceful and the violent, with hardly a longueur.
John Fordham, The Guardian
 
As punters queue to buy Jamie Cullum’s nostalgically tinged offerings, it is worth remembering that jazz is also the music of innovation and fierce individualism. So thank heavens for Louis Sclavis’s new record. Sclavis is a virtuoso French clarinettist who, like Don Byron, has helped to make a trad jazz implement rather cool again. … As with previous albums, Napoli’s Walls owes little to the American jazz tradition. Its giddy amalgam of styles incorporates folk, gypsy and rock, and is performed by a line-up of cello, guitar, pocket trumpet and the leader’s soaring clarinet and sax. The only beats are computer-generated. The album opens in classical fashion with long, ruminative cello notes before a Sclavis solo leads into a whirling gypsy dance and skewed blues. Deftly mixing the familiar and the unfamiliar, Napoli’s Walls is as original a mix of wit and craft as the year has brought.
John Bungey, The Times
 
Auf Napoli’s Walls beschreitet er völlig neues Terrain und umgibt sich dafür mit drei jungen Musikern. Die Besetzung mit dem Cellisten Vincent Courtois und dem Dänen Hasse Poulsen an der akustischen Gitarre als ungewöhnlich zu bezeichnen, wäre ein milder Ausdruck. Was den Sound aber vollends in andere Sphären katapultiert, das ist der Taschentrompeter Médéric Collignon, der außerdem ein fieses elektronisches Schlagzeug und Gesang beisteuert. ... Louis Sclavis schwebt mit diversen Klarinetten und Saxophonen über allem und vermag trotz höchst vitaler Spielfreude seine lebenspralle Musik so zu gestalten, dass einem wirklich kein Ton zu viel erscheint. Markerschütternd.
Rolf Thomas, Jazzthing
 
Der Spuk haust gern in großen, alten Städten. Hinter jeder Biegung einer Gasse, hinter den Toreinfahrten und jenseits der brüchigen Mauern mag etwas Anderes lauern, und bevor man ihm nicht gegenübersteht, weiß man nicht, ob es gut ist oder böse. Der Klarinettist Louis Sclavis ist in diesem Bewusstsein durch Neapel gezogen, den Gitarristen Hasse Poulsen, den Cellisten Vincent Courtois sowie den Taschentrompeter, Elektroschlagzeuger und Klangbastler Médéric Collignon im Gefolge. Man muss sich diese vier als begnadete Ingenieure des urbanen Klangs vorstellen, als ebenso gewissenhafte wie von spontanen Launen ergriffene Monteure des musikalischen Augenblicks, als Komponisten einer vom mediterranen Alltag so zerrissenen wie beflügelten Schönheit.
Thomas Steinfeld, Süddeutsche Zeitung
 
Eigens für dieses Projekt stellte Sclavis ein neues Quartett zusammen, in dem akustisch und elektronisch erzeugte Klänge eine faszinierende Melange eingehen. Für die elektronischen Sounds und mitunter überraschend „funky“ programmierten Beats zeichnen Pocket-Trompeter Médéric Collignon und Cellist Vincent Courtois verantwortlich, der dänische Gitarrist Hasse Poulsen komplettiert das Quartett. Zusammen mit ihnen verknüpft Sclavis so heterogene Stilelemente wie zeitgenössische, elektroakustische Kammermusik, Improvisation, Groove und gelegentliche Anklänge an Gesualdo oder das neapolitanische Volkslied. Themen, Motive und Rhythmen tauchen so plötzlich auf wie Pignon-Ernests Serigraphien im Stadtbild der Straßen von Neapel. Die Bilder brachten die Mauern zum Sprechen, diese Musik bringt sie zum Singen.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum
 
Wie immer ist seine Musik witzig, mitunter ein wenig skurril, respektlos gegenüber tradiertem Herkommen und Tabus und sprüht vor Elan. Wie die Stadt am Vesuv sind Sclavis’ Erinnerungen an Neapel widersprüchlich und gegensätzlich. Die Stimmung schwankt zwischen akustisch instrumentierter Melancholie und elektronischen Sounds, ist mal düster, mal heiter, changiert zwischen Lied, Tanz und Marsch.
Heribert Ickerott, Jazzpodium
 
 
 
“At 50, with five ECM CDs recorded over the past decade, Louis Sclavis has become an increasingly uncategorizable light in European jazz, devoting as much energy to seamless composition as to extended improvisation, breaking down rhythms so that swing or rock or a kind of static Morse-code repetition are options designed to stimulate specific emotional grounding, and exploring the often neglected legacy of French music; he is staking out his own precinct from which to pursue the jazz muse…His bass clarinet work in particular is the most consistently impressive since Eric Dolphy’s …He has yet to repeat himself in the ECM cycle.” - Gary Giddins, The Village Voice, May 2003

Louis Sclavis has brought many new impulses to contemporary jazz and improvisation with his uniquely conceived projects, concepts and bands. “Napoli’s Walls” – the name of both a new quartet and his new programme – is the latest in a distinguished line which has included such important projects as “L’Affrontement des Prétendants” and “Les Violences de Rameau”, both documented by ECM.

“Napoli’s Walls”, a lively meditation upon the town of Naples, is perceived not only through the filter of the city’s past and present but also offering pieces and inspirations triggered by the artwork of radical French painter/interventionist Ernest Pignon-Ernest (born in1942 in Nice).

In the liner notes, Christian Rentsch writes that Pignon-Ernest “has been leaving behind traces of himself since the 1960s - in Avignon and Grenoble, in Charleville, Anvers and Lyons, mostly in France, but also in Italy and elsewhere. Between 1987 and 1995 he worked in Naples, where he excavated the city's overlapping and interwoven stony layers of Orient and Occident, of myths and religions, with their secret rituals of life and death, their conflicting images of women and especially of destruction, suffering, perdition.”

The music and the perspectives are kaleidoscopic. Pignon’s works are site-specific: in Naples he affixed dozens of drawings and paintings at strategic points throughout the city. His strangely beautiful pieces, inspired by his experiences of the town and its history (particularly its musical history, which embraces all options from Gesualdo to opera to popular Neapolitan songs and street cries) provide Sclavis with new musical cues and clues. As Sclavis says: “The work of Ernest Pignon-Ernest is like the script of an opera. In it one can find emotion, drama, all the dynamics necessary for music. I let myself be swayed by his images…We play here through a present and a past that are closely layered upon each other, in trails of noises, words, imperatives.”

Rentsch: “Many of the things one can say about the art of Ernest Pignon-Ernest also apply to Louis Sclavis. Sclavis' music is likewise concerned with the disparateness and variety of traditions and cultures. He, too, turns his listeners into trail seekers; he, too, creates projection screens that capture his own aesthetic reflection.”

Sclavis has a gift for assembling special bands, each with its own personality, and the new group is one of the most resourceful to date. Only cellist Vincent Courtois (who also shines on Yves Robert’s recent ECM disc “In Touch”) is retained from the ”Prétendants” Quintet. New in the group, marking a rare departure from the all-French line-ups of previous Sclavis ensembles, is Danish guitarist Hasse Poulsen. Well known on the improvised music scene, Poulsen has won numerous awards in Scandinavia, and played extensively with Phil Minton, Louis Moholo, Evan Parker, Joëlle Leandre, and other key figures of the free music community.

Pocket trumpet player, singer and effects man Médéric Collignon is an important presence on the new disc. A genuine maverick, whose past has included work in funk, rap and salsa contexts as well as jazz, improvised music and contemporary composition, Collignon’s multi-idiomatic grasp makes him the perfect choice for conveying hints of the range of music and noises to be heard within the walls of Naples.

Sclavis himself is one of the most important and influential musicians in European jazz, recognised as a masterful jazz composer and arranger, and held by many critics to be the most important clarinettist in jazz today. He has won major awards for his work, including the Grand Prix National de la Musique (awarded by the French Ministry of Culture), the “Django d’Or”, and the MIDEM/British Jazz Award (for Best Foreign Artist), and has just been nominated for the prestigious European Jazz Prize (which fellow ECM artist Tomasz Stanko won last year).