Ork Alarm! # 17

November 1993

CONTENTS

  • Mekanïk Pop Jannick Top interview (Translation: Jim Ross)
  • Michel Graillier (Xavier Prévost)
  • Seventh Records Bulletin (Georges Besnier & Christian Vander)
  • New Morning 25-10-93 (Malcolm Bryant)
  • Les Voix de Magma (Sono Magazine & Frédéric Soupa)
  • Didier Lockwood interview February 77 (Michei Bourre)
  • “Sons” (AKT II) (Frédéric Soupa)
  • Zao – Z=7L (Musea FGBG 408 1.AR)
  • Simon Goubert Couleurs de peaux
  • Patrick Gauthier Sur les flots verticaux
  • Offering A Fiïèh (Jim Ross)
  • Magma Before M.D.K. (Ian McDonald)
  • Christian Vander Trio 65!
  • Ork! Update

Jannick Top Interview

Patrick Coutin (Rock et Folk – August 1997)

Translation: Jim Ross

PC:     Which instruments do you actually use?

JT:     My own bass is a Music Man. I have rediscovered in it all that I liked about the old Fenders. By way of an amplifier, I use a small Ampeg B 15 M that I like very much. This is a valve amp and on stage I use a big STV, also by Ampeg, which I take with me. I added a master volume control to the back of the amp, which allows me to boost the sound without increasing the volume too much. This gives me a “fat”, “terrifying” sound, very easy to play. You must use the pressure of your fingers, not force, pressure… Some bass players prefer to play further toward the fretboard. Me, I like the standard position, deep-rooted contact.

PC:     Do you use pedals to change your sound?

JT:     Oh yes! At the moment I am working on a prototype synth for guitar, the ORS; it’s a big change from using bass only. You must experiment, using it, to find the sounds that you want. Some sounds are dull, and some you need to switch off the oscillator or play fewer notes. I am anxious to remember my cello playing technique to help me master it.

PC:     Could you tell me about some of the important moments in your musical development?

JT:     Firstly, it was classical; when I was young I studied the piano, rudiments of music, orchestration, harmony, everything that makes up a basic understanding of music. But most importantly, I was taught at a Russian school, without wanting to sound “clique-ee”, Russian schools are great because they concentrate on the sense of touch, the fingers. Like holding an egg, that is how you must use your fingers. You must develop a sensitive touch to become more understanding when playing the instrument. This is still one of my preoccupations, the pressure of my fingers, the sensations.

PC:     Why did you choose to play bass?

JT:     I started playing double bass and Cello at the same time as the Electric bass, in order to replace a friend who was leaving for the U.S.A. This was in a dance hall band, with whom I stayed for several months. After this, I left music to concentrate on mathematics, and then back to music, I was then faced with a choice: it’s difficult enough to become proficient on one instrument, you can’t just learn all the instruments, so I chose to concentrate on bass. And then, one evening, in a club in Marseille where I went to listen to jazz, I met the pianist Stu DaSilva, who helped me decide what I wanted to do. And so I went to live in the country where I practised only bass for two years.

PC:     Do you tune your bass in a special way?

JT:     Yes, in the beginning I tuned it to E, G, A, D instead of E, A, D, G which restored the dominant fifth, the universal tuning. It wasn’t much later that I found a manufacturer who could supply me with the low pitched “C” strings, so I am now tuning in C, G, D, A.

PC:Two years playing bass, that represents an amazing amount of work.

JT:     I have always had a taste for work I can work the whole day, even to the point of giddiness. That’s not to say that everyone needs to put in that much effort in order to become proficient. Every possible way is there for the taking. But I believe that, in any case, you must put in some effort. There are some who say: “Hendrix did not have a technique”… yet, he was occasionally playing in an almost comatose state, and he still knew where to find his notes. Perhaps he did not have the traditional working technique, but he had spent days and days on his instrument. In music, nothing comes naturally, everything is a device, a trick learnt in apprenticeship. take a James Brown bass part for example: it’s apparently very simple, but get down to that swing, the blowing, then you can detect the work involved. After all the effort you are able to get there from your feeling….

PC:     Can you define this idea of the “non-natural”?

JT:     For sure. Let’s take two examples: the ear and the hand. Some people have an absolute ear (perfect pitch), like me. That’s to say that if I hear a note, I can say – Yes, that’s an “A” or a “G”, etc. When I listen to music, I hear the notes by their relationship to middle C. I say to myself: “Hold a C which becomes E”…   Other people have a relative ear, that’s to say that they hear one note in relation to the next They say to themselves, that one goes up and that one goes down, etc. But the two ways of hearing are indispensable. It works so that, according to your abilities, you work in the appropriate sense. The hand is an atrophied, unbalanced machine. The grip (that’s to say the thumb and index finger) is overdeveloped in relation to the other fingers. Because of that you work craftily, against nature. There’s an exercise that will develop the independence and control of the fingers. Spread the hand in a fan, the gap between each finger being equal. Then, one after another, bring back each of the fingers towards the palm, keeping all the rest immobile. After that, do it again with two fingers, in varying associations. This is not easy, and it takes time to achieve this control. But whether you use this method or another, it is necessary to arrive at precise control of the hand. I have myself slept for a long time with gloves on, into which I have sewn corks in order to keep my fingers separated while I sleep…


MICHEL GRAILLIER

Xavier Prévost

Michel Graillier is a rare jazz pianist; rare like certain gas like substances. From beneath his fingertips, strange mysterious music gushes forth. Music of shadow and light of mist and ember, music that moves you and you don’t really even know why.

Born in Lens in the north of France in 1946, Michel Graillier started off his musical career in Paris in 1968 with the Jean­Luc Ponty Quartet and recorded a superb tribute to Monk the following year with Steve Lacy called ‘Epistrophy’. In the 70′s he played with a number of American musicians (Philly Joe Jones, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin), and played with Barney Wilen and his group MOSHI before joining up with Christian Vander’s Magma for two years. He has also recorded with François Jeanneau, Christian Escoudé, and Jean François Jenny-Clark.1977 was the year of his decisive meeting with Chet Baker with whom he remained right up to Chet’s death, as an accompanist but as a road companion and friend more than anything else.

Pianist in the tradition of modem jazz post-hop, “Mickey” has developed through time a poetically lunar sort of personality with periods of both torment and serenity. His influences (Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett) are too passionately acknowledged to emerge as mere clichés. Whether he be alone on his key­boards or exchanging with a soloist, this at once demanding and fragile pianist proves that jazz is for him an internal necessity; an essential adventure.


Seventh Records Bulletin

Hello

The autumnal colours will be rather “jazzy” this fall ’93, and with these three new albums we hope to make this summer’s heat last as long as possible, during the summer we have recorded these in the UNIWERÏA ZEKT studio.

Patrick GAUTHIER, who has worked a lot with other musicians since his first album ‘Bébé Godzilla’, has composed different climates for his album ‘Sur les flots verticaux’ (On the vertical waves), which reflect his musical “nomadism”. Not wanting to fix himself in one particular region, he prefers to cross them all, and to bring back the souvenirs from his journeys that he displays here.

Simon GOUBERT in ‘Couleurs de peaux’ (Skin colours), has gathered together some of the themes uniquely composed by some drummers. In this way he pays tribute to those who have, in jazz, assumed a profound responsibility by approaching and understanding the music that is their own.

Christian VANDER TRIO ’65!’
I’ll leave the prose for Christian to give an overall impression of his work with the trio and on this new album:

“The ’65!’ record is above all the fruit of teamwork
I thank my travelling companions Emmanuel BORGHI and Philippe DARDELLE, with whom I have been able to share these few moments of intense respect.
1965! is an important year in the spiritual and musical path of John Coltrane. A short while before Japan, the themes like ‘BRAZILIA’, ‘ASCENSION’, ‘ONE DOWN, ONE UP’, reveal the quartet to us at its peak While that tireless, inexhaustible John Coltrane cleared the ground for other horizons.
The ’65!’ record is not a celebration; it is a sound. The sound of three musicians having the same passion. The rest is to be discovered…”

 

We have the pleasure of presenting these three formations onstage at the New Morning in Paris on the 25th of October at 8 o’clock.

PATRICK GAUTHIER
SUR LES FLOTS VERTICAUX

Patrick GAUTHIER piano, keyboards
Pierre MARCAULT percussion
Marc ELLIARD bass
Christian MATHURIN bass
Antoine PAGANOTTI drums
Julie VANDER voice
Benedicte RAGU voice
Main BELLAICHE voice

guest:
Stella VANDER voice

titles:
DES PYGMEES DANS LA VILLE
SUR LES FLOTS VERTICAUX
LE TRAIN FANTOME
ODESSA
ELEUTHEREN
ZAWINUL

CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO
65!

Emmanuel BORGHI piano
Philippe DARDELLE double bass
Christian VANDER drums

titles:
65! (Christian VANDER)
BRAZILIA (John Coltrane)
THE COASTER (Grachan MONCUR III)
GIANT STEPS (John Coltrane)
CONNIE’S LAMENT (John Coltrane)TENSIONS (Emmanuel BORGHI)
SKUNCKADELIC’S (Emmanuel BORGHI)
DOKTOR PITT (Pharoah SANDERS)
65! (Christian VANDER)

SIMON GOUBERT
COULEURS DE PEAUX

Stéphane BELMONDO trumpet, bugle
Lionel BELMONDO tenor saxophone
Michel GRAILLIER piano
Emmanuel BORGHI piano
Stéphane PERSIANI double bass
Simon GOUBERT drums

guests:
Aldo ROMANO drums
Christian VANDER drums

titles:
REDEMPTION (Simon GOUBERT)
OWEN (Philly Joe JONES)
DAY AFTER DAY (Christian VANDER)
HAND JIVE (Tony WILLIAMS)
IL PIACERE (Aldo ROMANO)
AGENDA (Elvin JONES)
POUR MILES… (Simon GOUBERT)


New Morning, Paris 25-10-93

Malcolm Bryant

We had a slight hiccup when Air France strikers decided to set ablaze the Charles de Gaulle airport on the day before we were due to travel. So after a bit of hassle, we arrived in Paris almost a day later than planned, that would have been fine except after gorging ourselves on the Parisian cuisine we reached the New Morning club minutes before it was due to open, only to find it already half full. Still at least we got seats, even if the view was restricted when the club had filled up to bursting point. I’m afraid this made a decent review nigh on impossible, we caught sporadic glimpses of the musicians as they oozed a potent musical melange from the stage, but generally it was a case of leaning back and enjoying the flow.

We were sitting directly behind Mr Gauthier senior and several more of Patrick’s seemingly endless family were in attendance. At 21h30 the Patrick Gauthier Septet were presented by Stella Vander for their first ever concert. The line-up from the left of the stage was Patrick Gauthier (piano and Macintosh computer), Marc Eliard (Electric bass), Alain Bellaiche (guitar and vocals), Antoine Paganotti (drums), Julie Vander (vocals), Benedicte Ragu (vocals) and Pierre Marcault (percussion). They started their set with ‘Des Pygmées dans la ville’ a sort of pseudo-Kobaïan scat piece and then moved on to the title track from their new album, a song with French lyrics called ‘Sur les flots verticaux’. Patrick then played a piano solo, which I think was ‘Odessa’ and the band came back for ‘Le train Fantôme’ an English song with some peculiarly unreal lyrics. Julie Vander left the stage for a while and Stella Vander made a guest appearance on the closing number ‘Zawinul’, a tribute to the music of Weather Report. Julie returned about halfway into the piece and they had to end it all too soon when their allotted time ran out. Overall it was a pleasant, light ingress to the evening with profound technical excellence and sweet harmonies from the vocalists.

After a very short break, Stella returned to introduce the Simon Goubert Quintet. The big surprise for me was the incredible bonus of seeing Michel Graillier take the piano stool, mind you that was the last I actually saw of him that evening… His sensitive overture to a piece by Aldo Romano, ‘Il Piacere’, was joined by Lionel Belmondo’s tenor sax and his brother Stéphane Belmondo on trumpet (and perhaps bugle) as Simon Goubert’s drumming very gradually grew more furious towards the closing bars. Lionel has previously worked with the guitarist Jean-Pierre Llabador while Stéphane has played alongside fellow trumpeter Jean-Loup Longnon. The second instalment was ‘Agenda’ an Elvin Jones opus on which Lionel really excelled himself with some festive spontaneity. After more forceful battering from Goubert, Stéphane Persiani contributed a short bass solo and propelled the group ever forward. ‘Gwen’ (a Philly Joe Jones number) was led by S. Belmondo on bugle but the cocktail lounge ambience it inspired made the predominantly rock audience slightly restive, reminding me of Frank Zappa’s ‘America Drinks and goes home’ where the band play ‘Caravan’ to the accompaniment of tinkling cash registers and much talking amongst the audience. The cognoscenti applauded every nuance of this subtle ballad, which was supremely executed. Much more rapturously received was the final piece, Vander’s steaming hot ‘Day after Day’. Graillier and the brass section in particular, enhanced this to a new peak. I have always believed that Christian Vander prefers not to have a saxophone in his jazz ensembles because he fears they can never match Coltrane’s adeptness. Whilst that may well be true, the added timbral colours of the sax brought a radiant glow to the audience and new life to an amazing tune. The Simon Goubert Quintet’s performance tonight was quite stirring, but the power of ‘Day after Day’ was just magnificent.,/p>

A mere fifteen minutes later Stella returned to announce the Bataclan concerts and usher in the Christian Vander Trio. They began with Coltrane’s ‘Brazilia’ and right from the start the forty-five year old drummer proved he had lost none of his brilliance over the years. Emmanuel Borghi on piano and Philippe Dardelle soon took a break while Christian toured his red Gretsch drum kit. Perched on the edge of his stool and prowling around the cymbals with lightning dexterity, tossing his leonic mane in shear joy, he clearly exulted in this title. After this short solo, Borghi concisely restated the theme and ‘Brazilia’ was consummated. Before the smoky air had stopped vibrating, they resumed with ‘The Coaster’ (a composition by Grachan Moncur III). As Vander says, “It’s music that requests, and not the musician that gives”, this piece requires no embellishment and just a faithful performance. The Trio Vander furnished this and moved on to another John Coltrane opus ‘Giant Steps’ which was rather brief, with no solos tonight.

The next tune was one from their repertoire that I have admired for several years now but never been able to identify correctly until I bought the Trio’s latest album (’65!’ – Seventh A X). ‘Lonnie’s Lament’, I think I can recall better performances of this from the summer of 1991 but every rendition of it brings new discoveries as the three musicians are all allowed to stretch out and wallow in the glorious melody. After that splendid homage to Coltrane, Emmanuel Borghi’s composition ‘Tensions’ was another highlight of the show. Energetic drumming gelled with rapid-fire crescendos from Borghi’s darting digits. The Trio then relaxed briefly before fire-storming the club with Vander’s own ’65! (25 Octobre 1993)’. They concluded the concert with one of Pharoah Sander’s gems ‘Doktor Pitt’ a joyous work that succinctly summed up the evening and seemed to have brought us full circle to the mood created by The Patrick Gauthier Septet’s opener. Happy Birthday Seventh, we had a great party.


LES VOIX DE MAGMA

GROUPS & ORCHESTRAS

Sono Magazine – August 1992

A creation for choir and orchestra based around some of the themes from the repertoire of Magma, Offering and unreleased compositions.

Christian Vander has been composing for more than twenty years now. Throughout Magma, Offering, or the solo album from 1989 ‘To Love’. One constant appears: The Voice, the prime instrument, and his private vehicle of lyrical emotion.  From the version of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ performed with a choir at the Sygma (Bordeaux) in 1973, to the vocal arrangements of ‘Swans and Crows’ in the present repertoire of Offering, via the songs ‘To Love’ and ‘The night we died’, this predominance is evident. The principal purpose of the ‘Voices of Magma’ creation is two-fold. On one hand, is the urge to push forward the predominantly ‘choral’ aspect of Christian Vander’s work through a selection of his compositions which fit a musical formula (Magma, Offering) yet to an extent calling on unreleased material, and with the specific aim of Christian Vander to re-orchestrate these themes for a choir of eleven singers / musicians.

On the other hand, it provides a glimpse for the public, in just one concert, of the various directions adopted by Christian Vander in the course of different eras and musical formats (Magma in their big formation, Magma the quartet, Offering and the solo experience).

Seventh Records, producer and publisher of the whole Magma catalogue (reissued on CD since 1989) as well as the recent works of Christian Vander, releases a live digital recording on CD in the autumn of 1992. As a sequel to the two presentations for the festivals Jazz au Coeur d’Orb and Jazz en Baie which enjoyed the exclusivity of this creation in the summer of 1992, this show was suggested to various European organisers for the month of September and some of them quickly took options for the 1992/1993 season.

For this creation, Christian Vander surrounded himself with musicians who took part in the Magma adventure, certain musicians from the current Offering band, and with musicians who took part in the exceptional reformation of Magma in the autumn of 1990.

“Les Voix” Concert 1992 Douarnenez (AKT I)

Frédéric Soupa (Batteur Magazine 3-93)

Apart from the reissue on CD of almost all the Magma back catalogue, and their various offshoots, nothing new (actually by Magma) has seen the light of day since the ‘Merci’ album was recorded in 1984.

Focused on equally passionate musical projects, like Offering, his own jazz trio, or the album by Stella Vander, Christian Vander seemed to have almost buried the realms of Kobaïa to the great consternation of his fans. Very happily, that was not true, as this recent album recorded last summer at the Jazz en Bale festival in Douarnenez testifies. It is not a case of a new Magma in gestation, but rather a retrospective view of the epic created by the rearrangement of part of the repertoire. At the core of the plan is one constant: the omnipresence and singular character of the use of the Voice in Magma for the last twenty years.

So Christian Vander has purified the instrumentation (piano, keyboards, double bass, and rare interventions of drums – which sadly, hardly figure on the album) at the expense of the acoustics of the Voice. The result is gripping, airy and profound. This incantatory chorale imposes an escalating series of “standards” by Magma (‘Ëmëhntëht-Rê’, ‘C’est pour nous’, an extract from ‘Zëss’ and of ‘Wurdah Ïtah’) in versions which are both powerful and pure gospel. My only regret? The fact that ‘Mekanïk’ was not included on the CD and the duration (45 min) is a little short. A record to be played over and over, all the same!


DIDIER LOCKWOOD INTERVIEW

Michel Bourre (Rock et Folk #122 – February 1977)

FC:     “There are some people in France, who it is possible to compare, without being pretentious, to those who worked with Miles Davis in the States. The initial nucleus assembled around Christian Vander has burst into full fruit from little seeds. The leader, Vander has had the courage to effect a rupture in the Anglo-Saxon dominance. Since then, some of the previously unknown people have been accepted. After seven years of Magma, there existed in France a completely original, musical movement, which developed itself into many different facets. Magma had progressed from clubs of three hundred people, to halls holding two thousand. Zao, from three hundred to a thousand, even in places like Chambéry or Reims. We have cleared the ground, now we grow old, but the young are ready to relieve us. There will soon be some very strong bands in France.”

That was François Cahen talking at a bar in the Les Halles district of Paris. On the other side of the road, the equipment of ZAO is installed in the basement of an antique shop, which has been transformed into a rehearsal room. The conversation continued on the fusion between the Anglo-Saxon music (jazz, rock) and our own European cultural inheritance, like the pillaging of treasures, the old civilizations and their rhythms based on the sun.

Alongside me, Didier Lockwood finishes eating. He is only twenty years old, but the two and a half years spent on the road with Magma were enough to make him recognizable as one of the bright hopes of this European sorcery. The start of his dazzling career is in fact the perfect example of what Francois Cahen was saying. He took part on the most recent ZAO album (‘Kawana’), with whom he goes on tour, on the latest CLEARLIGHT record (‘Les Contes du Singe Fou’) and is soon to release two albums shot full of his superb bowmanship: The first is called ‘Synthesis’ and assembles a group (also named Synthesis) of twenty-five French musicians which include André Ceccarelli, François Jeanneau, Bob Borowski and so on… The other also promises a lot, since besides Didier and his brother Francis (on piano), he is joined by Kirt Rust (the drummer from Weidorje), Patrick Gauthier on keyboards, and Bunny Brunel, the electric bass player from Joachim Kuhn’s group… But how has he been able to arrive there so quickly?

DL:     “I started to play the violin at six years of age. I studied classical music at the Calais Conservatory, where my father is rightly professor of violin. But I was not really passionate about music until I was fourteen years old. I was there for six months with my arm in plaster, I reflected a lot, and I began to catch a glimpse of music in a new light. Since then I have only wanted to make music. At that time, I was listening to Zappa and the ‘King Kong’ album that Ponty made with him. I got my award from the Calais Conservatory, and at fifteen years old I formed a group with my brother who was playing piano, he had been engrossed in Coltrane since the age of eleven. That was called ABRACADABRA, and in it we had the old blokes from ALICE. We lived in Vallauris, in a villa we had been given by a patron. We got salaries from him; this was heaven. After that, I did some things with ZOO at Valbonne, and I went back to normal music school in Paris. I was taking some lesson in harmony and piano, I played a little trumpet, but above all it was to improve my violin technique a lot. Paris was the gland, I was going to the Gibus, trying to penetrate into this job, but already the sharks were demoralizing me. Then the course of action was to tour with some variety singers on the south coast. That was a catastrophe, wasteful… The entire world went to Paris, except my brother and I. I was at the big open air Festival in Antibes, and I had a premonition that something would happen. One evening I was eating in a restaurant, and John McLaughlin was there at a neighbouring table. I asked to play with his group, and the same evening we had a monstrous jam in the studio at Antibes: there was McLaughlin, Michael Walden, the violin quartet, my brother, myself; the managers of Mahavishnu Orchestra… This was fabulous; it released a terrific urge. Fifteen days later, I went to see Magma in concert in Nice. I met Christian Vander, and he telephoned me a short while later to ask me to join his group. I stayed two and a half years with Magma.”

MB:     Why did you leave?

DL:     “Lets say that there were some misunderstandings, some discomfort. Personal mainly, but that was occasionally reflecting on the music. This took a long while to break down. Last spring, I sent a letter to Christian to say that I was leaving the group. I’d had a laugh, but got the impression it was spoilt for me. And then, for the concerts that summer (Le Castellet, Copenhagen, Séte…) Christian desperately needed to temporarily reform the group. This was great, because we all knew that this was the end, we were free, and we were full of energy. Afterwards Jannick Top arrived, and I wanted to stay because I really craved to play alongside him. He represents a sort of musical ideal. The Machine… This lasted two months, and then, lamentably, it broke down.”

MB:     Why?

DL:     ‘Musical divergences between Christian and Jannick There was one who wanted to go faster than the other. I believe that one was lacking in patience, because the other was very ill. But the music was so harsh that one was beginning to get scared that they would lose a certain part of the public. This was a shame, because at the same time it was all very liberated.”

MB:     Which concerts by Magma bring you the best memories?

DL:     “There was a superb one in Lille towards the beginning, and then the concerts at the Tavern of the Olympia where we recorded the ‘Live’ album. It was all falling into place at that time. And those from the summer of 1976.”

MB:     When did you begin to perform with ZAO?

DL:     “Last summer, in Jeff Seffer’s house in Bourgogne. At the start he was only thinking to record ‘Kawana’. I planned to leave Magma after the concerts at the Renaissance Théâtre in Paris.”

There followed a long discussion on rock-critics (!?), jazz-rock (what is it? What’s the point of labels!), the show versus the music, where I learnt that Didier spent two years in secondary schools just listening to records.

DL:     ‘My influences are really quite general. They range from Bartok and Stravinsky to Hendrix, passing by Stéphane Grappelli. I play the third album by SOFT MACHINE a lot, in bursts. But I believe that actually the person who I feel has been the most influential is Jannick Top; in his manner of thinking about music, and life… That’s what interests me; it is the flow, the communication. Hendrix was not an extraordinary guitar technician, but he was a medium, a creator. Like Coltrane, Some people play in a manner so personal that there is no one like them. The same goes for McLaughlin, he owes some things to Hendrix, he acknowledges that himself. Besides, McLaughlin is fantastic himself. When he was playing in Orange it was magic. He was truly giving, and he laid down a fabulous track. Before this it was a closed stage, nothing was passing him, he was playing for the people and the barriers were collapsing. For me, this was the arrival of my love for the stage, from that impression of leading the audience by the hand. In those moments there, he was able to lead them wherever he wanted, it was crazy…”

MB:     That’s a bit dangerous, is it not?

DL:     “Yes, for sure. It needs a vision, not too ugly, that has been thought through until the end.”


VANDER / TOP / BLASQUIZ / GARBER

“SONS” Document 1973 (AKT II)

Frédéric Soupa – Batteur Magazine 3-93

‘Sons’ (subtitled “Nëhèh’), dating from 1973 appears on the new label AKT, which is essentially dedicated to “memorable” concerts and to the sound archives of Magma and it’s nebula. On this we discover Vander, Top, Blasquiz and Garber, bound in an alchemy lasting seventy minutes, so over the top, that one does not where these four mutants are coming from. Totally improvised and captured, the night following the recording of ‘Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’, ‘Sons’ is a document so totally impenetrable that it exists for those who wish to immerse themselves in the Magmaïenne agony of the first era. Anecdotic or pertinent: It’s for you to judge!


ZAO

Z=7L (Musea FGBG 4081 .AR)

Dear readers, you will be aware from Ork Alarm! #12 how much I cherish this group, you will not be surprised therefore that I award ‘Z=7L’ with a ***** grade. Musea are obviously saving any further bonus material for the promised live Zao albums, which makes this CD a little short at only 36 minutes, but this was their first album and bearing in mind the poor quality of vinyl that was available to record companies in 1973 (due to the oil crisis) it was common in those days for albums to be kept short in order to avoid further degradation of the music. Surprisingly however, I thought that the re-mastering for this CD made it sound a little ‘tinny’ and it seems to lack some of the richness of the original Vertigo LP release. However, the music itself is always more important than the eternal CD vs. LP debate, and on this album the music does not merely shine – it devastates. From the initial blast of Mauricia Platon’s vocals on ‘Marochsek’ through to Joël Dugrenot’s superb bass work on ‘Satanyia’ all the most evocative qualities of Magma’s first three albums are glorified in this, ZAO’s first recording.

When Giorgio Gomelsky took over the management of Magma in 1972, he steered them away from a collective policy and this led to Vander taking control of their musical destiny. François Cahen and Yochk’o Seffer gradually became frustrated and Seffer left the band after the Chateauvallon festival in August 1972. Cahen stayed until November. Then Francois and Yochk’o recruited Jean-My Truong, Dugrenot, Ms Platon (from the French variety scene) and eventually violinist Jean-Yves Rigaud. The violin was crucial to Seffer’s plans. After seven months rehearsals and development while working as backing musicians for some popular variety singers, the album was recorded in seven days in August 1973. The results are not a mere copy of Magma, rather a brilliant shooting star streaking far out into an alternate universe. If you don’t buy this CD, I’ll shoot you!


SIMON GOUBERT

Couleurs de peaux (Seventh A XII)

Born in Rennes in 1960, Simon Goubert began studying the piano at the age of three. He discovered a second hand drum kit on sale in his hometown in February 1970, it turned out to be Kenny Clarke’s kit. He explored the world of percussion, first at the Rennes conservatory of music, then, early in 1976 with Sylvio Gualda, at the Conservatory of Versailles. While there he studied harmony. He then got his first job as a percussionist with the polyphonic ensemble of ORTF under the management of Charles Ravier.

But above all, he often spent his nights in jazz clubs, notably the Riverbop in Paris, where he learnt his trade thanks to the kindness of Aldo Romano, Jacques Thollot, Bernard Lubat and Christian Vander. In 1979/1980, he played in a quartet made up of guitarist Philippe Petit, organist Emmanuel Bex and bassist Dominique Lemerle.

In 1981, he created his first ensemble with Dominique Lemerle and tenor saxophonist Eric Barret. Then the following year, he founded, with saxophonist Arrigo Lorenzi and pianist Jean Claude Lubin, the jazz group SPIRAL, who played in the most pure tradition of Coltrane. In parallel with this, from the start of 1982, up to 1987, he worked on keyboards in Christian Vander’s group OFFERING.

His growing reputation was made while he worked in company with, amongst others, Steve Grossman, Michel Graillier, Alby Cullaz, Francis Lockwood, Kim Parker, Sonny Fortune, Andy Laverne, René Urtreger, Alain Jean­-Marie, Michel Benita, Rick Margita, Christian Escoude, Riccardo Del Fra, Turk Mauro, Harold Danko, Joachim Kühn, Jean François Jenny Clarke…

In 1987, Simon Goubert formed his sextet that in 1989 transformed into a quintet. In 1991, he recorded his first album ‘Haiti’ with: Jean Michel Couchet, Laurent Fickelson, Stéphane Persiani, and special guest Steve Grossman. On the 18th of October 1993 he released his new album ‘Couleurs de peaux’.

Goubert chose this suite of pieces because they were all written by jazz drummers that he admires. For too long Simon has been regarded by many as just another of Vander’s many keyboard players. Even the first album ‘Haiti’ failed to totally dispel that myth – it was described by one English reviewer as “Coltrane out-takes”. The choice of material on the second album however allows him to stretch out beyond merely parading his knowledge of Elvin Jones’ licks; here he truly explores the different colours and textures of the skins. The stand-out item in this handsome collection is Vander’s ‘Day by Day’ but all the tracks that follow it on this 69 minute long CD are worth checking out. You might even surprise yourself and discover that you do like jazz after all! Recorded at the Uniwerïa Zekt studio at the end of July ’93 direct to 2 track DAT by Francis Linon.


PATRICK GAUTHIER

Sur Les Flots Verticaux (Seventh A XI)

Patrick was born in Paris on the 27th February 1953. After studying philosophy at the faculty of Nanterre, under the tutelage of thinkers like Gilles Deleuze and Jean François Lyotard, he decided to dedicate himself to music. Inline with his piano apprenticeship and the discovery of the baroque masters and the early impressionists, he studied orchestration and classical harmony with the composer Roland Creuse. His first contact with the electro-­acoustic world came with the beginnings of analogue to digital converters, synthesisers and then the computer music which he generally uses today (Macintosh programming).

On stage, he participated in the Magma adventure; today he is still at Christian Vander’s side, where he can be found in the LES VOIX DE MAGMA formation. He also worked in ALIEN, the formation with three pianos that reunited Benoît Widemann, Jean-Pierre Fouquey, Dominique Bertram (on bass) and Christian Vander. As well as that he had the pleasure of playing with Aldo Romano.  He was also very close to Richard Pinhas, since the beginning of his group HELDON, and again today he participates in various different musical experiences with Pinhas. Gauthier has composed for, and recorded with, Jacques Higelin, even accompanying him on stage. In 1981, his first album ‘Bébé Godzilla’ benefited from a warm reception. In 1976 he played with Bernard Paganotti in WEIDORJE. And now he has recorded (with Bernard’s son, Antoine Paganotti) his new album: ‘Sur les flots verticaux’.

This is an absolute masterpiece of joyous celebration! Not since I first heard Michael Rother’s ‘Flammende Herzen’ have I played an album continuously, delving ever deeper into the complexities of marvellous harmonies and exquisite melodies. At first, I was a little shocked by the overt commerciality of this one, equating it immediately to mid-70′s Weather Report (The final cut is a tribute to Joe Zawinul featuring Stella Vander). But I soon got totally hooked by it’s Zeuhl spirit, truly a work of Love and Harmony.

Could Patrick’s study of the mysterious Martenot waveforms have some bearing on it? It’s a fascinating CD, and one of the first things I wanted to do as soon as I read the accompanying booklet with all the lyrics, was to decode ‘Eleutheren’, wondering if it would hark back to Patrick’s college days?

Now I know that the next page will not make a lot of sense, but if you listen to this track, it’s clear that the lyrics, as presented below, are what the three vocalists are actually singing. The “translation” was done simply to make the Greek letters pronounceable, using computer jiggery-pokery. So, pop down to Tower Records, buy the album, put on some red shoes, and explore….

ELEUTHEREN

Patrick Gauthier

Eleuqeren, ajiknete  To on, to meon    qeoV en ti
En to daimon         en to jusiV       qeoV en ti
peri te jusiV                            en panta rei
                     NomoV ton jusiV   basileoV
En to dendron        en to einai
LiqoV on ti          isoVestin         peri te jusiV
                     en to jusiV       en to einai
En qalassan          Ouden estin       ouden estin
ouranon ti           Ouden estin
en panta reV                           DaimonoV
qeoV en ti           To paradoVoV      qeoV en ti
Daimon estin         Alon tou logoV    en jusiV

PolutropoV           Dunamin           to on esti
QeoV en ti           enantia           ouden esti
ajiketoV             arkuoV
en panta reV         iokuoV            Ouden to On esti

© Patrick Gautier 1993


OFFERING: A FIÏÈH

(Seventh A IX)

Jim Ross

Certain musicians seem to live, eat and breathe music to such an extent that their every waking hour is spent writing, playing and recording it. Christian Vander is, I believe, such a musician, and ‘A Fiïèh’ represents just part of his continual musical genius. The tracks are his ideas, experiments, created from intuition, instinct and spontaneity rather than record company pressure. Christian Vander has proved yet again that you don’t need masses of hard/software to make good music.

As expected the range of musical styles is vast, from minimalist to Neo-classical, but the album in no way sounds disjointed. The charm and beauty of these compositions takes the listener on a voyage through the mind of one of the most individual and creative musicians working at present. If you enjoy adventurous new music, but are not yet acquainted with Offering, then this album is the perfect starting point.


Magma – Before ‘M.D.K.’

Ian McDonald

Early in 1973, Giorgio Gomelsky, one time manager / producer / artistic director of a crucial chunk of the British rock-scene, at the time performing the same pioneering service for France, fixed me with a piercing gaze and growled: “It is impossible to understand the French scene without first understanding May ’68″. Which is to say that Revolutionary Socialism was even more dominant in shaping the development of rock in France than it was in Germany. In the early seventies, the French gig circuit was as lacking in centralization and co-ordination as the German one was. Although managers were perfectly legal in France, the growth of the rock scene had been actively thwarted by the legislation of Pompidou’s government, and most bands found themselves arranging their own venues and publicity from day to day.

There were two main reasons for this:
First, the failure of Andre Mairaux’s “Maisons de Culture” programme to provide facilities for the young audience.
Second, the fact that the government only ever granted licences for fifteen agencies, all of which were controlled by half-a-dozen bourgeois concerns. More than half of the official venues and promotional machinery in the country were in the hands of a single middle-class business run by the powerful Marouani family. With the establishment having an unbreakable grip on the status quo of French entertainment, the only choice for musicians not willing to sacrifice their scruples and play the “bals” (Discotheques) for “les minets” (teenyboppers) seemed to be to set up an alternative underground circuit which is where Gomelsky’s interest in France comes in.

With Bob Benamou, manager of the countries number two group, GONG, Gomeisky opened up a “parallel” circuit of nearly 300 small capacity (2400) gigs, thirty of them in Paris alone, co-ordinated from an unofficial agency run jointly by both men. A band playing this circuit had to work pretty hard (at least twenty gigs a month, every month), but, with a guaranteed minimum of 1500 francs per venue, they were supposedly certain of a measure of financial security. The two best known groups in the country were Gong and Magma (a very freaky ensemble – the most powerful and individual group France has yet produced).

Gong – a congregation of various nationalities and states of mind which occupied the position of Favourite Head Band for France in the same way that Amon Duul II did for Germany, and Hawkwind for England. Their ‘Radio Gnome’ album demonstrated them to be by far the best of this trio. Behind Allen’s band lay a whimsical mythology based on “les emissions de la planète Gong”, vaguely identified with Selene (Goddess Of The Moon) and the Female Principle. Their close friends and touring partners, Magma, likewise have a planetary mythology centring on the Nitzschean world of Kobala and the Masculine Principle; they therefore produced virile, rather fascistic music which was one third propaganda, one third posturing, and one third scintillating jazz rock of a unique intensity.

In their first three years, led by Christian Vander (who was tutored by Elvin Jones) they released two albums in France, the first of which was reviewed in New Musical Express (December 30, 1972), the second, ’1001 Degrees Centigrades’ (the temperature, according to Magma, at which the universe melts), winning the Grand Prix Du Disque in its class for 1972. Neither record can fairly be said to be a success, despite the rapturous approval of French audiences: the Kobaïan mythology is too intrusive and, on ’1001′, it stultifies the music to a point where it becomes conceptually brilliant but intolerable to listen to. Vander, pianist François Cahen, and superb soprano saxophonist Teddy Lasry wrote most of the material and Magma’s best moments from these releases can be heard in ‘Kobaïa’ and ‘Sckxyss’ on the first album.

Towards the end of 1972, following a self immolating tour with a twenty voice choir, Magma ran out of funds and broke up. Cahen went on to found a new group (ZAO). Lasry settled down as a session musician. But the fanatical energy of Christian Vander could not be suppressed and he reformed Magma as a four piece, in which form, in January 1973 they completed a third album: ‘Mekanïk Kommandöh’, a compressed version of their five hour live set, which was eventually released sixteen years later… The first version had been rejected by Virgin Records as insufficiently commercial, three months later a slightly different line-up (now with Jannick Top on bass) re-recorded the album. This version of ‘M.D.K.’ was subsequently released by A&M records in December ’73. Reports of Magma’s live performances outstripped one’s wildest imagination: their theatrics, which had been an integral part of their sets, were said to completely eclipse those of Bowie and Alice Cooper, and it was standard practise for a Magma concert to end in several hours of political debate between Vander and the audience. Needless to say, you had to see them.


CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO

65! (Seventh A X)

First of all, I don’t think I could fairly review this album. I enjoy Vander’s jazz productions a lot but I’m not a great jazz fan. Therefore I won’t try to bamboozle you with snappy comparisons between the renditions on this album and the originals, which the trio are clearly paying homage to. Over the last three years I have heard from many aficionados of Vander’s music, who are principally Magma fans that respect whatever musical style Christian chooses to follow, yet deep down a major part of what they really want to hear is that fantastic drumming. Another popular facet of Vander’s music is the strong emphasis on voice – reflected in Magma, Offering and obviously Les Voix de Magma. Thirdly there is the complex structural, organisational quality and use of harmony that makes all his output so unique and figures in everything he does (including ALIEN and FUSION). Everyone seems to admire his music at least partially for one of these reasons. And then there are the pure jazz freaks too. I’m sure many of those cherish the same aspects of Christian’s various formations, but they will also be aware of many qualities, which would remain undetectable to me.

This particular album is really not intended for the same market as a Magma album (but then I don’t presume for one moment that Christian cares to consider his music in such simplistic commercial terms). In concert, a minority element of the audience is there to witness that drum-work, and the trio format gives Christian the ideal opportunity to embellish almost every piece with a solo. On record however, the material is sometimes presented in a more concise form with less room for drum solos. As with the ‘Jour Après Jour’ album, there are some spectacular tracks on ’65!’, in particular I am deeply attached to ‘Lonnie’s Lament’ and ‘Tensions’. But in essence there is only one composition by Vander, two cuts of the title track ’65!’. The album is most definitely a team effort with Emmanuel Borghi and Philippe Dardelle taking joint responsibility.

Overall then it certainly should interest a wide cross-section of the jazz buying public, but die-hard Magma fans may prefer to witness the trio in concert first… and then get ’65!’ as a memento.

Christian Vander Trio
04-11-93 Au duc des Lombards, Paris
05-11-93 Au duc des Lombards, Paris
06-11-93 Au duc des Lombards, Paris
01-12-93 Sunset, Paris
02-12-93 Sunset, Paris
03-12-93 Sunset, Paris
04-12-93 Sunset, Paris


ORK! UPDATE

CONCERTS

SEVENTH RECORDS - Seventh Anniversary Concerts
“Tambours, trompettes et tout le bataclan” (5-hour concerts, 6 groups each night)

21-01-94      Bataclan, Paris (50, bld Voltaire, Paris)
22-01-94      Bataclan, Paris
23-01-94      Bataclan, Paris

CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO

28-01-94      Olivet (near Orléans)

LES VOIX DE MAGMA

05-02-94      Centre Culturel, Bobigny

CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO

27-10-93      Cafe des Anges, 47 rue Krutenau, Strasbourg
28-10-93      Cafe des Anges,
30-10-93      Les Trinitaires, 10 rue des Trinitaires, Metz

The Seventh Records Seventh anniversary concerts have been confirmed for the Bataclan in January, the event will be known as “Tambourines, trumpets and everything”. We understand that Magma (i.e. the electric ensemble) will not be performing, but Christian has chosen to showcase: LES VOIX DE MAGMA, OFFERING. CHRISTIAN VANDER TRIO, STELLA VANDER, SIMON GOUBERT QUINTET & PATRICK GAUTHIER SEPTET.

RICHARD PINHAS

The Richard Pinhas concert at the Shaw Théâtre, London on the 25th September 1993 was an exhibition of his Fripp-like guitar virtuosity. John Livengood supplied assistance by directing the computers and tweaking the mix and repetition rates for the digital sequences, but in the main, the show consisted of a series of guitar solos at maximum overdrive. In the final twenty minutes Richard really let rip and Livengood’s digital consort got funky, in a “Heldonesque boogie” sort of way that was a perfect finale. Expect the video to be available from Future Age Music Express in a month or two.

RECOMMENDED MAGACORPS

Recommended Megacorp (the mail order company) have moved. One of the releases planned for later this year is the reissue of ZNR’s marvellous album ‘Barricades 3′ (ReR ZNR 1). They have also got PAL copies of Christian Vander’s video ‘Un Homme une batterie’

LARD FREE – HELDON

Gilbert Artrnan’s LARD FREE album ‘I’m around about midnight’ is available now as a CD on the Spalax label. Ultima Thule say “The rarest Lard Free, with Richard Pinhas. Sounds like Heldon with a bit of Urban Sax and systems music mixed in. Another classic!” As well as this, Ultima Thule have got the long awaited HELDON album ‘Agneta Nilsson’ on CD (Spalax again) but be warned that this release is taken direct from a vinyl record. “Classic heavy Heldon, with great space treks, mellotron, guitars and synths”.

STELLA VANDER

Happy Birthday to Stella Vander on the 12th of December.

ZABU

Lucien Zabuski (nicknamed “ZABU”) was the original vocalist with Magma prior to Klaus Blasquiz. Initially a straightforward rock and roller, after many years in R’n'R/psychedelic/progressive ensembles he cut a couple of albums that are highly collectable for their curiosity value alone. His first solo album ‘My Coffin’s Ready’ exhibits his blues influences with some glorious vocals and fine musicianship for that genre. It was recorded for Laurent Thibault’s Thélème label at the Château d’Hérouville in January 1972 with the help of his friends Teddy Lasry, Francis Moze, Jeff (Yochk’o) Seffer and Christian Vander on some tracks. The second album was recorded in 1975 with a different collection of friends for Sonopresse. ‘Zabu & Co’ was eventually released in 1976 and featured Richard Raux and Francis Moze, but it was an uninspiring R’n'R release. Zabu’s next venture was a Reggae album with Lee Perry producing, but this Jamaican project was aborted. Then at the end of the seventies he released some reggae singles under the name IMMIGRATION ACT. The early eighties saw Zabu working as a backing singer on many sessions at Thibault’s studio. At last Musea have reissued the first album on a picture CD: ‘My Coffin’s Ready’ (Musea FGBG 4088). As with their reissue of Laurent Thibault’s solo album, the CD comes with an extremely informative booklet, detailing (in English) the progression of Christian Vander’s groups. From his early excursions with Paganotti in a band called THE CHINESE, through a brief period as Charlotte Leslie’s backing group, swiftly becoming THE CARNABY STREET SWINGERS (a pseudo-English pop group, who sang in an early form of Kobaïan!). As the Kobaïan language matured, they evolved into MAGMA…. Meanwhile Zabu is still performing in Paris with Laurent Thibault in a line-up called THE BLACKOIDS OF DR. MEUR, and hopes to record another solo album this year.

MUSEA RELEASES

I still have not seen these in the shops, but apparently the catalogue numbers for the following Musea CD releases are as follows: UNIWERÏA ZEKT ‘The Unnamables’ FGBG 4086, VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘Puissance 13+2′ FGBG 4087, UNIWERÏA ZEKT, MAGMA, ZABU, ERGO SUM, etc ‘BOX THELEME’ FGBG 6001.

SIMON GOUBERT

The Simon Goubert Quintet have gigs in Meaux on the third of December, and at the Sunset in Paris on the 24th and 25th of November.

SEVENTH DELAY

Still no news on why the reissue on CD of MAGMA ‘Retrospektïw I et II’ has been delayed again, but I assume Seventh Records want to tie the release in with a major concert.

METABOLIST

METABOLIST (the early 80′s British band who were heavily influenced by Magma and Can) expect to be able to announce a reissue on CD quite soon.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

The SONO magazine article about the Christopher Columbus spectacular in Reims (mentioned in Ork Alarm! #16) was in SONO #170.

ASTRALASIA

For trivia buffs: “Hippy-dippy space rockers” ASTRALASIA have a new CD called ‘Pitched up at the edge of reality’ on Magick Eye records (eye cd/lp 4) which includes a crude sample from the Vander/Top piece ‘Soleil d’Ork (Ork’ Sun)’. The ambient-techno-pop style of the album should deter most of you from purchasing this curiosity. I don’t expect that Astralasia will notice the drop in sales, because Ork Alarm! thinks the album suffers from too much commercial potential. Apparently the Vander/Top track does not feature on the limited edition vinyl version of the album. This ritual dance by the sun-worshipping people of the planet Ork, invented & composed by Jannick Top, also features (entitled ‘Le Hatura’) on an album, which the French group SPEED LIMIT recorded in 1976 (presumably prior to the ‘Üdü Wüdü’ recording). Speed Limit circa 1976 included Jannick (bass & vocals), Yochk’o Seffer and J-L Bucchi (keyboards). The Speed Limit version is 33 seconds longer (4:23) than the Magma version, and the version of this song on the Jannick Top / Serge Perathoner album ‘Music Film Scoring’ is longer still at 5 minutes 25 seconds, this 1990 version was entitled ‘Ork’s Sun’. On the ASTRALASIA album it has been re-titled again as ‘Unveria Zect’ (sic) but the most insulting part of the production is that the song is credited to Swordfish and Hayne – the bands programmers. Presumably Jannick’s royalty cheque is in the post? ‘Music Film Scoring’ (Baillemont CD 918) is available from Baillemont Productions Distribution. The second album by Speed Limit ’1976′ (RCA FPL1 0101) was deleted long ago.

LES GENIES DU ROCK

The October 1993 issue of the French magazine LES GENIES DU ROCK contains an excellent CD with extracts from MAGMA and ART ZOYD albums.

COVER BAND

LUCA PIGHI, would like to form a “Zeuhl” group, with the additional possibility of performing cover versions. He needs help with obtaining transcriptions and musical scores for this music. ZUKUNFT and DON’T DIE have managed it and I hear that there was a German group called GESTALT that once played covers of Magma songs, anyway this is what Luca has to say: “I’d like to form a group with a strong Magma-Univers Zero-Art Zoyd approach, with an almost completely acoustic line-up (sax, trumpet, trombone, electric bass and – of course – drums). The idea is the ‘usual’ mixture of heavily perverted themes, strange harmonies, continuously changing rhythms and so on. It would also be nice to play ‘covers’ of these groups, does anyone know if the scores are available? In fact, it’s quite impossible to obtain a consistent score with a simple ‘listen to the record and write down the notes’ approach, (I haven’t got a Ph. D. in musicology!). Generally speaking, a lot of stuff (bootlegs, interviews, discographies..) is available, but at the same time if you want to go deeper into the structure of this music, it is so difficult… Apparently, nobody has ever studied this music starting from the scores, but I think this would be really enlightening. Can anyone help in any way?”

ANTENNE 2 TV

Two pieces from the Christian Vander Trio set at the New Morning on 25-10-93 were broadcast on Antenne 2 TV in France a few days later. The programme was called “Le Cercie de Minuit”, and although I have not yet seen a video of this, I suspect the tracks chosen were ‘The Coaster’ and ‘Giant Steps’, since I was sitting just behind the A2 TV crew when they recorded those. Actually, I think the crew arrived during ‘Brazilia’ and left during ‘Lonnie’s Lament’ but there could possibly be a third piece in the A2 TV archives.

DIDIER LOCKWOOD

Didier Lockwood has a new CD with the virtuoso jazz pianist Martial Solal.

MICHEL GRAILLIER

Michel Graillier recorded two CD’s in 1991, one with bebop pianist Alain Jean-Marie called ‘Portrait in Black and White’ (Musidisc) and the other is a Parisian solo concert from October 1991 entitled ‘Fairly’.

YOCHK’O SEFFER

Contrary to what we said in Ork Alarm! #16, YOCHK’O SEFFER has not released the PERCEPTION album ‘Mestari’ on CD. Please accept my grovelling apologies for the cock-up. What happened was, we heard that Seffer had a new album out on CD called ‘Mestari’, which is indeed true. But the review was based around the LP of that name, since the CD was hard to find in England. Then to my horror, when I tracked down a copy it turned out to be a completely new album with different musicians and so on. The Perception album however is so amazing that it will surely be re-released one day so please treat the “review” in #16 as advance promotion! The CD MESTARI: ‘Mestari’ (Gimini CD590131) will be reviewed in OA#18.

PAGA

The new album by PAGA GROUP is called ‘Gnosis’ (Bleu Citron BLC D 016) and features Eric Séva (sax), François Laizeau (drums), Bertrand Lajudie (keyboards), Bernard Paganotti (bass and vocals) and Klaus Blasquiz (vocals and percussion). This is technically the group’s second album (since ‘Paga’ is a solo album by Bernard Paganotti). It begins with a new version of ‘Urantia’, which has evolved into a blend of Weidorje and Weather Report. The new mid-section sounds to me a bit like a commercial sell-out, but I’m sure there are plenty who would disagree. Similarly, on other tracks there are times when I really wish Klaus would sing in French rather than English. His delivery is fine, but the lyrical content is not impressive. ‘Caravan’ is an example, my initial reaction was one of horror, but by the time the track had ended it had me hooked and I wanted to play it again immediately. On subsequent re-evaluations, while I find that the lyrics still grate, somehow the melody has subtly entwined me. Bernard’s bass playing has mellowed over the years yet he still retains a mesmerising tone. ‘Nicklaw’ is another piece that begins by echoing some of the softer aspects of Weather Report. Paganotti has a persistent talent for composing long themes that shift emphasis very slowly until they transmogrify into a Zeuhl sound, ‘Nicklaw’ is such a tune, which gradually melts away my prejudices. The final track ‘Zigzag’ written by Lajudie has none of the above alienations, I guess what I like about it is the vague influence of ZAO. On the whole, it’s a commercial success perhaps, but for me it’s a jazz-rock album that only reflects a fraction of the live Paga group sound.


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