Louis Sclavis Quintet: Rouge (ECM 1458)

 

 

Louis Sclavis Quintet
Rouge

Louis Sclavis clarinets, soprano saxophone
Dominique Pifarély violin
Bruno Chevillon bass
François Raulin piano, synthesizer
Christian Ville drums
Recorded September 1991 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Rouge is the magical label debut from clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Louis Sclavis, fronting here a group whose unity betrays an innocence honed to a galactic edge.

The album works as an organically connected unit, a suit of sights and sounds working in concert toward a vastness that outstrips them all. I cannot help, from the vantage point of retrospection, draw certain musical connections throughout this hour-long journey. First are the Edward Vasala-like touches of “Kali la nuit,” which like the enigmatic drummer paints a veritable field whose constellations are marked by the hoof-prints of wild horses. Tales of war and tradition intermingle until they become one unbreakable braid, contrasting visceral screams with old-school togetherness. One then encounters the specter of minimalism in “Reeves,” which seems fed through a kaleidoscope filled with shards of Philip Glass. These are merely an exploratory introduction to the intense electric violin of Dominique Pifarély, who stirs the drink until there’s only ice left in the glass. A heady piano trio fills out the backdrop all the while with a glittering appliqué of finely wrought support. “Les bouteilles” is perhaps the most eclectic. With head nods ranging from John Surman (in its exquisite attention to melodic and technical detail), Steve Reich (in the string playing), and Pat Metheney (in the exuberant close), it’s a fantastic ride.

These trite comparisons do nothing to rob Sclavis of his originality, for he clearly casts a shadow from a distinct angle of mind and experience. As in the dawn-drenched threads of “One,” he draws his craft through varicolored needles. His flair for the programmatic is also notable, as in “Nacht,” in which bassist Bruno Chevillon folds his alchemy into the batter of the evening sky, baked to a crisp by distant stars and glazed with a sugary free jazz concoction courtesy of drummer Christian Ville. “Reflet” is an even starrier affair, one of many celestial moments in the album’s remainder, all of which find rest in “Face Nord.” Like a rewound VHS tape, this highly cinematic track spools back through a climax, tragedy, romance, and into an innocent beginning. This we find fleshed forward in “Yes love,” the album’s last, stringing us across pianist François Raulin’s web of emotional power, innocence, and honesty—the tenets by which this groups lives, breathes, and plays.

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