Louis Sclavis Sextet: Les Violences de Rameau (ECM 1588)

Louis Sclavis Sextet
Les Violences de Rameau

Louis Sclavis clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone
Yves Robert trombone
Dominique Pifarély acoustic and electric violins
François Raulin piano, keyboards
Bruno Chevillon double-bass
Francis Lassus drums
Recorded September 1995 and January 1996 at Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Assisted by Roger Amoros
Produced by the Louis Sclavis Sextet

The result of a 1994 French Ministry of Culture commission, Les Violences de Rameau is Louis Sclavis’s incisive study of its eponymous French galantist, drawing mostly from the operas Les Boréades, Les Indes Galantes, and Dardanus. The assembled sextet spins a web of textures, due in no small part to Sclavis mainstays Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Bruno Chevillon (bass). Trombonist Yves Robert, last heard on Heiner Goebbels’s Ou bien le débarquement désastreux, also joins the fray, adding a pliant undercurrent to the jagged oratories of the aforementioned. It is Pifarély who throws us into the swing of things, contorting his instrument with gymnastic variations in “le diable et son train,” a harrumphing romp of glee and fortitude that puts flaming tongue in cheek in anticipation of the jester’s soprano in “de ce trait enchanté.” The exhilarating bass work and gypsy violin twists make this one the joy that it is. “«venez punir son injustice»” is a dance at court and acts as a frame tale for the rhythm section’s unbridled enthusiasms, though one can hardly ignore Sclavis’s enchanting clarinet and the cosmic circular breathing that speaks through it. A few spins of the wheel, by turns lethargic and blasting, land us in the electric violin’s flailing purview as “réponses à Gavotte” whirls with the eclecticism of a John Zorn collaboration. The glittering murmurs thereafter incapacitate us with secrets, each a sketch bolder than the last, only to get lost in a “post-mésotonique” world. This sonic equivalent of a half-developed photograph stumbles into some of the band’s most evocative conjurations and ends in paroxysm, psychedelic and granular.

The dear listener can ignore the title. The only violence to be found in this treatment walks a sarcastic path, alone and laughing to itself. A blast and a half!

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2 thoughts on “Louis Sclavis Sextet: Les Violences de Rameau (ECM 1588)

  1. Aside from the music, how ’bout that classic Barbara Wojirsch cover! I guess she’s retired…but I have to say that her work, most of all, set the standard for making ECM releases completely unmistakable and so easy to spot in the jazz record bin!

    1. I wanted so much to comment on the amazing cover, but felt like I couldn’t add anything worthwhile to what the cover already so boldly expresses. Wojirsch was the visual voice of ECM throughout her tenure.

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