Louis Sclavis: L’imparfait des langues (ECM 1954)

L'imparfait des langues

Louis Sclavis
L’imparfait des langues

Louis Sclavis clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone
Marc Baron alto saxophone
Paul Brousseau keyboards, sampling, electronics, guitar
Maxime Delpierre guitars
François Merville drums
Recorded April 2005, Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Executive Producer: Manfred Eicher

Ever the master of reinvention, Louis Sclavis is no stranger to challenge, and for this record he places himself in mostly unfamiliar territory. Long relationship with drummer François Merville aside, he allies himself with fresh talent: altoist Marc Baron, keyboardist Paul Brousseau, and electric guitarist Maxime Delpierre are all new to Sclavis and his sound-world. Listening to the music, however, one would hardly know it.

On the day this quintet was scheduled to make its concert debut, the death of Prince Rainier of Monaco forced the show’s cancellation. Undeterred, the ensemble traveled to Studios La Buissonne where, under the direction of engineer Gérard de Haro, magic was documented.

You’ve never really heard jazz bass clarinet until you’ve heard Sclavis play it, and one can always count on a range of expressions from the instrument whenever it’s featured in his playing. From the nightshade hues of “Premier imparfait” (reiterated later in the program with Brousseau’s electronic accompaniment) to the unbridled enthusiasm of “L’idée du dialecte,” he thrills in compositions nourished by equal parts control and abandon. On soprano saxophone, he stands out like a well-powdered acrobat, engaging Baron in sparkling contrasts above an irregular bottom end—likewise in “Le verbe” and “Story of a phrase,” which feel like James Joyce interpreted by John Zorn. The latter tune’s gritty electric guitar denouements draw attention to Delpierre’s contributions. His solo “Convocation” and wall-of-sound approach in “Archéologie” (notable also for Melville’s jaunty tread) reveal the Glenn Branca influences lurking within.

There is, of course, plenty of inspiration to go around, which finds purchase in stellar turns from all involved. The end effect proceeds diurnally between songs of shadow and season, seeming, like one track title has it, a “Dialogue with a dream.” Facet for facet, a cerebral gem.

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