Bernard Wystraëte & Group: Strawa no Sertão (CARMO/15)

Strawa no Sertão

Bernard Wystraëte & Group
Strawa no Sertão

Véronique Briel piano
Philippe Berrod clarinet
Jean-Yves Casala guitar
Frédéric Guérouet accordion
Philippe Macé vibraphone
Pierre Strauch cello
Bernard Wystraëte flutes, musical and artistic direction
Guest artist:
Egberto Gismonti piano
Recorded by Philippe Labroue  at May, June, and September 2001 at Studio Labroue in May, June, and September 2001, Paris, and at Auditorium Magne in February 2002, Paris
Edited by Bernard Wystraëte and Philippe Labroue
Co-produced by Egberto Gismonti
Release date: May 9, 2005

Bernard Wystraëte enters the CARMO fold with an album recorded under the banner of his self-titled group. Throughout his career, the composer and flutist has dipped into a variety of fonts, including classical and free jazz, but has always held a special place in his heart for music of the Andes. Naturally, his interests intersected with the work of Egberto Gismonti, from whose work this program is entirely drawn and whose blending of traditional and futuristic streams yields a powerful river on which to invite other vessels strong enough to handle its current. Thankfully, Wystraëte is not only able to navigate those waters, but populates their surrounding ecosystem with flora of his own.

Gismonti gives his sonic seal of approval by joining at the piano for some of his most enduring (re)creations. They also feature the accordion of Frédéric Guérouet, lending his painterly touch to “Sanfona” (named for that very instrument) and the lesser-heard “O Amor Que Move o Sol e Outras Estrelas” (Love that Moves the Sun and Other Stars), a wordless poem that leaps in slow motion toward completion. Even without Gismonti in the studio, his presence is felt in renditions of such evergreens as “Baião Malandro” (Trickster Baião), which adds a jazzier sleight of hand through the vibraphone of Philippe Macé, and the almighty “Karatê,” which blossoms in a version for Bb clarinet (Philippe Berrod), guitar (Jean-Yves Casala), cello (Pierre Strauch), and alto flute. It deserves highest place in the pantheon of Gismonti interpretations. The lead flute makes it flow with even more legato grace than when played on the piano, showing the interconnectedness of every movement like time-lapse photography. Another standout is the album’s title suite, a humorous musical fantasy in five parts that imagines Igor Stravinsky living in the arid lands of Northeastern Brazil. Though two movements of it were featured on Gismonti’s 1997 ECM album Meeting Point, as far as I know this is its only complete performance on record. Dedicated to Wystraëte, it combines rhythms from that same region with others from Rio de Janeiro, dappled with the Russian composer’s fondness for angularity and childlike wonder. Wystraëte goes a step further by improvising on the section called “Cherubin I,” playing the unaccompanied bass flute as if it were the only message that mattered in the moment. Each note is a tender mercy, a memory captured as if by camera, a fire that burns to be remembered.

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