Though La Buissonne may be familiar to ECM listeners as a relatively recent hub of recording excellence, the French studio has also been putting out releases under its own name since 1994. Originally distributed by Harmonia Mundi, since 2019 they have been handled by ECM itself. This double compilation album, a promotional freebie earned by buying more than two CDs from La Buissonne’s official Bandcamp store, gives us a broad cross-section of their commitment to variety, atmospheric integrity, and personal expression.
At the heart of it all is the piano. That most perennial of modern instruments is represented in a slew of distinct yet integrated solo recordings by Andy Emler, Stéphan Oliva, Jean-Sébastien Simonoviez, and Bruno Ruder. Each is an evocative postcard mailed from soul to soul. The most indelible are those by Oliva, whose “La traverse” reflects the passage of time without compromise, and Emler, whose “There is only one piano left in this world” opens the collection in multitracked brilliance, banging and plucking its way through an array of modes. Emler is, in fact, a defining voice of the label and finds himself well-represented here. Highlights of his oeuvre include two selections from the so-called MegaOctet project (including the tuba- and tabla-rich “Doctor Solo”) and his magical ETE Trio with bassist Claude Tchamitchian and drummer Eric Echampard. An excerpt from the latter’s “Elegances” follows every emotion to its logical end. A trio of a slightly different feather, led by Oliva with the same bassist and Jean-Pierre Jullian on drums, yields one of my favorite tracks from La Buissonne’s entire output: the title cut off 2009’s Stéréoscope. Another I would encourage you not to gloss over is that of Jean-Marc Foltz (clarinet, bass clarinet, percussion), Oliva (piano, percussion) and Bruno Chevillon (bass, percussion). Their 2007 album Soffio di Scelsi is an understated tour through rain-kissed foliage and haunting dreams. Neither can we ignore the Trio Zéphyr: three string players whose voices walk like compasses across maps of their own making. Of the two pieces represented, “Sauve tes ailes” evokes distant travel with minimal brushstrokes and titles one of La Buissonne’s finest hours.
Solo artists beyond the keyboard bring equally delectable flavor profiles to the proverbial table. Among them are those of guitarist Carlos Maza (his “Altas y bajas” is a mechanical wonder), late bassist Jean-François Jenny-Clark, and cellist Vincent Courtois, whose “Skins” and “So much water so close to home” are poems written on the backs of slow-moving mountains. Courtois, like Emler, is a touchstone presence in this ever-expanding catalog and has made deepest impressions in his trio with tenor saxophonists Robin Fincker and Daniel Erdmann. Their “Rita and the Mediums” is a segue into wider territories.
Upgrading to quartets brings us to the nocturnal cinematography of Jeremy Lirola’s “Art the last belief” (featuring the remarkable subtlety of drummer Nicolas Larmignat), the “Junction point” of Jean-Christophe Cholet (a sonic train that turns 90-degree corners with ease), the skronk-leaning vibe of Gilles Coronado’s “Wasted & Whirling,” Bruno Angelini’s rendition of the Paul Motian classic “Folk song for Rosie,” and the phenomenal techno-sphere of Caravaggio’s “Dennis Hopper Platz” (its tangle of streets crumbling beneath the weight of progress). Other moments to watch out for are “Breath,” which represents the collaboration between pianist Jean-Marie Machado and saxophonist Dave Liebman (a failproof combination, to be sure); “Leonor Theme,” which places Simonoviez alongside bassist Riccardo Del Fra; and “Three coins in the fountain,” a Kurt Weil-ish song performed by Bill Carrothers at the piano. An unreleased outtake of “Que sera sera” from that same session further illuminates his gift for harmony.
In addition to the broad variety of music, this collection is a tribute to La Buissonne’s unique sonic fingerprints, which forensically matches those of engineer Gérard de Haro. His vision is their vision, and our fortune by extension to be privy to its growth over the past quarter of a century.