2010 was a great year to see some of the most amazing jazz legends to grace the world’s stages, just like the year I saw Stan Getz and Miles Davis…
First and last were French quartet Kartet, playing near Paris (at Le Triton in Les Lilas in March, and at Montreuil’s Conservatoire in December). Kartet are known by jazz lovers in France, Finland, North America (the New York Times voted one of their albums as one of the “Best 10 discs of pop/jazz of the year”)…
I first saw Kartet as “supporting” band to the wonderful Paul Bley – Gary Peacock – Paul Motian Trio in Bondy in 1999. I had some sort of a bad flu, but had decided to go there anyway as it is not that often that you come across such a bill! I did not know about Kartet at the time, and arrived after they had begun their set. I suddenly did not feel my sore muscles and the fever I had, as I was immediately fascinated by the quality and originality of their music: no standards, a jazz of today for today, links to avant-garde and contemporary music (piano préparé…), but with a deep understanding of jazz though. Kartet and the Bley – Peacock – Motian Trio did cure my flu better than any medicine!
Kartet are Benoit Delbecq (piano), Guillaume Orti (saxophones), Hubert Dupont (double bass) and Chander Sardjoe (drums). They take their time to release records (about 4 in 20 years…), don’t tour that often, but at the same time are extremely active in other groups (many belonged to the Hask collective). If I’d have to choose one of their albums for the famous desert island, I would go for the wonderful Jyväskylä without any hesitation.
In Les Lilas, they played different pieces, many from their most recent album, The Bay Window, such as Chrysalide / Imago. Their music, as clever as ever, at the same time free but under control, offers magnificent dialogues between the instruments.
Same ingredients and successful approach in Montreuil, where they played – among others – Misterioso, Y, Dys (a reference to Dyslexia) from The Bay Window, then Gazzell, Binoculars, X and XY that should all appear on their oncoming album, D’hélices and the new and superb Corps Chromé. Masters of their craft!
Complete change of style with the Jim Hall Trio at Salle Pleyel, in April. I discovered Jim Hall through his work with Bill Evans. He is one of the very few jazz guitarists I love, his music flows and breathes like no other. Marc Ribot’s Trio was supposed to play and open the evening, but was unable to fly to Paris due to volcano’s ashes which were covering part of Europe.
Jim Hall, who has turned 80 this year, arrived walking slowly with a cane and spoke some French to the audience, introducing his partners Joey Baron on drums and Scott Colley on bass.
The 1st piece, Furnished Flats, allowed the Trio to set up and get into the right mood, and deliver excellent All the things you are and Beija-Flor, with its Brazilian character.
It was time for 3 improvisations, 1st, a duo guitar and drums (Baron mostly used brushes in place of sticks), 2nd, a duo guitar and bass. Both were very intimate. 3rd was a Trio, played slightly louder, Baron using brushes, sticks and even his hands!
Jim Hall obviously enjoys sharing music with his partners and is not there to be the center of attention ; the choice of playing both old standards and improvisations also tells a lot about his approach to music.
The Trio played superb All Across The City and Careful to close the show.
Before leaving, Jim Hall mentioned how he was happy to be back in France while the USA had a new government, quite different from the time of his previous gig with Ron Carter. He also said that the cane was due to some back surgery, but that next time he would be dancing!
Jim Hall guitar playing is all delicacy, subtlety, lightness, agility. He never shows off. His sound is close to an acoustic guitar, but a bit different though. What a master!
A different type of jazz again, this time in September at La Grande Halle de la Villette, with another wonderful Trio: Chick Corea (piano). Miroslav Vitouš (bass), Roy Haynes (drums). They had chosen the title Now He Sings, Now He Sobs Trio for the concert.
I have a special fondness for their Trio, as I came to understand and enjoy jazz through their album Trio Music, Live In Europe.
Chick Corea’s playing was as juvenile and enjoyable as ever, Miroslav Vitouš was playing a strange small sized bass while sitting. He played some sections with a bow and some sound effects similar to a wah pedal! Last but not least, the elder and great Roy Haynes proved that he was still impeccable and in full swing at 85(!). What a wonderful drummer, one of the very few with Max Roach – which I also had the chance to see – to play a whole composition hitting on the edges of the drum kit instruments and still make music (oh! Chander Sardjoe also has done it by the way…)!
They played about 10 compositions over an hour and a half, among them a brilliant version of I Don’t Know and Thelonious Monk’s Think Of One, one of the high points of the evening.
After a full speed encore, each of them said a little word. Roy Haynes had the final word: “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, Now We leave”.
A few days later, Paul Bley was at the Cité de la Musique to give a solo recital. I had only seen him once in Trio as mentioned above. Like Jim Hall, he arrived walking slowly and with a cane. As “supporting” act, Stéphan Oliva had dedicated the Portrait de Gene Tierney to the Canadian pianist.
Bley who is a classical trained pianist, played with Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Charles Mingus and Art Blakey to name but a few, and became one of the first and major free jazz pianists, working with Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden among others.
His music is deeply original and often aesthetically “aggressive” ; he uses various techniques to widen the scope of piano sounds: he sometimes plays directly on the piano strings, or plays a piano préparé, or else… He successively constructs and deconstructs the music, in total freedom.
His concert was all about this: playing some slow repetitive pieces, with violent climaxes, dissonant chords, sudden silences or fast tempo jazzier compositions. He sometimes mimicked an echo, and changed tempi and styles in the same composition without any transition. He played some clusters, hit parts of the piano to have special resonance effects, and delivered some much more lyrical sections.
Monk’s Dream, Like Someone in Love, Pent-Up House, were among the pieces he played in his own unique way.
The encore ended in a very slow tempo, in an ethereal world, in total contrast with the rest of the piece!