Monday, the 14th of October 2013, Paris
“Why do you look so happy when you play?” ask the college students to the musicians. They don’t know how right they are. “What do you do when things don’t go the way you want?” Well, the thing with improvisation, with action, is that music grants unwanted wishes. What is no good is to prevent things from happening, from blossoming by themselves, at the risk of helping them a bit, hurrying them sometimes, prompting chance also – just like this afternoon in La Java’s alluvial undergrounds, before more than a hundred students of three different colleges. There, Douglas R. Ewart, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Joëlle Léandre, Bernard Santacruz and Michael Zerang advocate failures, mistakes, every fall that raises you up. To accept improvisation means to live and let live, let the other live with his manners that strangely seem to affect us; his margin of errors that are no real errors; his margin of errors and roving; his negotiable leeway. Improvising is, indeed, playing on somebody else’s playground and sharing it. Dancers of college Georges Brassens make no mistakes about it and wind up giving themselves heart and soul. They look happy. In the evening, at the Paris Center of the Chicago University, before their friends Avice, Delbecq, Desprez, Duboc, Fournier, Hoang and Kassap, the five musicians have decided to play hopscotch and be patient: several duos and trios, almost quiet, give way to a first quintet that will soon be fully audible and alive. Then it’s debate time: talking about Jamaican cooking and the benefits of asymmetrical attention. To be all ears always.
Tuesday, the 15th of October 2013, Dijon
Time marched on. We went away in new affection and noise: Rimbaud is on our side. Heading for Dijon in our tour bus, our Nautilus. Fake bulwark at Hotel Le Jura and its cabin-lounge. Ewart and Leandre tell the same story: they both (though separately) improvised a whole show with a music stand-alibi before them that was full of false scores (maybe an astronomy or botanical handbook) they pretended to read. Inevitably, people came after the show to compliment them about the complexity of “composing”. At Théâtre des Feuillants, the quintet’s first appearance can’t get over with the fire of a fertile doubt. Music slips between scales and cuts. The possible intensity is disabused. Santacruz watches from his shell. Cappozzo even mimes his solo. Rational reeds, silk scrolls, wild smokes without fire. Doors won’t close. Everything goes calm and suddenly the stage is a clearing. Ewart takes the floor, calls upon the forces of nature and spirits. The day after he couldn’t hear the alarm clock.
Wednesday, the 16th of October 2013, Dijon
Time marched on a never-ending road. We are confronted with a monster in a muddy field or is it a crater? It turns out to be a pump-room with a Bridgestone truck at its side advertising: “Your Journey, Our Passion” to kill boredom. Hardly have we reached the Fabrique Culturelle Hall and you can hear them play again. The quintet spreads and flows: it is forming. No one takes the reins; no one gets the upper hand. Léandre tirelessly urges everyone to paint their distances. Zerang spaces out and distends. Capozzo doesn’t mime anymore but knocks up his grating’n’squeaking mute instead. Music out of silence is a wunderkammer. Here are Sourisseau and Wodrascka, and even Famoudou Don Moye.
Thursday, the 17th of October 2013, Toulouse
Time marched on. During a seminar organised by Jean-Michel Court and Ludovic Florin at Université Toulouse II – Le Mirail and entitled: “A Jazz and contemporary music encounter”, Ewart and Léandre openly criticise aesthetic and knowledge hierarchies, hidden inside hierarchies of power, and the dirty habit of labelling which is antinomic to the musicians’ full throttle attitude when they rub along with “Jazz”. Meanwhile, Zerang defragments. For an hour, he leads a percussion master class with fifteen of Christine Wodrascka’s pupils, while fifty of their classmates are watching, and suddenly command them to reembody themselves. Breathing, stretching, location in space exercises. Standing up with their eyes closed, trainees must make sounds and pass them on (disseminate information using different channels), and then use them to find their way. To guide themselves (get closer, brush past each other, bump into each other, move away). To become sonar. Reassemble a circle by ear. And the ear by everything. And then only, they can play for another hour. Nothing is said about what is to be played: the musical act is the natural extension of the realised knowledge of space and spaces. In the evening at the “Fountain’s door” – in fact, the conspiratorial basement of the Belfort pizzeria –, Zerang comes across trumpet player Sébastien Cirotteau and saxophonist Florian Nastorg, thanks to Heddy Boubaker. Ewart meets up with Moye. Hijinks. Sagas.
Friday, the 18th of October 2013, on the road
Time marched on. Léandre stayed behind. Getting nearer Bordeaux, Forbidden City, we are drove back the black knight castle’s doors and must withdraw towards the former docksides, the former warehouses, the river Garonne’s refitted waterfront and its chocolate-flavoured water. In the bus, we watch Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow up again which reminds us that only what is to believe is true. In Brest’s way, nocturnal street scenes and fights are like water lilies.
Saturday, the 19th of October 2013, Brest
Time marched on early in the morning. We were in Passerelle – contemporary art center or glasshouse – a former ripening room where yesterday’s plants and fruits keep on ripening in today’s sounds. Those of Ken Vandermark and Christophe Rocher (another one from Chicago and another one from Brest) question each other on saxophone and clarinet about firmness and ductility. Meeting point: Vauban hotel, pub, concert hall, contemporary life center or glasshouse. As for the quintet members, they question the use of force they have allowed themselves tonight. Enough tokens of respect have been given so far (Léandre has railed enough against the group not to group together, or lag behind the liveliest, but be five stakeholders instead, all senses awaken); now the forcing through can be given a try confidently. And then, without fair warning, everybody lets loose. Gears are shifted down (pulsing, extruding, rebelling) and up (impacting, getting all they have to hand together). Anyone can run off anytime, confident that they can catch up the others anywhere. And that’s how the final gentleness is no more a paradox. It doesn’t sanction anything; it was just obtained like a password.
Sunday, the 20th of October 2013, Brest
Time marched on. While in the music academy everyone attends to his own business – Zerang in a birds’ duet with singer Zalie Bellacicco; Léandre with the Sillages ensemble finalizing a John Cage tribute program; Cappozzo working with La Marmite à sons, a group that gathers musicians and non musicians (a thin girl dares to provoke the giant in a trumpet duel); Ewart trying to have the students of trumpet player Philippe Champion and saxophonist Kristian Sarrau drop their Count Basie scores and hurtle down Red Hills’ steep slope – a risky composition with moving heaps – Santacruz and Frédéric Bargeon-Briet go court the splendor in the ruins of Saint-Mathieu de Fine Terre’s abbey with their double bass under their arms. Together for a few pendular moments, they exalt where monks were mumbling. When night falls at Vauban, the day ends with a banquet gathering our Whos’ Who of musicians, music students, and the Atlantique Jazz Festival volunteers. Everybody dances on Stax records, drinks Raymond’s booze and eventually manages to do the dishes despite the water battles.
Monday, October the 21st of 2013, Brest
Time marched on. The first session imagined by Frédéric Bargeon-Briet took place in a cube at the Quartz with some of the Bridge members and some local musicians (Briet and Rocher, Céline Rivoal on accordion, Nicolas Pointard on drums, Vincent Raude on electronics) and dancers (Alban de la Blanchardière, Gaël Sesboué and Stéphanie Siou). Musicians and dancers collaborate through the gestures that trigger the first vibes or the first moves. To comprehend what blossoms and how it articulates or dislocates. What follows belongs to the wind. Maybe are the musicians forced to a certain slowness by the dancers. Maybe do the musicians give the dancers some of the ammunitions they need. Maybe.
Tuesday, October the 22nd of 2013, Nantes
Time marched on. Campus of the Nantes University, buildings after buildings, live in the making. The Ewart, Santacruz, Zerang fighting trio works on focusing. Quick, they capture attention, tease by making believe they move apart, drain and rush the listening (Ewart savagely tramples his ring bell), than make the rhythm dough rise. To meet. Curved mirror.
Wednesday, October the 23rd of 2013, Nantes
Time marched on. A day full of oysters, elephants, mechanical animals, gusts, and rainbows. Evening at the Pannonica with a shaggy quartet using the harmony comb. How can you force your way through when all ways have been forced? When one retreats and then comes back, who else breaks away? What turns around in such a situation? Why pulling yourself together? There is rarely any other way than resorting to the noise orb, than reading in the noises’ crystal ball. A child then murmur in my ears: “it is winter time, an abandoned house, you look inside through a window but only ghosts come out.” He too is all ears.
Thursday, October the 24th of 2013, Poitiers
Time marched on. In the afternoon at the Carré Bleu, Ewart, Cappozzo and Santacruz rebuild a circle with fifteen “dumists” of the Poitiers University’s Centre de Formation des Musiciens Intervenants. They infiltrate collective improvisation and redirect it, if necessary, in order to help musical events find their place and method (and bring extended techniques to greater senses). A procession of rustles follows the introductory roar. Shy instruments hide behind an accordion of voices, an aviary of voices, a relief of sputters. Discussion. Everything must not be said at once, you have to shy away, or even shut up; however any attendance, when it becomes presence, has to be sensitive. You can elude it, or strongly emphasize it, tone it up, breathe life into it or cut them off, as long as you say it all and own up to it. And don’t you be afraid of harmony. Ewart sings his head off a South African song, with call and response. We’re still at the Carré Bleu, a mist has formed, and the quintet’s concert mainly exists through transparency. Music sweats. Quite logically, there is clearness in confusion and confusion in clearness. Innocent flute and musket trumpet; frowning double basses that snap like rigging or branches; rhythms on the swing. It’ time for the voices to reappear, for an English horn, a double bass and a dumbek to plot. Amounts and head spins.
Friday, October the 25th of 2013, Tours
Time marched on. Cappozzo is long gone, as a pathfinder, while we spend an hour behind the A10 highway’s emergency lane, with a dead clutch. We play game after game of Pass the Pig until a terrifying tow truck driver comes in. Change of car under a driving rain. Two of us are left out and miss an epic table football tournament in Luzillé that’s won hands down by a caught up Cappozzo and a majestic Santacruz. These guys are incredible, they never stop enjoying. And so are they at Le Petit Faucheux, despite the drones, where they play grooves and outlines (Ewart the stamper plays a bobsleighing solo) that eventually becomes substantial. That night, our industrial quintet forge metal. Thickenings.
Saturday, October the 26th of 2013, Avignon
Time marched on. Inside Avignon’s rampart, the extended summer outlines the sky’s silhouette with pink chalk. A breadcrumb trail links the so-called “archaic” (flutes, conch shells and groans) with the so-called “modern” (neither base nor top defined, and everything is relative). For his last appearance at AJMI, the quintet returns to mobile, almost gaseous shapes, and exults. We now understand they play a total music for which nothing is too good – an orchard.
Sunday, October the 27th of 2013, Avignon
Time marched on. Santacruz initiates one last morning session at AJMI. It ends with the ensemble’s deconstruction: Léandre and the sax players Lionel Garcin and Philippe Lemoine use the minus symbol for an hyphen; Léandre and Ewart, along with drummer Denis Fournier, brown the strokes; Ewart and a ten years old drummer take the airy way; Zerang gad about with guitarist Pascal Charrier and saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Berger. Santacruz watches without a word. It’s over, time has passed; we now know that the five stakeholders won’t ever leave each other.