contre-courbes


CONTRE-COURBES

Bertrand Gauguet
: alto saxophone
John Tilbury
: piano

CD 1 – Live at Église Saint Maximin, Metz (Fr) : 42:04
CD 2 – Live at Festival Paysages d’écoute at L’Espal scène nationale du Mans (Fr) : 43:54

Cover artwork by Pierre Mabille : Série Bethany, pastel sur papier, 2016
Graphic Design by Atelier Ter Bekke & Behage
Produced by Akousis Records

Akousis Records 002, 2021


Reviews

Collecting two live sets in France from both 2016 and 2019, this pair of highly regarded improvisers deliver one per disc spanning around the 42/43 mins mark that sees them working their respective alto sax and piano into wide open spaces full of subtle detail. Both pieces are drizzled in an airiness which, through the attention to each fleck of sound carefully eased out, accords them the chance to snag the listener completely into the depths of these voyages. Although Tilbury especially exercises a little more dramatic playing at certain junctures, both pieces represent adventures in a fluidity that arcs, swerves and gently contorts as it caresses a quietness commanding attention. Gauguet’s playing reminds me at times of some of Martin Küchen’s work, whereby minimalist restraint, refinement and a deep distillation of the tiniest sounds make for grand gestures. Together with Tilbury’s own approach, which in the wrong hands could appear tentative, these two discs showcase two players at their absolute best. A rich and rewarding listening experience I’ll keep returning to.

Richard Johnson : https://adverseeffectmagazine.com/reviews-2021/

***

(…). Bertrand Gauguet is a fine French alto saxman who we have heard blowing as one third of NEF, and on the intense fogged-up Close Up record (with Thomas Lehn and Franz Hautzinger). He also recently played on Spectre with Xavier Charles, sometimes in an amplified way, often producing overtones; as fate would have it, that was the first release on the label. His performances here do showcase some occasional instances of extended technique, if you like, but Gauguet really underplays on both sets, barely daring to call attention to himself, offering just the right degree of contribution. Certain high-pitched whine moments are so refined and controlled they seem to be more like feedback occurring naturally in the room, rather than performed music. On the piano, Tilbury exhibits a familiar blend of magisterial command mixed with incredible modesty, and every statement that emerges from a small number of keys and just a few well-chosen notes seems to contain much compacted wisdom. Tilbury also seems to occupy some rare place in contemporary music that is somehow “beyond” most of what we understand to be either free improvisation, or the modern composition of his beloved Morton Feldman.
Although the press notes promise us “sometimes tempestuous” music, I would say we’re quite some way from the clashing noise-fests that AMM have been known to trade in during their long and complex existence, and you won’t find that many extremes of volume or dynamics on this record. However, this tends to make it all the more accessible somehow; if the listener can acclimatise oneself to its slow pace, where the dividends drop slowly from the skies rather than reveal themselves instantly, I daresay you will find much to savour in its meditational spaces, and enjoy a tranquil sojourn undisturbed by dramatic thunder or sudden outbursts. There’s also just enough “cryptic” content to keep you intrigued, waiting until we can peer around the next imaginary corner, although admittedly these corners are not familiar bricks-and-mortar on your neighbourhood High Street, and the space we’re in resembles a white-walled four-dimensional art gallery, sealed off with cotton wool everywhere, with windows perched in unexpected locations.

Ed Pinsent, http://www.thesoundprojector.com/2021/10/09/an-intellectual-curveball/

***

(…). Peu de choses changent d’un enregistrement à l’autre (d’excellente qualité tous les deux), si ce n’est une présence légèrement diaphane dans l’église, qui accentue peut-être la poésie du moment, et une prise de son au plus près des instruments lors du festival, qui permet au pianiste de jouer davantage à même les cordes et sur la table d’harmonie de son instrument, mais donne parfois une tonalité plus sombre à l’ensemble. Mais la démarche est la même : plutôt qu’un enchevêtrement, la musique est un jeu de miroirs constant entre les lignes droites et statiques tirées par l’alto, à la fois ascétiques et génératrices de timbres toujours renouvelés, en souffles et en vibrations, et le jeu du piano, discrètement bucolique et volontiers minimal (Tilbury n’a pas été l’interprète de Feldman et Cage pour rien). Les deux musiciens profitent de l’influence que chacun a sur l’autre, le pianiste utilisant les continuités de l’altiste comme un écrin propice à raz révélation énamourée de ses miniatures, l’altiste s’appuyant sur les idées du pianiste pour apporter des variations subtiles à son vocabulaire. Dans cette musique du déroulement lent, tour à tour serait ou inquiet, l’écoulement du temps semble ne pas avoir d’importance e, ce qui fait que l’on pourra revenir sans cesse vers l’un vers l’autre des enregistrements dans l’ordre que l’on veut, pour vivre d’envoûtants moments de méditation.

Claude Colpaert, Revue & Corrigée n°128, juin 2021

***

Weaving a path between improvised and aleatoric timbres, Gauguet and Tilbury promulgate an idiosyncratic setting that doesn’t have to attain specific objectives, but impresses with unhurried evolution.

Ken Waxman, http://www.jazzword.com/one-review/?id=130639

***

(…). I due set hanno une struttura simile, esplorazioni di un luogo interiore che non si finirà mai di conoscere. Atmosfere ora ombrose e sacrali, fluorescenze impressioniste, evocazioni di animali notturni. Il pianista indaga tutto il corpo dello strumento e sgrana anche accordi di melodica luccicanza. L’ancia insuffla suoni vibranti nello spazio, trafila note sottili e ne ridisegna le coordinate, cesellando pure momenti lirici. C’è una dimensione drammatica, teatrale. L’improvvisazione diventa pratica di setaccio, nel tempo e nello spazio. Il suono viene cercato negli anfratti di une oscurità-silenzio che è il terzo interprete. Un processo di ri-composizione, travuoti e pieni, di un’idea organica di architettura musicale.

Dionis Capuano, Blow up, IT, 04-2021

***

Ein Werk das Ruhe verbreitet und immer neugierig macht auf die nächsten spärlichen Töne, die da kommen.

Wolfgang Kabsch, Musikansich.de

***

Despite having been recorded three and a half years apart, the performances are well matched in their patient evolution and gorgeous atmosphere.

Jazz & Improv by Bill Meyer, The Wire May 2021 (Issue 447)

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(…). Una chicca per gli appassionati di musica improvvisata.

Piergiuseppe Lippolis, musicmap.it

***

(…). Cette musique qui se savoure dans la durée est d’une austérité splendide. Elle informe le silence, s’en enveloppe, tout en tissant sa toile mystérieuse. Le piano semble venir habiter dans les volutes harmoniques du saxophone comme dans une grotte. Ce qui frappe peut-être plus que tout, c’est la sérénité de cette musique qui ne connaît pas l’urgence, tout en donnant naissance à des séquences puissantes, grondantes. Mais ces dernières ne sont que des états transitoires d’une matière sonore en perpétuelle métamorphose : d’où l’extrême attention de l’auditeur, tenue en suspens par l’inconnu qui se déroule au fur et à mesure. (…).
(…). Le temps nous attend, toute hâte est déplacée, sacrilège. Il faut apprendre à attendre que la beauté se lève du fond de nous, du fond des instruments. J’ajouterais une autre ombre, celle de Giacinto Scelsi, pour cette attention à l’intérieur du son, à son grain, à sa lumière jusqu’au cœur même de ses ténèbres.
   Au fond, ces musiciens sont des accoucheurs d’épiphanies, d’authentiques inspirés qui nous relient à l’universel par le truchement d’instruments cérémoniels. D’où la ferveur de l’écoute, le sentiment d’être convié à de nouvelles envolées comme l’écrivait Scelsi (voir poème en bas d’article).

inactuelles.over-blog.com

***

CONTRE-COURBES is a wonderful example of creative and varied impro. The release brings together two respected improviser- we have English pannist John Tilbury and French Saxophonists Bertrand Gauguet. The two-disc CD set features two long slices of improv, highlighting the pair as both talented players and inventive improvisers.
(…).
If you enjoy eventful-yet-spaced out improv, which flits between atmosphere and textural play/ invention , I really think you’ll find CONTRE-COURBES most rewarding. I do hope these two work together down the line again, as they bounce off each other well- each adding their considerable talents to the mix to create a most worthy double CD album.

Roger Batty, Musique Machine

***

Un doppio cd che testimonia due concerti tenuti dal duo Gauguet e Tilbury : un florilegio di dualismi… e una conferma. La musica spontanea, oltre l’improvvisazione, quindi, si afferma come l’unica via semanticamente pregnante per un nuovo jazz, ridefinendone confini ed esistenza stessa. Pianoforte e sax contralto danno vita a momenti di ammaliante introspezione, descrizioni di spazi che non rispondono ad alcuna legge fisica, che fanno seguito a deliranti indagini geometriche dei silenzi, febbrili descrizioni del complesso contemporaneo. Molto, ma molto interessante.

Massimo Marchini, Rock e Rilla

****

Alto saxophonist Bertrand Gauguet and pianist John Tilbury freely improvise two quiet, years-apart sets that explore harmonic communication on CONTRE-COURBES. 
The first set was recorded in 2016. Saxophone and piano tenderly materialize and dissolve in the silence, which might occupy as much runtime as soundings yet doesn’t feel foregrounded, instead a matter-of-fact condition to hear the harmonic glow and decay of each instrument. Breath, sniffing, and air through the bore might be just as audible as the notes but I can’t hear the keys of either instrument, an indicator of the often gentle treatment of sound. Both alternate freely between fractured, contemplative melodies and less mellifluous extended techniques, the piano favoring the former, the saxophone the latter. (…). The two instruments don’t appear to favor communicating directly, instead interacting in the overlap of the afterglow of each sounding. 
The second set was recorded in 2019. (…). These extended techniques, very human and less resonant, from each instrument can draw more attention to the performer than the character of the sound, but the fertile valleys of the first set’s sonic hill country still exist here. 

https://harmonicseries.substack.com/p/13

***

Δύο ολόκληρα αυτοσχεδιαστικά κονσέρτα περιέχονται στο διπλό άλμπουμ, «Contre– Courbes” -με τον Γάλλο συνθέτη ηλεκτρονικής και σαξοφωνίστα Bertrand Gauguet και τον Βρετανό πιανίστα John Tilbury, γνωστό απ’ την θητεία του με τους εμβληματικούς πειραματιστές AMM. Τα δυο κομμάτια ηχογραφήθηκαν σε μια παλιά εκκλησία στου Μετς και στο στούντιο του Radio France αντίστοιχα, ενώ παίζουν με την ακουστική ποιότητα των χώρων και συνυφαίνονται σε λεπταίσθητες αρμονικές ηχητικές δομές· εκφάνσεις διαφορετικών φωνών, με αντηχήσεις και μερικές φορές με θορυβώδη ξεσπάσματα. Η μουσική χημεία των δυο μουσικών στηρίζεται στην τεράστια αυτοσχεδιαστική τους εμπειρία.

https://www.toperiodiko.gr/

***

With what spirit can one try to establish a creative bond between distant generations and stylistic ancestries? Where does one begin to imagine and glimpse a common expressive horizon? It might seem relatively easy to approach and align with an improvisational philosophy (actually very close to a religious belief) that doesn’t contemplate preliminary rehearsals and which relies solely on the sensitivity of the performers involved on each occasion: evidence shows, however, that it’s nearly impossible to ignore the historical memory of the pioneering experiences and aesthetics that developed around the acronym AMM, of which pianist John Tilbury (1936) has remained one of the most constant and representative bastions over the decades.Adopting an equally distinctive and integralist approach, French saxophonist Bertrand Gauguet (1970) managed to establish an original contact with the English dean, evading certain automatisms in dialogue dynamics in favor of a stark yet gentle formal contrast, a harbinger of oblique para-musical solutions.
I love the sound of Bertrand’s music: aesthetically keeps me on my toes, recalling David Tudor’s devastating judgement, “The trouble with the piano is, it’s just one ugly sound after another”.
As usual, Tilbury’s disorienting comment does not provide answers but only an enigmatic suggestion, an ideal introduction to a sound-making (and making-oneself-sound) devoid of declared expressive intentions. The new duo’s formula stays almost unchanged in the concerts held in France in April 2016 and November 2019, respectively at the Église Saint-Maximin in Metz and the Espal Scène nationale in Le Mans: through a panoply of extended techniques, delving into the deep recesses and beyond the tonal peaks of the canonical registers, Gauguet offers the pianist a counterpoint of pure timbral investigation; a constant confrontation with the resonances of the surrounding walls which, especially on the first disc, recalls similar experiments by Jeremiah Cymerman and Christian Kobi, in hindsight not solo acts but duets in close relationship with the space.
The occasional assonance with bird calls – an element dear to Tilbury, on the border between naturalism and artificiality – is the only hint of verisimilitude to cling to in a scenario pervaded by a pensive and solemn abstraction, an inevitable echo of the pianist’s sessions with Keith Rowe, crucial episodes in the shaping of the revived AMM trio’s current identity. But Gauguet’s permanence within the sphere of subharmonic effects and residual sonic traits, sometimes verging on aphony, seems to inspire the pianist with more confidence in inviting and devising ever-new escapes from any performative cul-de-sacs.
Despite the bewilderment deriving from the illusion of suspended time, in fact, Tilbury less frequently resorts to Feldman-esque motifs, searching for the phonemes and interjections of his indeterminate language between the strings of the sounding board, or in the dumb materiality of the unstruck ivory keys. Relatively disinclined to flirting with silence, the interplay tends indeed to produce accumulations of harsh dissonances and even leads to disturbing collisions, inner cries that cannot find adequate escape valves but only provisional ones.
There is, however, no sense of intimidation in these intergenerational encounters on the periphery of signification: once the field has been cleared of all traps of intention and conceptualism, here too, as in other instances of this sort, there remains only the free flow of the inexpressible and the indecipherable, the vivid essence of what lies beyond music.

Michele Palozzo, https://esoteros.net/

***

Tra intemperanze painistiche, armonici, sovrasti, fiati sottolineati con funzione musicale, i due danno sfogo all’invenzione.

Rumori

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Zarte KlavierCluster, schwebend zerrende SaxRöcheleien in vollendetem Gleichgewicht aus Langsamkeit, Spannung, Stille und (gezügeltem) Ausbruch. Packend !

https://www.westzeit.de/

***

Both of these pieces are intense listening pieces, requiring a lot of the listener, but once you are all open up to the experience, some great beauty will unfold. You need to take your time with this one! (FdW)

Franz de Ward, Vital Weekly 1273

***

The new release from Bertrand Gauguet and John Tilbury that I mentioned a little while back, ‘Contre-Courbes (on Akousis), is out as of today and, unsurprisingly, it’s wonderful music. Two full sets, one from 2016, one from late 2019. Tilbury is, well, Tilbury (and, of course, I’m admittedly a total addict to his playing) though offering the occasional, gentle unexpected excursions and Gauguet is marvelously sympathetic and thoughtful. Necessary work.

Brian Olewnick