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


(…). 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,


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)


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

Piergiuseppe Lippolis,


(…). 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).


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.


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.


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,


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



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


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