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recorded at Studio LA BUISSONNE en 2017 par Gérard de Haro
Cover and Booklet Emmanuel GUIBERT
Production Label Vision Fugitive
Distribution Autre distribution
Philippe Mouratoglou/Univers Solitude
When we think about the history of the acoustic guitar in jazz, a peculiar paradox emerges. While the instrument, a true symbol of pop culture, has accompanied every stylistic evolution in improvisational music, it has been poorly represented thus far in the classic trio formula with bass and drums. Certainly, scores of guitarists have cut thousands of records as solo artists and played in groups of all sizes up to the big band format, but very few of them have successfully attempted a role in the holy trinity, which routinely goes to the piano. The rationale behind this may lie in the very nature of the instrument, which is the melody-maker and provides the perfect backdrop for soloists yet, contrary to the piano, can very rarely play both parts simultaneously. By dint of a tacit understanding of sorts, or force of habit as it were, the guitarist has consented to harmonize and improvise on the melody line. Fortunately, this unwritten rule has had its extraordinary exceptions in outsider guitarists who have made inimitable aesthetic choices. These include jazz and classical fusion from fifties pioneers like Laurindo Almeida and Charlie Byrd as well as folk mavericks such as Davey Graham or Sandy Bull, who had no qualms about alluding to Chuck Berry and Guillaume de Machaut in a hallucinatory dialogue with legendary drummer Billy Higgins.
Stepping up to the challenge of the guitar, bass and drums trio inevitably demands an in-depth reassessment of guitar syntax and distribution of roles in the ensemble. The prime objective of predecessor free jazz and what is known as free improvisation, an out-and-out ‘sky’s-the-limit proving ground’ that enabled European musicians to truly shine by showing what they know introduced a new order. This trio collaboration puts a fresh spin on an influential, futurecasting history, organically exploiting a lustral proof of sorts that prefers solutions to problems and resolves questions of language by painting a picture. Only the very astute could single out the ‘accompanist’ in this kaleidoscopic stream of music where the drums sing as much as the chords strike and all three musicians seem to inhabit one multitasking body, as in the vivid portrait of Hokusai, L’Homme aux Cinq Pinceaux [The Man with Five Brushes]. From the introductory passage, Univers Solitude, like the similarly shifting L’Echelle de L’Évasion, ensconces us in a ‘floating world’ that fluctuates between duple and triple meter, in an indecisive rhythm that does not ever dilute the beat. Musical painters, these three artists know full well that the alchemy of texture and color would be meaningless without the structure of line. Frequently employing open tunings on his six string and baritone guitars, Philippe Mouratoglou explores unconventional techniques and creates inventive soundscapes, subtly reminiscent of the splendid tones of famed folk singer Nick Drake, the master of alternative tunings. Nonetheless, his Porte-Nuage (Scott’s Blues) is inspired by the track Dealer and pays unequivocal tribute to the illustrious yet ‘unsung’ Scott Walker, legendary English baritone and pop singer whose Climate of Hunter was to be his comeback album in 1984 but sadly met with searing disregard. As his later releases would demonstrate, he had ‘dropped’ the album just twenty years too soon. Also featuring a stellar reinterpretation of Lonely Woman, similar circumstances would also befall Ornette Coleman during her musical career.
This savvy superimposition of distilled influences isn’t so surprising from such passionate musicians who are in tune with the present and have an ear for the past. Like Philippe Mouratoglou, Bruno Chevillon has made a name for himself in art music (isn’t all music artistic?!) as well as in jazz, collaborating with clarinetist Louis Sclavis in particular, yet never losing sight of his formal fine arts education at the École des Beaux-Arts. Equally aware of the fine artist’s approach and a painter as well, Ramon Lopez is much more than a drummer, drawing on a wealth of musical experience, from Indian to flamenco. In fact, he is a genre unto himself, conjuring the controlled scansion of Gregorian chants and whimsical freedom of Jean Tinguely kinetic sculptures as much as the metronomic mantra of a traditional drummer.
To say the very least, these three consummate artists have reshuffled the deck, instantly inventing a new holy trinity. Reminiscent of the musical past and receptive to the winds of change, their universe seems to declare a state of solitude only to warmly welcome the voices of all, expounding on the simple yet compelling words of Jim Harrison, “we are not alone.”•
COMPOSITIONS DE PHILIPPE MOURATOGLOU
(excepté 8. Ornette Coleman)
1 – UNIVERS-SOLITUDE 12'05
2 – ERIS (RÊVERIE) 2'00
3 - L'ECHELLE DE L'EVASION 6'18
4 – DE CIEL EN CIEL 2'48
5 – HYDRA 2'48
6 – VOILES 7'07
7 – PORTE-NUAGE (SCOTT'S BLUES) 3'38
8 – LONELY WOMAN 7'08
9 – HAUMEA 5'43
10 – 25 NOVEMBRE 7'46
Guitar players have been an all too common feature on stages since the sixties. This may no be so true about classical guitarists, since most of them don’t go much out of their music conservatories. But if you want to talk about those who started from a classical upbringing, then fruitfully opened up to the folk and electrical aspects of the instrument, you might have a hard time finding many names.
In other words, Philippe Mouratoglou is a rare bird in six-strings country. All the more since he also improvises, and sometimes also sings along with his guitar or accompanies soprano singer Arianne Wohlhuter.
Philippe Mouratoglou’s teachers were Pablo Marquez, Wim Hoogewerf and Roland Dyens, but he soon felt the urge to extend his expressive range and his repertoire: from Renaissance to contemporary and traditional music, from the blues of Robert Johnson — that he revisits in a personal, inspired way along with Jean-Marc Foltz on clarinets and Bruno Chevillon on double-bass — to a dialogue around Isaac Albeniz with Pedro Soler’s flamenco guitar.
No wonder that his trio “So full of shapes…” plays John Dowland as well as Benjamin Britten, or that his “O Gloriosa Domina” record — issued in 2005 — encompasses five centuries of music.
No wonder either that Philippe Mouratoglou invited Jean-Marc Foltz and producer Philippe Ghielmetti to start Vision Fugitive, a new record label that blows a whiff of fresh air in a music world that’s often far too compartmentalized.
Bruno Chevillon is one of Europe’s foremost bass players, and his reputation spread over the Atlantic through stints with Tim Berne or Paul Motian. In his native France, he played a lot with (bass) clarinetists like Louis Sclavis, Michel Portal or Jean-Marc Foltz. But who thought that he would team with the latter in a re-reading of the Robert Johnson repertoire under the leadership of guitarist Philippe Mouratoglou? So Bruno Chevillon eventually entered the blues field with his cutting edge virtuoso technique and sensitivity, tools that allow him to bring an invaluable contribution to any music he chooses to play. Thierry Quénum
disc / booklet