Romano, Sclavis, Texier - Carnet de routes

Posted: Mar 18, 2024   4:04:51 PM   |   Last updated: Mar 18, 2024   4:04:51 PM
by Pascal-Denis Lussier

From one thing to the next, things triggered fond memories of this album, which I then took the time to savour once more, not having listened to it in its entirety for some years.

Africa—or a part of—is central to this project, but it's certainly not an album I'd categorize under anything that emphasizes "African music" in any way; it's a very European affair, yet, it's the Africa in it that garnered the album much attention from many corners of the jazz world, making it a very important release for the French jazz scene. All's in the rhythms, and what's expressed is a reminder that influence doesn't have to mean "adoption", it can mean "adapting".

It's called Carnet de routes, meaning "Travel Log", put out by Label bleu in 1995. It brings together Italian drummer Aldo Romano—the central point behind the project—with French bassist Henry Texier and soprano sax and clarinetist, Louis Sclavis. 

The last is a huge name in free jazz and musique actuelle circles, his uplifting modes, breathless ripples, squonks, squeaks, and powerfully-warm tones have been improvised alongside some of the biggest names, including saxophonist, flautist, and composer Jean Derome, a prominent name in the Montreal jazz scene and a Canadian leader in the form. He also appears on trumpetist Dave Douglas' Bow River Walls, which, albeit an interesting album, I mention for a chart called "Petals", the interplay between Douglas and Sclavis managing to wow me with each listen. 

Sclavis has also played a more subdued-but-still-pronounced voice in more traditional formations, though through less traditional-type tunes, perhaps, and he's also offered listeners solo efforts that work as a kind of study taken as a whole, the approach drawing parallels with Quebec clarinetist and composer Robert Marcel Lepage, wherein "variation", be it applied to any element, is the focus, a complete listen offering something that's akin to a Philip Glass symphony with the all sounding the same but very different, the music always morphing in subtle ways, though, from them, we get vignettes, the transformations existing outside the pieces.

Any how, I'm getting off topic.

Henry Texier, now nearing 80, has had a long and full career, one too long to cover in a few lines except to say: a true jazzman, through and through. His artistry is audible in all three tracks I've included from the album, these being my favourites.

I'm less familiar with Romano, but, having been urged to teach a course at the French Cultural Centre of Malabo, in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, its director, a French man named Guy Maurette, then sparked the idea, Romano bringing the other two in on the project, the goal being: visit remote towns, set up, play, musically interact with those present. The whole was photographed by Guy Le Querrec, some well known french photographer. 

The album is the result of two trips throughout select regions of Africa, these excursions financed by the French Cultural Centre of Malabo. Sure, in these Woke days of ours, one could say much about colonialism in critique of this musical venture.

Which is why I made it a point to mention what I did about it being a "European affair" right at the top. No sense of "appropriation" can be applied to it, nor can "exploitation". 

The musical experiences they underwent in Ghana are, according to Romano, those that had the greatest level of influence on the trio. 

I'll stick with just this album, but on their Flashback album released a decade or so later is a meditative, profoundly-moving chart called "Si Dieu n'éxiste pas" (What if God doesn't exist) that's worth the listen. Perhaps, I'll share it at another moment..

For the first, if I had my way, this is more or less along the lines of what I think Hip Hop should sound like. Don't let the preamble fool you; it swings, and manages to increase the intensity by a healthy notch, winding down before stopping, as any good athlete should.  

A nice, moody piece; a beautiful interplay between base and clarinet, Romano's high-hat the loose, clinking change that marks each step through a wondrous, mystifying space.  

This one may be a bit more demanding for most ears; the mastery of all three is amply clear, and Sclavis isn't making random noises, especially not ones that sound like grating car horns... not to any ears I'd respect, anyways. The deep, penetrating tone out of Texier's upright base is what ties the piece, but it also serves to showcase the good choices underscoring each chart that each musician always appears to make within this trio, whilst it establishes the high recording quality that one could expect from Label bleu (I say "could" as I've not kept up with the label for a few years); I bought several albums from artists I knew nothing about but took a chance based on the label—there are a handful of labels for which that's true—and I've never been disappointed. Though this particular album wasn't one of those.

I'd first heard it at a friend's place, a gang of artsy nerds I fell into at university; truly great and bright, creative people to whom I owe many musical discoveries.

Posted 2 months ago  Last updated: Mar 18, 2024, 4:04 PM

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