Jazz Migration

Pantin, France
11-16

Last week I attended the showcase concert for the French Jazz Migration scheme at La Dynamo club in the Pantin suburb just outside Paris.

jazz-migrationThe Jazz Migration scheme is a brilliant scheme run by the national organisation for French jazz festivals and clubs, Association Jazzé Croisé (AJC), formerly known as AFIJMA. Four bands are chosen each year by 100 French jazz promoters from, this year, 57 applications. The bands receive mentoring from the great and good of the French jazz scene and also from international promoters at the Jazz Migration session and then tour throughout France and into neighbouring countries, including on an odd occasion, to Britain. The tours over two years can amount to as many as 70 concerts for a particular band.

Jazz North runs a similar scheme called The Northern Line, but, sadly, no equivalent national scheme exists in Britain.

The Jazz Migration showcase is clearly a major part of the scheme; it is attended by members of AJC, but also this year by promoters from UK, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and Norway. The great majority of AJC members are French, but The Vortex club in London is a member as is, I believe, the Gaume Festival in Belgium.

A sample CD with three tracks by each band is produced and the comments below are based on my impressions of the bands in the live situation and on the CD.

Watchdog

This is a a clarinet + piano/keyboards duo which takes its name from increasing use of electronic devices for purposes of surveillance.  Appropriately Anne Quiller played just keyboards at the showcase in contrast to the CD where she plays piano on two of the tracks. I found the interaction between Anne on keys and Pierre Horckmans on clarinets, including the regular clarinet, the bass clarinet and the lovely sounding alto clarinet, very integrated and generative of some very interesting and attractive textures. This was for me the most successful of the four bands. They were nominated by the Periscope Club in Lyon run by Pierre Dugelay of which I have written in the past; they are also members of the Pince Oreilles collective based in the Lyon area.

Quator Machaut – Quentin Biardeau

Quator Machaut - as they should be heard.

Quator Machaut – as they should be heard.

Quartor Machaut is a saxophone quartet led by Quentin Biardeau that plays arrangements of the Catholic mass Messe de Nostre Dame written for a vocal choir by the French composer Guillaume de Machaut, who was born in 1300 and was the composer of the first setting of the Ordinary Mass. The pieces translate extremely well to the work of a saxophone quartet with the gentler passages having a strong vocal feel to them. But they do take the music “out” on certain tunes with a very powerful sound created by the use of two baritone saxophones along with the tenor and alto.

I’d love to hear this in a church or cathedral where they can make use of the resonance of the building as they seemed a little hamstrung in a club environment. This was lovely music, but I felt it would be difficult to place and sustain interest in in the context of a concert setting of an hour or more. I could envisage the band playing a series of short sets over an afternoon in a church with other bands alternating with them.

They were nominated by the Scene Nationale d’Orleans and are members of the Tricollectif jazz collective.

PJ5

This was probably the closest band to what is happening in jazz round Europe today. It’s a band of high energy with clear influences from the more “full on” Norwegian and New York scenes, and also from rock music. The rhythm section led by guitarist Paul Jarret was particularly strong and energetic, though occasionally rather apart from each other musically. They provided excellent support for the frontline of trombone plus tenor sax, a combination that invariably works in interesting ways.

They were nominated by the Paris Jazz Festival and are associated with the BLO Collective in Paris.

Post K

Post K is a quartet  led by the Dousteyssier brothers, Jean on clarinets and Benjamin on saxophones, plus Matthieu Naulleau on piano and Elie Duris on drums. They cite post-Katrina New Orleans as an influence (whatever that means!); in practice they play a very tightly controlled version of early jazz, from New Orleans into early Ellington material that leads into a free-form deconstruction of the material. The playing, especially the unison passages with the two horns, is very impressive and the switches from the structured passages to the free improvisation were intriguing, but somehow I felt it was all a little too controlled.

Two aspects of the session really interest me. One is that the French have been able to set up a scheme that enables young bands to tour in a structured way and have the opportunity to develop their music through regular playing as a group. The second is the role of the jazz collectives of which there are many in France. Each group playing in the showcase mentioned membership of a collective and these collectives seem to be the main support mechanism for young creative bands. In France they tend to be small groups of musicians, often with less than ten members, who work together to create new innovative projects, often with support from the French Arts Council or regional authorities.

  • Full details of Jazz Migration on their website HERE.


Categories: Live review

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