This recording is a manifesto
Whenever I tear the shrink-wrap off a CD from the independent French/Belgian Alpha label I know I'm in for a an interesting sonic experience, and this new release from percussionist Joël Grare (seen above and below) certainly didn't disappoint. The challenge is describing Paris - Istanbul - Shanghai in words. Here is what the Alpha website has to say :-
'This recording is a manifesto: modernism, culture, temporality, style, improvisation are all concepts with which Joël Grare plays, like a juggler. At a time of globalisation, of standardisation of cultures, this disc lets us hear the vision of the world of one man, at one given time. The Paris-Istambul-Shanghaï Ensemble (Chinese violin, theorbo, bass and percussions) forms the musical base of this invitation to travel. The guests, such as Claire Lefiliâtre, contribute their personality by taking up the learned or popular themes.
This « group », somewhere between a chamber music ensemble and a traditional one, plays standards like Jazzmen. Their standards? Magnificent themes stemming from Spain, Turkey, China, ancient music… Analysing these melodies well beyond their borders, thoroughly enjoying them to interpret them better, improvising, composing, whether or not in the style of their country or their period, following his mood, the taste of tea, the moment ; welcome to the world of Joël Grare.'
Interesting to read that "this recording is a manifesto". Could it be something to do with label founder Jean-Paul Combet having studied at the the Institute of Political Studies in Paris? I hope so, because we desperately need more music making with attitude. I can't add much to the label's description of the CD other than to say there is some very original and beautiful music on this album, and some of the best percussion sounds and deep bass I've heard from my speakers for a long time - the engineer is Alban Sautour.
Paris-Istanbul-Shanghai is an album of two parts, the first six-part title suite is easy on the ear world music and the Chinese violin of Guo Gan does rather outstay its welcome. But the second suite La route des métaux, which is a homage to metallic percussion instruments, is the real gem - much more edgy and closer to the inclusive contemporary classical style of Lou Harrison and others.
Very difficult to describe, so the best thing is to listen. Here is an MP3 file of the opening track which is a real ear-worm.
Moorish original and beautiful music from Alpha here.
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