London Jazz Festival Review: Henri Texier at Kings Place

Henri Texier, 2007. Photo credit: Thibault Geenen (creative commons)
Henri Texier
(Kings Place, Wednesday 14th November. LJF. Review by Chris Parker)


The pre-publicity for French bassist/composer Henri Texier’s LJF gig in Hall One at Kings Place, by stressing his importance courtesy of his collaborations with US jazz luminaries Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon and Chet Baker, provided a neat exposition of the perception problem it was designed to address: the glories of European jazz are all too easily seen merely as reflected ones. In Texier’s case, this is particularly misleading: the French, understandably and commendably wary as they are about anglophone cultural imperialism, chiefly in the matter of language itself, but also in film, literature and music, would not have made Texier a Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur had he not made a significant contribution to French culture, rather than operating merely as a European franchise for an American artistic brand.

On this occasion, for which he had assembled a specially commissioned pan-European band, he opened proceedings with a lively trio set, for which he was joined by his son Sébastien Texier on reeds and Louis Moutin on drums. Typically, Texier himself would set up an assertively propulsive, repeated rhythm, frequently using strummed bass strings, then he and Moutin, a robust, even rumbustious, yet scrupulously neat timekeeper, would underpin the sinuously powerful solo contributions of Texier fils, who operates with equal facility on alto and clarinet. The odd excursion into free playing was carefully balanced against more overtly structured fare, even the odd standard (‘What is This Thing Called Love’), a stylistic mix also characterising the concert’s second half, for which the core trio was augmented by clarinettist David Kweksilber, tenor player Julian Argüelles, trumpeter Alain Vankenhove, viola player Oene Van Geel and Benjamin Flament on vibes.

This aggregation took a little while to warm up, which they did by playing a couple of relatively straightforward pieces accommodating a range of solo styles: Van Geel and Kweksilber the wildest cards in the pack, Argüelles the most lyrical, his contributions bubbling up out of the ensemble sound like the waters of an underground spring. Then a woozily anthemic theme gave rise to a three-horn free interlude; a softly propulsive tune, beautifully cushioned by Texier’s full-bodied bass, brought forth Argüelles’s tenderest solo of the night, followed by striking contributions from Flament, Van Geel and Vankenhove (on warm-toned flügelhorn); and a typically Texieresque fast bustle enabled the illustrious band to strike sparks off each other, so that by the time they reached what their leader referred to ‘a little au revoir’, the band was operating as an assured, cohesive unit, able to do full justice to Texier’s graceful, stately encore.

Not a classic Texier performance, then, but an intriguing and often uplifting glimpse of a supremely accomplished and multi-faceted compositional and bandleading talent.

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