Review: Luc Ex Assemblée / Electric Epic / Samuel Blaser Trio at Café Oto (EFG LJF)

Luc Ex Assemblée at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved



Luc Ex Assemblée, Electric Epic and Samuel Blaser Trio
(Café Oto (EFG London Jazz Festival), 17 November 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


The first Sunday of the EFG London Jazz Festival at Café Oto presented three challenging groups culled from a pan-European jazz base. Swiss avant-trombonist, Samuel Blaser's Trio, the French hard-hitting foursome, Electric Epic, led by Guillaume Perret, and a stellar quartet put together by Dutch bassist, Luc Ex covered so much ground that this extended and varied evening had the feel of three headline concert sets.

Cutting across the boundaries which usually define jazz, rock and improv, each set was defined by complex compositional forms tackled in very different ways by each of the ensembles.

Blaser's brightly textured brass sorties complemented French guitarist Marc Ducret's tense, inwardly-focused passages that bled to inaudibility as he turned off the amplification at one point, while Danish drummer Peter Bruun maintained an upbeat range of criss-crossing textures. Their improvised deviations included a reinterpretation of Stravinsky's 'Fanfare for Two Trumpets', with Ducret changing plectrums to twist the tone, Bruun using only his hands and Blaser seeking out an ever more remote distance.

Electric Epic have moved on considerably since appearing at the 'Jazz on 3' 2011 London Jazz Festival launch. Their high-energy impulse has gained shape and power through dedication, sharp focus and what must be a rigorous rehearsal regime. A formidable, polished force, they walked a line between rock, jazz and death metal with a fat, thunderous sound that was the platform for Perret's mobile, earthy sax. Navigating his gutsy, riffy pieces with fast-moving, synchronised attack, bassist Phillipe Bussonet brought in the flowing intensity of his experience with Magma while guitarist Jim Grandcamp and drummer Yoann Serra filled out the raw, guttural backbone with intelligence and flair. Catering for a rock-oriented ear, and aiming for the larger stage, it will be interesting to see how they develop.

It was a joy to see the finesse and maturity of Luc Ex's Assemblée, which brought together reeds master Ab Baars, and the unfailingly impressive saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock with Hamid Drake's finely honed percussion and Luc Ex's own disarmingly muted excursions on electro-acoustic bass. They carved out space with an innate sense of musical vision, created witty and starting dialogues around Luc's demanding compositional frameworks and bounced melodic aggregations against an irrepressible subversive intent. Luc's boundless energy channelled in to low volume acoustic output was a delightfully illuminating contrast to his usual powerhouse role in The Ex. Baars flipped back and forth from sax to clarinet, to suit the turns of the intoxicating, rapidly executed duets with Laubrock, which had the two of them briefly take on the sound of a Roland Kirk double sax blast, and Drake worked the pace around with deceptive aplomb, maintaining an equilibrium flecked with carefully placed points of tension. A masterclass for the early hours of Monday morning in Dalston.

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