REVIEW: Henri Texier Hope Quartet plus Tori Freestone Trio in the Purcell Room, (2014 EFG London Jazz Festival)

Henri Texier at New Morning, Paris
Photo Credit: Thibault Geenen/Creative Commons

Henri Texier Hope Quartet plus Tori Freestone Trio.
(The Purcell Room, EFG London Jazz Festival, 16th November 2014. Review by Patrick Hadfield.)

Opening for Henri Texier was the Tori Freestone Trio. A saxophone trio must be a hard gig for a saxophonist: much of the weight of the music fell on Freestone's tenor. She was excellent, her playing full of fluid lyricism. There was a soft quality to her tone, recalling Garbarek at times.

She needn't have felt too lonely up there, with Dave Manington on bass and James Maddren on drums. Every time I see Maddren play, I am more impressed - and I have seen him a lot.

They only played a handful of tunes, including an extended piece specially commissioned by EFG London Jazz Festival, Identity Protection. The other numbers came from her CD, In The Chop House. It was a short but impressive set.

And then the Henri Texier Hope Quartet came on. It was as if a whole new dimension had been opened. Only four musicians, but they have a big sound, driven fast by the polyrhythms of Louis Moutin's drums and Henri Texier's swinging, walking bass. Sebastian Texier was playing alto clarinet, a moody sound evoking Mingus-era Eric Dolphy.

Francois Corneloup's baritone had a rich tone, adding depth. The focus on Moutin's percussion was warranted when Texier informed us that the tune was O Elvin, dedicated to Elvin Jones. He later announced a piece dedicated to another drummer Paul Motian, allowing Moutin some respite as the tempo slowed.

Sebastian Texier switched to alto saxophone and introduced a sense of the Maghreb - a wistful, distant longing - in duet with the drums. Henri Texier's bass was firmly rooted in the blues, but tinged by a variety of folk musics, I think. His playing brought to mind Charles Mingus, perhaps because of the echoes of Dolphy, but also because with the blues at his core he then plays other influences over the top. Corneloup added to the Mingus mood with some bluesy baritone.

At times Moutin eschewed sticks or brushes, using his hands directly on the drums and cymbals, building up complex and sometimes anarchic rhythms. There was a joyful playfulness to his drumming, over which there were screeching and soaring saxophones.

Moutin continued his battering of la batterie with a couple of exciting drum solos - no, not an oxymoron - but it was Texier's bass that set the standard, pushing the music forward.

They played several tunes from the quartet's latest album, A L'Improviste, including Sacrifice (a recurrent theme of Texier's) and Desaparecido. Coming back for an encore Stone Sleep, Texier took a long bass solo, slow and gentle, and then Moutin took over with a tremendous, thunderous drum solo before settling down with a simple rhythm played with just his hands upon the skins. The reeds played long notes over the top.

It was an exhilarating evening, a rollercoaster of rhythm and melody.

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