CD / VINYLE collector/ DOWNLOAD
Recorded at Studio LA BUISSONNE (november 2015 by Gérard de Haro)
Cover Emmanuel GUIBERT
Production Label Vision Fugitive
Distribution Harmonia Mundi
Clearly, a George Gershwin tribute recording doesn’t just come down to a selection of celebrated standards played by accomplished musicians emulating his style. More so than with any other repertoire, a deep understanding of his rich harmonies, keen awareness of his history – making music that never gets old sound new again – and singular savvy to eschew every jazz cliché in the book while respecting tradition is paramount. Clarinetist Jean-Marc Foltz and pianist Stéphan Oliva have been cultivating these three distinctive qualities for over a decade. Befriending the cold shadows of one of contemporary music’s most passionate composers Giacinto Scelsi (Soffio di Scelsi, 2007), rephrasing the myth of Pandora (Pandore, 2008), and boldly rediscovering classics for clarinet and piano (Visions Fugitives, 2011).
Simply entitled Gershwin, this CD continues a longstanding dialogue and conversation that is in concert with a piercing focus on silence that plays the arbiter of panache. Slam and jam fans are respectfully requested to move on to the next new thing. Drawn out like deft Oriental script, this music seems to spring from silence to give greater vision and voice to breath. The breath of life that, according to ancient mystics, set the world in motion at the beginning of time. Simple yet complex, the aesthetic challenge is to loosen up the tempo without losing the rhythm and stretch out the phrasing without shattering the phrase. Ultramarine blue harmonies, ample and adept use of melisma as well as its own particular brand of sex appeal make George Gershwin’s repertoire a dream machine. On this side of the Atlantic where musicians and music lovers alike are forced to choose camps, we have too often and too long forgotten the success of Gershwin in straddling the worlds of both the classical music of his era (Rhapsody in Blue, Concerto in F) and popular Broadway showtunes that gave him an in with the jazz crowd. We also fail to recall that this instantly charismatic song plugger often fraternized with Arnold Schönberg and indeed idolized Alban Berg. Whereas, it was undoubtedly Maurice Ravel who, refusing his repeated requests for composition coaching, already recognized a burgeoning genius and encouraged him to find his own path rather than follow by example, as Nadia Boulanger also perceptively did with young Astor Piazzolla years later.
The best teachers are those that encourage their protégés to fly solo and the defiant loyalty that Foltz and Oliva show Gershwin is right on the mark. You will hear no trace of the astonishing glitzy clarinet glissando intro in this reinterpretation of Rhapsody in Blue while skillful layering of secondary themes and counterpoints express the true essence of a rhapsody. Just as in unforgettable Summertime, where the sequence in Prelude no. 2 resonates with the golden link between the ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ Gershwin that has only ever been broken in the narrow minds of territorialists. And, as in the playful and carefree stylings of Fascinating Rhythm, syncopated by the infusion of Thelonious Monk eccentricities.
Their flair for eloquent silence, and reverence without deference, repeatedly conjures up the unlikely pairing of Chet Baker and Paul Bley on their breathtaking Diane album of 1985 as well as the familiar ‘crosscurrents’ of Lennie Tristano and Jimmy Giuffre, even echoing the historic encounter between Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.
Walter Benjamin’s cherished ‘angel of history’ takes a chosen few under its wing who, at any given moment, may elect to amplify silence rather than string together notes in an appealing arrangement because, after all, music lives and breathes until the very end.•
Somehow (Stephan Oliva)
The Man I Love
Fascinating Rhythm / Someone To Watch Over Me (to Woody Allen)
'S Wonderful (Morning)
My Man's Gone Now
A Foggy Date / Rhapsody In Blue (Jean-Marc Foltz)
I Can't Get Started (Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin)
Rhapsody In Blue Theme (Gershwin's Dream)
'S Wonderful (Evening)
Prelude N. 2, Blue Lullaby (The Bridge)
I Love(s) You Porgy
Tous les thèmes sont de George Gershwin sauf mention contraire.
Does the fact that you were born close to a border make your ears prone to openness? Jean-Marc Foltz grew up between the classical repertoire, vocal music and swing orchestras. He then went through a series of fruitful zigzags, triggered by his acute musical curiosity and favored by timely encounters. Widely experienced in classical interpretation, he was soon attracted by contemporary music. This brought him to enter, from 1988 on, the ensembles Accroche Note, Musikfabrik, InterContemporain or United Instruments of Lucillin (France, Germany, Luxembourg… the trans-border tropism?), which helped him to dig deeper into the instrumentalist-composer relationship and to develop his knowledge of the languages. Being open to the diversity of jazz “families”, he tied strong links — from 2000 on — with bassist Claude Tchamitchian (Grand Lousadzak), pianist Bill Carrothers (Armistice Band, Playday, To The Moon), clarinetists Armand Angster and Sylvain Kassap (Trio de Clarinettes), and overall pianist Stéphan Oliva and bassist Bruno Chevillon, who became partners and friends in duo or trio setting… Jean-Marc Foltz is a polyglot and has the stock of knowledge of an insatiable traveler. Hence his move towards traditional musicians Araïk Bartikian and Keyvan Chemirani, towards theater with Hanna Schygulla, or playing along with harpist Anja Linder. Hence his urge to develop his own compositions and to imagine “Visions Fugitives” — a new duo program — with Stéphan Oliva. The creation, in a “trio setting” initiated by Philippe Mouratoglou and with producer Philippe Ghielmetti, of Vision Fugitive, an eclectic record label, sounds like a logical follow up to Foltz’s intense, open approach to music.
From the Bill Evans way (one of his concerts brought him to jazz) to the voices of Susanne Abbuehl, Linda Sharrock or Hanna Schygulla (along whom he plays), from asceticism (Lennie Tristano, whom he revisited with his partner François Raulin) to the trapeze (his duo with high rope dancer Mélissa Von Vépy), from Paul Motian (whom he revers and invited) to film music (which he composes), Stéphan Oliva is obviously an atypical and multifaceted pianist and musician.
He stepped on the French jazz scene in the beginning of the nineties, after strong classical musical studies, and soon was part of an informal group of instrumentalists about his age (Claude Tchamitchian, Jean-Pierre Jullian, Bruno Chevillon, François Merville…) who had the same aesthetic yearnings as him. They all were to become the young hopes of French jazz in the following years and are still today references at a European level.
But Stephan Oliva is not the type of musician who belongs to a clan or a caste: he follows his own way, that’s marked by whom or what he’s faithful to, whom or what moves him, whom or what he encounters. Evans, Tristano, Windsor McCay, Paul Auster, Brahms, Berg, Bernard Herrmann, Giascinto Scelsi, G. W. Pabst… are for him a living pantheon and a source of inspiration rather than objects of stifling devotion.
As for his refined and subtle way of playing the piano, it finds with all his partners the poetical counterpoint that completes it as it plays alongside.
The “Visions Fugitives” that he proposes with clarinetist Jean-Marc Foltz, his long time mate sound, in this context with the obviousness of a renewed enchantment.
disc / booklet