By: Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band
Format: 4-CDs box-set
Catalog No: MW 938-2
Price : 40 EUR
1. AF Agustí Fernández solo 6'08
2. AFPE Agustí Fernández / Peter Evans Duo 11'24
3. BD I Ben Dwyer solo 7’50
4. JGBGRL Julius Gabriel / Barry Guy / Ramón López trio 14’11
5. PETS Peter Evans / Torben Snekkestad duo 16’12
6. SYBG Savina Yannatou / Barry Guy duo 20’18
1. PTJMN Per Texas Johansson / Michael Niesemann duo 14’06
2. MGFPLN I Michel Godard / Fanny Paccoud / Lucas Niggli trio 5’05
3. MGFPLN II Michel Godard / Fanny Paccoud / Lucas Niggli trio 10’38
4. Rondo for Nine Birds Maya Homburger / Barry Guy / Lucas Niggli trio 19’36
5. SYFPPTJ Savina Yannatou / Fanny Paccoud duo 12’12
6. TSBG Torben Snekkestad / Barry Guy duo 8’19
1. BD II Ben Dwyer solo 9’37
2. PEAFRLLN Peter Evans / Agustí Fernández / Ramón López / Lucas Niggli quartet 17’57
3. MGSY Michel Godard / Savina Yannatou duo 5’16
4. TSMNPTJJG Torben Snekkestad / Michael Niesemann / Per Texas Johansson / Julius Gabriel quartet 7’38
5. TSMNPTJJGMG Torben Snekkestad / Michael Niesemann / Per Texas Johansson / Julius Gabriel quartet with Michel Godard 7’27
6. BGMN I Barry Guy / Michael Niesemann duo 8’03
7. BGMN II Barry Guy / Michael Niesemann duo 3’42
8. BD III Ben Dwyer solo 6'00
9. BDPE Ben Dwyer / Peter Evans duo 7'00
1. TSAF Torben Snekkestad / Agustí Fernández duo 7’44
2. Bach Adagio from the sonata for violin solo in g minor BWV1001 Maya Homburger solo 3’18
3. MGBGFPPTJJGTSLN Michel Godard / Barry Guy duo 18’49 (leading into septet with Fanny Paccoud / Per Texas Johansson / Julius Gabriel / Torben Snekkestad and Lucas Niggli)
4. LNRL Lucas Niggli / Ramón López duo 10’18
5. AFBGRLSYPE Agustí Fernández / Barry Guy / Ramón López trio with Savina Yannatou & Peter Evans 28:22
Savina Yannatou – voice
Michel Godard – tuba and serpent
Ben Dwyer – guitar
Agusti Fernandez – piano
Torben Snekkestad – soprano & tenor saxes
Michael Niesemann – alto sax & oboe
Per Texas Johansson – tenor sax & clarinet
Peter Evans – trumpet
Julius Gabriel – baritone & soprano saxes
Maya Homburger – violin
Fanny Paccoud – viola
Lucas Niggli – percussion
Ramon Lopez – percussion
Barry Guy – bass
November 18 & 19 & 20, 2014at the Alchemia Club, Krakow
The legendary Alchemia Club in Krakow (Poland) has played and continues to play
host to musicians worldwide to present their musical ideas.
In recent years I have had the pleasure to prepare large ensemble projects there during
the daylight hours, whilst the evening has given way to small formations from within the big band that, in a way, expose the heart and soul of the group, an ontological musical debate that informed the total experience of our work together.
KINESIS or ONTOLOGY (depending on which title we will choose ) represents the summation of three evening performances, where regular but most often new alliances came together for creative evocations in an uncharted musical landscape. To my ears these experiences in turn informed the Première performance of “The Blue Shroud” at the end of our residency where a unified sense of purpose provided the listener with an especially emotional focus.
My thanks go to Marek Winiarski for making the project happen and to Maya Homburger for managing the band as well as playing in the ensemble.
To the musicians involved, I send my thanks for their commitment, but above all for their amazing creativity, endlessly demonstrated night after night.
What the critics say:
Small Group Formations
During the days leading up to the final concert of his 2014 residency in Krakow, Guy rehearsed his hand-picked band through the score for his ambitious new work “The Blue Shroud”. But in the evenings they broke into smaller subdivisions to improvise freely. That plan not only provided a way to promote familiarity and let off steam after a long day's intense rehearsal, but also sowed the seed for some of the improvisatory passages in the longer work. Each night there were three sets, each comprising up to three separate groupings. While everyone had links to the bassist, many of the participants had not worked together. So it was inevitable that there would be some first time meetings among the small formations. Often these were some of the most potent of the short engagements.
Guy’s presence was also a surefire indicator of quality. Individually, he stands as one of the world’s preeminent improvisers on bass, having developed the quicksilver aesthetic first posited by Scott La Faro to its logical extreme. In performance Guy simply has to be seen to be believed. His spurts of hyperactivity combined precise articulation, a plethora of extended approaches and seemingly inexhaustible stamina. He thrived on opposites and tension: between pizzicato and arco; between deep resonance and a nimble upper register; and between straight and idiosyncratic techniques.
While with one hand he might brandish a mallet to mine overtones from the strings both above and below the bridge, with the other he would simultaneously finger rapidly evolving pitches and chords. Then afterwards he might insert knitting needles between the strings to act as temporary bridges which modified the tuning and at the same time add a random metallic shimmer. His use of a volume pedal meant that even the most subtle effects, such as his ringing harmonics, could hold their own in dialogue. But whatever he did was informed by an acute musical sensibility. It was never just technique for its own sake.
While the overall standard of the sessions was astoundingly high, there were some sets that stood out even more than others. Unsurprisingly the most seasoned improvisers proved the most accomplished, but even the chamber specialists gave a strong account of themselves on less conventional turf. On the first night highlights included the opening solo set from Spanish pianist Agusti Fernandez, and his subsequent duet with trumpeter Peter Evans, and the duos of Evans and Norwegian reedman Torben Snekkestad, and Guy and Greek vocalist Savina Yannatou.
Fernandez' first gesture was electrifying: swiping a wood block across the strings inside the piano to magic a wild gust of sound. It announced a panoply of percussiveness from which occasional plucked notes materialized as if by accident. Few other pianists can equal the Catalan's dexterity and resourcefulness in extracting maximum potential from his instrument. Amid the multiplying overtones, Fernandez drew out an almost vocal quality from the piano interior. As a very hushed groaning passage subsided, Evans joined the pianist.
With the bell of his trumpet over the mic, he created a resounding bass drone, which the pianist punctuated with shrill plucks from the piano interior. Purposeful interplay ensued, testament to prior collaboration, not only on disc with Mats Gustafsson, but also as a duo on tour. Fernandez paralleled the American's rapid fire exhortations with dense muscular runs. One wonderful moment of synchronicity saw both seemingly independently settle on a trilled phrase. Evans' speed of thought and reaction provides a severe test for anyone he shares the stage with, but Fernandez was equal to the task.
Likely the duo of Evans and Norwegian reedman Snekkestad will also surface on disc at some point, such was the success of their inaugural meeting. After exchanging growls and quiet susurrations, Snekkestad using a trumpet with a reed mouthpiece, the pair exuberantly braided squalling tones. Snekkestad sneaked his soprano into his mouth next to the reed trumpet to conjure lacerating exclamations, before focusing wholly on the straight horn. Seated next to each other, circular breathing through a brass lexicon, the twosome appeared every inch terrible twins.
Yannatou has featured in previous Guy projects, including “Time Passing” at the 2013 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, as well as in a pairing captured live on Attikos (Maya, 2010). On this occasion Yannatou constrained her wordless ululations, muffled stutters and introspective screams within a low level passion, which allowed full rein to Guy's exquisite filigree runs. Arco swoops interrupted flurries of pizzicato notes and slurs akin to Yannatou's vocal sighs. It was as if they conversed in an intimate discourse in an alien language complete with its own syntax, which was at times stirring, mournful and ethereal.
The second evening furnished a study in polarities. The opening combination of Guy, drummer Lucas Niggli and violinist Maya Homburger performed "Rondo for Nine Birds", a composition by Guy inspired by a picture which adorns the wall of their home. In the through-composed piece, the players returned at regular intervals to a jaunty ditty, interposed between diverse vignettes. Niggli interpreted the repeating theme differently each time, varying between fingers and sticks, and between exact and loose, while Homburger and Guy's parts intertwined, sometimes austere but at others nervy and staccato.
If much of the first set dwelt in the chamber, then the quartet of Niggli, drummer Ramon Lopez, Fernandez and Evans probably resided in the garage, with a default setting of all out aural assault. Evans' bravura trumpet cut through the waves of noise with aplomb, dipping into the troughs and skimming above the surf. He and Fernandez once again united in a high energy face off, fuelled by a clattering accompaniment. But there were astonishing contrasts too, as when Evans key pad popping prompted the Spaniard to delve into piano's innards. But the respite was brief. Fernandez hammered the keys, smashed his forearms and used his fingers in sewing machine motion, while Niggli excitedly bounced on his stool translating the fervor into apocalyptic tumult.
On the third night high points included the duo of Guy and alto saxophonist Michael Niesemann, the larger grouping growing out of the initial threesome of Michel Godard, French violist Fanny Paccoud and Guy, and the Aurora Trio with Evans and Yannatou. Niesemann alerted unsuspecting listeners to his qualities with a searing clarion call on his alto saxophone. It heralded not a maelstrom, but an interlude of subdued intensity in which plaintive alto vied with fluttering bass. That pattern of alternating animation and meditation continued, as Niesemann's short guttural phrases matched Guy's sudden switches between bow and hands. Such was the combustive zeal, that their first selection peaked in frenetic oratory, as Niesemann screeched multiphonics, with the veins on his neck looking ready to pop.
Paradoxically given their backgrounds, Paccoud, Godard and Guy gave rise to some of the most swinging sections of the three nights. From the serpent, a convoluted wooden ancestor of the tuba, Godard drew a jazzy buzz, which encouraged Guy into a relaxed lope. When Paccoud entered from backstage she picked out Godard's rhythm on her viola, before sawing a bluesy wail. Once Swedish reedman Per Texas Johansson joined on clarinet his jagged lines brought about a return to the accustomed abstraction, which turned into a garrulous swelling collective with the addition of Julius Gabriel's baritone saxophone and Snekkestad's reed trumpet. At one point Johansson arrested the whole audience's attention by affixing a balloon to the mouth of his clarinet, which he inflated and then allowed to deflate with a booming gasp.
Guy programmed the Aurora Trio for the final set of the three nights. Completed by Fernandez and Lopez, the trio's blend of soulful balladry and spiky invention is immortalized on three acclaimed outings: Aurora (Maya, 2006), Morning Glory (Maya, 2010), and A Moment's Liberty (Maya, 2013). However tonight they were supplemented by Evans' trumpet and Yannatou's voice, and as a consequence eschewed the melancholic lyricism which so strongly pervades their repertoire for a set of daredevil flights.
A special bond was evident between the members of the Aurora Trio, manifest in the shared rhythmic attack between Guy and Lopez, and in the instantaneous trafficking between the bassist and the pianist. Fernandez spent most of the set with at least one hand under the piano lid. Evans was once again a scorching presence. His narrative ripened and evolved at breathtaking pace, transmuting into a stream of highly detailed fizzing sound. Yannatou took the opportunities as they arose in the ebb and flow to interpolate her wordless vocals. It made a cracking finale which engendered keen anticipation for the final show by the entire aggregation.
(These words first appeared as part of a review of the 9th Krakow Jazz Autumn, reprinted courtesy of All About Jazz )
Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud Orchestra, the 14-piece band created to perform the English bassist’s Blue Shroud, gathered for the final week of Jazz Autumn from Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and America, some members meeting for the first time, then spent the next three days rehearsing the piece eight hours a day, only to spend each night in three sets of small ensemble improvisations, getting to know one another’s musical personalities at the granular level. The musicians were drawn from Guy and partner/baroque violinist Maya Homburger’s diverse worlds of jazz and contemporary classical, free improvisation and period instrument performance, all possessed of remarkable skills and a willingness to test and extend them in fresh contexts.
Over 20 different groupings would appear between Agustí Fernández creating a storm of original sound in the piano’s interior to begin Tuesday’s program and the final quintet on Thursday, which expanded the Aurora trio of Guy, Fernández and drummer Ramon Lopez with trumpeter Peter Evans and mercurial Greek singer Savina Yannatou. In between one encountered a range of stunning musical voices, from the solo pieces by Homburger on baroque violin and Irish composer/classical guitarist Ben Dwyer to a remarkable group of saxophonists whose reputations are only beginning to reach beyond Europe: Michael Niesemann has the previously unknown capacity to play both fire-breathing free alto and virtuoso baroque oboe d’amore; Torben Snekkestad’s doubles are just as unusual: in addition to tenor and soprano, he plays a reed-trumpet hybrid that sounds like a roar from the dawn of time. The young Julius Gabriel plays ferocious baritone while Per Texas Johansson doubles tenor and clarinet, sometimes with distinctive humor: during one improvised dialogue, a black balloon emerges and expands from the bell of his clarinet. In addition to various duos and trios, the reed players performed as a quintet, the fifth member Michel Godard, a virtuoso of the tuba and the medieval serpent, sounding on the latter like a modern trombonist. The violist Fanny Paccoud, another ancient music specialist, played skittering free improvisations in assorted ensembles while another incongruous component of this assembly—the two contrasting drummers, Lopez, loose and unpredictably propulsive, and Lucas Niggli, a demon of precision—performed as a duo and in a quartet with Fernández and Evans.
This unique collection of musicians and their compound skill sets were matched together for a special vision, one crisscrossing past and present, combining seemingly contrary views, voices and methodologies to create a new kind of composition, one that reached beyond collage to a polysemous musical discourse, born at once in a score and the accelerated evolution of free improvisation.
The debut of the 75-minute Blue Shroud brought these contrasting virtuosities together. Inspired by Picasso’s Guernica, Guy named the piece for the blue shroud that was placed over a tapestry copy at the UN building during Colin Powell’s 2003 declaration of war against Iraq. As vast as Picasso’s painting, Guy’s work is equally ambitious, a great musical meditation on the horrors of war and the quest for compassion. Constructing songs on poems by Irish poet Kerry Hardie, Guy employed methods ranging from atonality and Spanish flamenco to a gorgeous chorale of high-pitched reeds, contrasting lyrical passages with bursts of violent energy and lacing passages of free improvisation through and over both, with Yannatou singing text in four languages, blending formal declaration with speaking in tongues. One uncanny component was the dramatic inclusion of pieces by the 17th century composer H.I.F. Biber and Bach, images of compassion and respite, beautifully realized and continuous with Guy’s own lyrical episodes. It’s a major work, bridging musical chasms, and should be widely heard.
Stuart Broomer, New York City Jazz Record, January 2015
Here the 14 members of British bassist Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud Band, gathered in Krakow to perform the bassist’s orchestral Blue Shroud, were recorded in Small Formations. The set features 26 tracks where band members from 10 countries demonstrate their skills. Some improvisations are unexpected, as when four reed players stack up so many timbres that are alternately shrill, subterranean, harsh and gentle, that it appears critical mass is reached. Then they’re joined by serpent-player Michael Godard, whose hunting-horn-like subtly adds a further subterrestrial dimension. On one track, Bach specialist Maya Homburger reads her part, but backed by Guy’s four-square bass and the creative accents of percussionist Lucas Niggli the result is easy swing. Other assemblages are more customary. Guy’s mufti-directional arpeggios and percussionist Ramón López’s pacing draw out the best from saxophonist Julius Gabriel so that his flutters, reed kisses and slurps culminate in a set that salutes both the hushed improv of Mopomoso and Gustafsson-style Energy Music. Vocalist Savina Yannatou showcases her tonal sensitivity or creates a hubbub of sounds scatted and otherwise equal to the instrumentalists’ free playing. Overall the MVP is Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández. On his own he mixes highly technical carefully prepared string addition to create a kaleidoscopic solo that’s as percussively syncopated as it is breezy. On the set’s final track he joins Guy, López, trumpeter Peter Evans and Yannatou for a matchless half-hour improvisation. Sequences successively resemble a classic piano trio; a rhythmic safety net for Evans’s tongue gymnastics; and focused backing for the vocalist’s mumbles and speaking-in-tongues. Throughout the pianist’s draws unexpected glissandi and inner-piano resonations like gold nuggets from a stream to both match and accompany the other soloists. Each box here has something to offer the adventurous. Together they add up to a faultless picture of contemporary improvised music.
Ken Waxman, New York City Jazz Record, 11/2-16