Most everything may be closed in Europe on Sundays, but in Marciac late-night happenings went to the next level.
Pianists leading a trio of featured concerts, rather than usual two, plus another rare night featuring major acts on a second stage were in the spotlight on day seven of the 28th annual Jazz In Marciac Festival. But the highlight might have been one of the daytime regional performers securing a solid nomination for top honors among those heard during the two-week event.
Paris saxophonist Emile Parisien, who grew up in southern France and studied jazz at the college in Marciac, performed a seven-part original suite with his quartet on the village square stage. His playing was wickedly demonstrative, playing loose Coltrane-, Shorter- and freeform-style flurries on alto and soprano, with high notes and off-kilter ones frequently substituting for space. In the wrong hands this can be overwhelming; here the overall sense of tension and release was preserved well enough for listener inclusiveness.
The interaction between players might not have been gold medal stuff, but it ranked among the contenders as Parisien's intensity was generally matched through a variety of backdrops from swing to modernistic. But they also proved adept during the gentler moments one expects with this type of long-form composition, with pianist Julien Touery on one unaccompanied transition mixing Monk-like air with deft coloring from the McCoy Tyner era. Little of the performance felt simple, especially with drummer Sylvain Darrifourc's heavy textures adding tension nearly always hovering between moderate and severe.
Parisien said the composition is untitled (something I've encountered with several artists here) and didn't have a description for its theme beyond "spirituality." It wasn't his first acclaimed work of the festival - his alto playing as part of Wynton Marsalis' 13-member "My Brazilian Heart" ensemble was cited as a highlight of that day five show.
A subsequent concert by the Golden Groupe, the second band of the weekend featuring saxophonist and Marciac college graduate Benjamin Dousteyssier, was tighter on group collaboration - some of the best of week - if less mind-blowing individually during a performance I started to describe in my notes as "loose modern mainstream with just a hint of contemporary fusion." Not to cheat the band of further assessment, but I was starting to jot down details about them halfway through the show when I heard about the death of Cuban vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, who died in Havana during the weekend after performing his final concert in Marciac four days earlier, which sent me scrambling for details (as noted in a previous report, some attending the concert noted he was struggling and obviously in poor health).
I'm not sure why the death of someone I'd never heard perform threw me off - beyond the regret of bypassing his final show to hear locals playing on the "off" stages that night - but I took in the late afternoon and early evening stuff pretty casually while throwing together some quick notes about Ferrer.
The Karl Jannuska Quintet did a nice splicing of low rumbling thinking-man's blues and mainstream, much of which brought thoughts of David Sanborn's unconventional Another Hand album to mind, plus some modernist swing-pace pieces where mostly smooth lead lines and solos got spice from Jannuska's constant mix-it-up drum work.
Some subtle blues and soul came from an electric guitar/keyboard/drum trio (didn't catch their name) at the Cafe De Sports across from the village center square stage, only to get drowned out from where I was sitting by Madau Djembe's solo street performance on (what else) a djembe. It was interesting enough I contributed to both the hat for his CD and the one for spare change (admittedly, I'll buy almost any street musician album, especially those with no chance of being sold in stores).
The night concerts offered a chance to get a newbie's exposure to two acclaimed pianist- led trios, Omar Sosa and Abdullah Ibrahim (hey, everybody's a new listener at some point). Since I didn't try translating the French descriptions in the program I didn't know if I was in for Bill Evans or The Bad Plus. But it also means potentially being impressed or disappointed by things the experienced might see as old hat or different, so take my impressions as such.
As for Sosa, call me intrigued.