Minnesota Sur Seine 2005: Intercommunal Music on the Mississippi
Though a few wags were irate that Evan Parker came all the way to Minneapolis to 'sit in,' his entrée into the Fat Kid Wednesdays set on the festival's closing day at the Huss Music Room was a near-perfect foil for the youthful exuberance of saxophonist Mike Lewis and the trio. Lewis' acrid alto led the way on the first improvisation, blazing a trail of dry, repeated motifs a la John Tchicai (Parker goading with his Trane-like bursts only serving to push Lewis higher) with Parker wholly reveling in free-bop modea mode that has crept to the fore again as he continually reevaluates.
The two saxophonists are good front-line partners, noncompetitive and both deferential to and inspiring one another in lilting, conversational duets that soared over the surging rhythm section. The only mar of the set came shortly after the beginning of the second piece, as Parker's unaccompanied soprano (in classic circular breathing dervish mode) was cut off with percussive bass slugs from Linz (couldn't he have waited a few minutes?), rectified as a spare exploration of rhythm units and Lewis' tenor harmonics focused the improvisation into a time-stalling sound canvas.
Lewis entered the third piece on soprano, though his approach is worlds away from Parker'sParker returning to tenor over a stop-time rhythmic romp, Lewis nagging the same bent phrase as Parker's improvisation went vertical (the Tchicai comparison again). The set closed with the addition of Hymas and bassist Anthony Cox to the lineup (Cox had opened the concert solo), though whether anything was gained from the lengthy encore is questionablethe piano was rather difficult to hear and Cox appeared quite lost in this context, at least compared to the singing free-bop pedigree of Linz. Of course, this was the Fat Kids' gig as much as it was Parker's, and it was a sincere pleasure to hear the trio elevate alongside a storied saxophonist who was having one hell of a good time.
But after the dust settled, what makes Minnesota sur Seine a necessity, something that should be offered to both the jazz-public and the musicians again and again? Recording and touring situations are only part of the dealindeed, Denis Colin's now augmented trio engaged a brief US tour following their Twin Cities sojourn, with a record cut shortly after. Brother Ali is Paris-bound in January for the Sons d'Hiver Festival, and will likely record with Ursus Minor or some variant of it; Poetic Scrap Metal may indeed defy geography and work together further.
But Fat Kid Wednesdays have found the admiration of French musicians and bassist Adam Linz plans to join Tusques for more gigs in France this Spring (indeed, it was a year ago that he came to Tusques' attention, and vice versa, after Fat Kids toured France). Indeed, the French players found much to be happy about in Minneapolis as wellDelbecq championed the "opportunity to play with musicians who rarely come to Europe, and bridge some of the gaps that exist between American and European players. Tusques, a fixture at every gig whether playing or not, was invited by Linz: "My hope is that my music can now reach audiences here, and possibly lead to more projects with American musicians, which I haven't done in 30 years!
Rochard has always been one to throw things at the wall and see if they stickindeed, Nato records has a history of fueling such so-bizarre-they-might-work meetings as Han Bennink and Steve Beresfordand sur Seine follows in that very tradition. Breton folk music meeting free improvisation? A free jazz saxophonist, classically-trained pianist, funk drummer, four MC's and one of the most un-pigeonholeable guitarists these ears have heard in some time? A perfectly co-operative quartet of three young jazzmen chomping at the bit and helping to light a few fires under one of the most respected European jazzmen? All of these heretofore hard-to-fathom possibilities bore realistic fruit at this year's Minnesota sur Seine.
There was, for me, a postscript, which occurred at Acadia's Tuesday night improvisers' series following the festival. Trumpeter Kelly Rossum, a University of North Texas-educated purveyor of fat and guttural smears in the Bill Dixon-Jacques Coursil school of brass playing, convened his quartet with Chris Thompson and Chris and JT Bates for a set of wide-open, earthen-toned improvisations.
JT, ever the physical player, hovered above his kit approaching it as if to say 'what is this pile of junk before me and what sounds can I make with it?' Chris Bates was hell-bent on working out the connection between post-bop anchor and palette for a deconstructive workshop, while Thompson interjected terse free-time Newk into the conversation. In light of everything that came the week before, and left days earlier on a plane back to France, there was something in the room belying a Twin Cities music reality that few take the opportunity to seethere are players here that, in the words of JT Bates, "take what [they] do each day and turn it upside down. One can only surmise that players like Francois Corneloup, Denis Colin and Francois Tusques thought the same thing about Minneapolisevery which way is up.
Thanks to Sarah Remke, Jean Rochard, JT Bates, Adam Linz, Benoit Delbecq, Francois Tusques, Guy Le Querrec and Serigne Laloux, and the staff of Minnesota sur Seine for making this article possible.
Visit Sur Seine on the web.
Francois Tusques et le Nouveau Jazz Francais