Other Dimensions in Music at the JVC Jazz Festival in Paris, Oct. 19-20
It was fascinating to see how the lead switched among members of the group, revealing how the performance was shaped. After one sprightly melodic solo from Campbell, the tall gaunt Carter joined on alto, blowing soft and long. Straightaway Campbell matched him, and the rhythm slowed with Drake switching to brushes and lithely sweeping his skins. Elsewhere a repeated arco pattern from Parker summoned rhythmic embellishment from Drake and prompted glorious riffing from the tandem horns.
Solos were used to maintain the flow of a piece. As a passage came to its natural conclusion, bass or drums would continue, hewing a solo statement until one or more of their comrades chose to rejoin and the caravan moved on. Infrequently the tactic backfired, as at the end of one set: the beatific Drake maintained the thread with a steady tick-tocking on the rim of his snare. But this time no one rejoined so Drake played slower and slower, until he chuckled that he could go on all night, then defeated expectations by continuing in the same vein, before finally slowing to a halt with laughter all round.
There were numerous equally memorable passages. A striking ethnic polyphony began one set with Drake on frame drum, Carter on flute, Campbellresplendent in a rich blue shirt with a yellow Egyptian motifon wood flute, and Parker on musette (a North African double reed instrument). Then Carter bobbed back and sideways as he added a wordless chant. Later his muted trumpet intertwined with Campbell's flugelhorn over lyrical bass, before the conclave of master musicians swept onwards in a glorious concatenation.
At one point Parker's booming bass notes vibrated out as he slid his fingers down the fret before morphing into a sanctified riff accented by Drake's cymbals and Campbell's soulful muted pocket trumpet. Carter again added ghostly vocal backing before moving to flute, for a dancing flute and drum duet. When Carter's urgent clarion alto calls later culminated in a repeated phrase, Campbell picked up his pocket trumpet and played the same phrase, anticipating simultaneous improvisation from the sparring horns before both ended on a high squeal.
Both nights were recorded by French label Marge, with the musicians responsible for selecting the final cut. They will have a hard job as any of the six sets would make a wonderful release. I felt privileged to have been able to witness it all going down.