RDV De L'Erdre 2012
It was courageous (or perhaps foolhardy) to present such concentrated music in the prime late night Saturday slot, in front of a standing and quaffing crowd, but the gamble paid off. Aside from a very small minority of gigglers and hecklers, the audience stood transfixed by the compelling pieces, remaining silent during the tensed instances of becalmed minimalism, The whole set was devoted to an extended pattern of portentous amassing of deadly threat, dark clouds roiling, leading up to recurring outbursts of bombastic release. Deliberately extreme distortion bruised the edges of the most percussively riffing outlets, the strings operating at the far perimeter of what's possible with such a quartet format. Parkinson was the structural ringmaster, setting the pace for the broad range of sounds that Wise crafted, from marimba pulsations to sonorous bass drum detonations. Having witnessed Manorexia gigging on three previous occasions, it was this show that fully revealed the sonic extremes, amplified for maximum impact, with every detail beautifully limned. The outdoor experience somehow made the music come closer, paradoxical as that sounds.
At the end of the evening, the floating stage was always the last to finish, drawing together the crowds from all other ports. Ninety Miles was to be heard sound checking in the afternoon without trumpeter Nicholas Payton. It looked like his arrival was merely delayed, but the actual set revealed that he'd entirely failed to make the gig. It was left to joint leaders vibraphonist Stefon Harris and tenor man David Sanchez to shoulder the soloing responsibilities, with the saxophonist, in particular, given ample room to surge upwards.
The fest's final day began with one of the weekend's outstanding sets. Journal Intime was presenting a Jimi Hendrix homage, something that might not automatically have commanded attention. The guitarist's original overloads of his own compositions were so definitive that any lackey who sets out to recreate them really ought to have something extreme and profound to offer. This French trio immediately justified its audacity, with each tune not always initially recognizable, and even when a piece was obvious straight away, it was tackled with a skewed, adventurous élan. There was no voice, guitar, bass or drums allowed. Trumpeter Sylvain Bardiau, trombonist Matthias Mahler and bass saxophonist Frédéric Gastard engaged in an almost constant assault of earthy virtuosity, the tunes arranged with a jaunty precision. Each player stitched his lines around the other pair's inventions, constantly unnerving, surprising and astonishing with sheer power of transmission. We feared for their hearts, which much surely have been worked to bursting point. Gastard, in particular, seemed hardly to pause for breath in-between his brawling, braying, bruising bass lines. Yes, he was an extreme low-tone master, but his breath-reed-phrasing trinity facilitated a high-wire nimbleness of the bull-belch.
Was there a secret in their chosen trousers? Between them, there were outrageous bell-bottoms, shiny silken sportsters and leather knee-padded motorcycle strides. All three wore printed t-shirts, but only Bardiau's was Hendrix-emblazoned. When Gastard opened "Voodoo Chile" with a completely solo feedback impersonation, the piece was instantly familiar, but then he detoured towards raucous oblivion before the other two horn men joined in to establish the song's backbone melodic thrust. By contrast, "Little Wing" offered the trio's gentlest tonal smearing. This was a most successful Hendrix reincarnation, as neither the composer nor his interpreters lost any of their extreme individuality, or were compromised for an instant. Journal Intime astonished because of its breathtaking horn prowess, but the group was also the lord of brutal humor, and masters of rugged excess.
So now it was time for some more New Orleans trad jazz. Once again, the RDV fest's appetite for musical contrasts provided a switch which made that old-time sound almost avant-garde. Whenever the diet is radically changed, the mind reels with displaced shock. La Trompette d'Occasion only had one banjo in the lineup, but that was still sufficient, along with the seemingly popular sousaphone as the bass vehicle of choice in the French traditional sphere. This crew was from Vendée, further along the Loire, and its drummer/washboarder Richard Gouloumes was an asset in terms of general vigor and audience communication duties. The band was blessed by its position on the floating stage, and the both-banks crowd was in the mood for some more clap-along cheeriness.