Triade with Mikko Innanen: The Improviser's Journey
October 24, 2003
An improviser searches for meaningful ways to connect one moment to the next; the meaning they find often depends on where they start. The French trio Triade and Finnish saxophonist Mikko Innanen understand just how valuable choosing the right starting point is. CD samples, Arnold Schöenberg, Serge Gainsbourg and dark, yet simple themes all served as jumping off points for them, and those points helped them to create a music full of moment-to-moment tension, surprise and a churning, exuberant energy. On this night, their limits gave them freedom.
This concert in Jyväskylä’s Jazz Bar was the twelfth of a 14-gig tour, and the audience got to enjoy the intuition and spontaneous dialogue that comes after an intense performance schedule. Their meeting was organized by French promoter Charles Gil, who specializes in bringing French and Finnish players together for tours in both countries. Triade-featuring Cedric Piromalli on keyboards, Sebastian Boisseau on bass and Nicolas Larmignat on drums-has extensive experience playing together, and they began collaborating with Innanen at Finland’s Pori Jazz Festival this past July. The quartet knew their material, which consisted of mostly originals by all the band members, and they communicated brilliantly. However, Triade’s style clashed with Innanen’s just enough to generate a delicious, edge-of-your-seat tension at every turn.
All the compositions featured shifting dialogues between bass and drums, or sax and bass, or sax and keyboards. Often the group would follow the cue of one member and head off in radically new directions at a moment’s notice, like on the group’s reworking of an early Schöenberg piano etude. The group moved from an energetic rhythm section dialogue punctuated by Piromalli’s jabbing chords into a heavily percussive passage propelled by Larmignat’s sharp snare hits and thumping bass drum. Suddenly, Innanen broke through the stacatto phrasing with a coarse flurry of notes on soprano sax, at which point the group burst back into the main theme with fresh momentum.
The quartet used these percussive dialogues extensively during the evening: as an intro for Innanen’s “Naki”, as an interlude on Piromalli’s “Muy Bien”, and as a transition device during their extended, improvised encore. Lamignat moved seamlessly around his kit, changing textures constantly by switching between mallets, brushes and sticks, splashing cymbals, wood-block grooves and tight hi-hat beats. Boisseau stretched the double-bass’ tonal range with drum-like tapping on the body, sheet music between the strings and all manner of scraping and sliding with the bow.
Piromalli also found ways of expanding the group’s sonic textures by way of manipulated CD samples. Using a discman hooked up to an effects pedal, he often flipped through a book of CDs, searching for the right sounds to add to the compositions. He started his composition “Shaab” with a passage from Squarepusher, industrial noise that morphed in and out of drill’n’bass beats, then filtered, bent and twisted it. The other members began reacting to the sample, sparingly at first then more actively until the live sounds overtook the sample in a headlong rush of staggering jungle breakbeats, throbbing bass and a big, R & B skanky baritone sax solo from Innanen. One wonders what other versions of this piece sound like, the versions where Piromalli chose 16th century Italian baroque vocal music as the starting point.
All four members are omnivorous improvisers that feed off whatever flowed in their direction. Their extended encore showed the group firing on all cylinders. They moved through a series of moods, changing texture, melody and rhythm with fluidity and logic. Nothing ever seemed forced. After the quiet dialogue of the encore’s first half, the group shifted first to a double-time feel, then shifted again, this time increasing the volume, into a fusion update of an older Triade tune. During this stretch, Innanen played muted and unmuted alto sax, as well as baritone; Piromalli jumpstarted the group with a bird-song sample, later added bits of Williams Burroughs dialogue, and found space to put his Rhodes through a wah-wah, while Boisseau and Lamarginat prodded the music forward with an off-kilter rhythmic thrust that kept everyone off-balance just enough to push them to react.