All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

261

Vortex: 1975 - 1979

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Like British progressive rock group Jonesy, the equally short-lived French group Vortex deserved wider exposure. Unlike Jonesy's more accessible Crimson/Yes-informed symphonic approach, however, Vortex leaned farther left of center, bearing more in common with groups like Soft Machine, Henry Cow and Univers Zero. 1975 - 1979 collects both of Vortex's self-releases albums—1975's more improvisation-centric and smaller ensemble Vortex, and the more ambitious, complex and larger group release from 1979, Les Cycles de Thanatos. Nicely remastered, the set features additional bonus material from the time of each recording, making it the definitive document of a group still relevant three decades on.



Co-founded by brothers Jacques (bass) and Jean Pierre Vivante (keyboards), Vortex began as a quintet fleshed out with sax, flute and drums. The writing was almost entirely collaborative between the two brothers, with Jean-Pierre creating basic structures and Jacques providing melody and arrangement. While there's no shortage of idiosyncratic compositional constructs on the group's self-titled debut, there was also plenty of solo space, largely from saxophonist Gérard Jolivet (the only other charter member to stay on until the group's 1980 demise) and flautist Jeff Trouillet. Early Vortex, it seems, owed much to middle period Soft Machine, although its approach was generally lighter and avoided the free jazz trappings of Elton Dean-era Softs. Still, it's not a big surprise, given that one of Jean-Pierre's early bands was, in fact, a Softs cover band.



As good as Vortex is, it's Les Cycles de Thanatos that's the set's knockout disc. By the time work on this album had begun, the Vivante brothers had discovered 20th Century classical composers like Bartok and Messiaen, and Les Cycles's more through-composed material reflects an expanding scope. Vortex was now an octet, with another saxophonist, two percussionists (tuned and untuned), and an oboist/English hornist who also played Fender Rhodes, at times lending Vortex the same swirling, minimalism-informed feel as twin-piano Soft Machine, especially on the jazz-tinged "God is good for you, John."



Both extended pieces—the nearly 12-minute, rhythmically propulsive "Prolégomènes" and the texturally dense, long-form, dark and classically-informed 25-minute title track—are remarkable achievements that stand alongside some of Univers Zero's best work. These pieces combine seemingly disparate styles into a whole not only greater than the sum of its parts, but into innovative compositions that deserve to be considered as repertory sources for forward-thinking 21st Century chamber groups.



While Vortex's evolution would lean it more towards the classical, it was still a group with undeniable allegiances to the progressive rock and jazz worlds, as the two bonus tracks from Les Cycles demonstrate---the quirkily funky "Hipopotalamus Negrus" and Canterbury-tinged "Ivanoe." 1975 - 1979—with extensive French liner notes and abbreviated English ones by Aymeric Leroy—sheds light on the kind of important music being made beneath the radar that simply proves there was—and still is—often far more going on than any of us can ever really know.


Track Listing: CD1 (Vortex):: Haroun' Thasckouack; Ahsquoumboum; D

Personnel: Fran

Title: 1975 - 1979 | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Le Triton

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Humanities CD/LP/Track Review
Humanities
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Wild Is The Wind CD/LP/Track Review
Wild Is The Wind
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review
Fairytales
by Gareth Thompson
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Origins CD/LP/Track Review
Origins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 20, 2018
Read "Sing Me Some Cry" CD/LP/Track Review Sing Me Some Cry
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "Can't Get Started" CD/LP/Track Review Can't Get Started
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: May 29, 2017
Read "Mandala" CD/LP/Track Review Mandala
by Samuel Stroup
Published: December 20, 2017
Read "This City" CD/LP/Track Review This City
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 24, 2018
Read "Meerkat Parade" CD/LP/Track Review Meerkat Parade
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2018