Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

222

Michel Portal: Bailador

Charles Walker By

Sign in to view read count
For all the lip service paid to the idea of jazz as a universal language, the modern performing landscape is still, by and large, segregated into separate continental categories, each with a host of attendant stereotypes. For every Randy Weston or David Murray, musicians who have made studious efforts at cross-border communication, there are dozens of territorial musicians, content to limit themselves to a very parochial sphere of influence. Well, quelle surprise! On Bailador, French multi-reedist Michel Portal, having spent most of his decades-long career in the trenches of European free improvisation, turns in a internationally influenced set of grounded, energetic and approachable tunes.

Simply assembling the group heard here must have been something of a logistical challenge, as guitarist Lionel Loueke, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Jack DeJohnette are all in high demand elsewhere. But, then, Bailador is an altogether more organized affair than the average Portal session. Despite the percolating, high-octane rhythms throughout the album, and the loose, freewheeling improvisations on top of them, there is a shimmering, carefully produced feel to the session, as evidenced by the strength of the writing and arrangements.

"Dolce," for instance, is a tart, jabbing opening salvo, its intricate, restless chord changes attacked with gusto by Portal and pianist-producer Bojan Z. On "Citrus Juice," bassist Scott Colley's menacing double stops blossom into the slithering, side-winding theme. Or on the title track, DeJohnette's firm backbeat balances a slowly building sequence of improvisations. This kind of organic evolution is everywhere on this album, engaging melodies sprouting out of knotty harmonic ground, and it makes the music consistently, unflaggingly enjoyable.

Portal's biggest surprise here is leaving his B-flat clarinet in its case, opting instead for the burlier sonorities of the bass clarinet (though he does dust off his rarely heard alto saxophone for a couple of tracks, and his soprano for one). Much like Eric Dolphy, though in much more linear fashion, he gets into every nook and cranny of the unwieldy instrument. This versatility serves him well, allowing him to explore its haunting, melancholy lower register on "Ombres," a lush duet with Loueke; but it also allows him to battle his way around Akinmusire's upper-register blasts on the burning title track.

In interviews, the Frenchman has claimed that he hopes the music on the record is a starting point, to be fleshed out in further live performances. This video suggests that they are off to a good start. At the age of 75, most people are enjoying retirement, relaxing and retrospectively summing up a life's accomplishments. Portal, like many of the greatest musicians, is instead stretching himself, attacking stylistic, generational and cultural borders with abandon. We listeners are lucky enough to have a record of his travels.

Track Listing: Dolce; Bailador; Cuba Si, Cuba No; Ombres; Citrus Juice; Alto Blues; One On One; Tutti No Hysterique.

Personnel: Michel Portal: bass clarinet (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8), alto saxophone (3, 6), soprano saxophone (5); Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Lionel Loueke: guitar (1-4); Bojan Z: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

Title: Bailador | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: EmArcy


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Formidable CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Cochonnerie CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Threes CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Smoke CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Extremophile" CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Eyles
Published: April 11, 2017
Read "Moments Of Fatherhood" CD/LP/Track Review Moments Of Fatherhood
by John Sharpe
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Ha Noi Duo" CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "A Multitude of Angels" CD/LP/Track Review A Multitude of Angels
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "Converging Tributaries" CD/LP/Track Review Converging Tributaries
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 5, 2017
Read "The Swimmer" CD/LP/Track Review The Swimmer
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 4, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor