Celebrating Erik Satie represents a creative and stimulating selection of jazz arrangements and improvisations. Ximo Tebar is a respected guitarist and creative force from Spain who has taken the compositions of the eccentric, irascible, and innovative French composer and transmuted them into jazz ensemble performances. Tebar shakes things up while retaining enough straight-ahead jazz to appeal to the masses; it's no accident that "En Habit de Cheval" possesses a clear reference to John Coltrane's magnum opus, A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964). Like Coltrane, Tebar is fortunate enough to have recruited other outstanding musicians who can implement his complex ideas.
The watchword of this album is "plays," with the implications of irony and humor, tinged with Chaplin-esque sadness that characterizes what Tebar and his ensemble, taking a cue from Satie, offer. Satie was an inventive, experimenting composer who influenced musical impressionism and minimalism, which in turn strongly impacted modern jazz. For a period of time, he played in cabarets in the Parisian district of Monmartre and wrote popular songs.
Tebar, however, is careful not to imitate Satie. Rather, he takes rhythms, extracts, ideas, and motifs from Satie's compositions, gives them ironic twists, and transforms them into his own and the group's thoughts and sounds. On "Gnossiene 3," for example, Tebar begins with an outer space, sci-fi movie intro, and then drifts off with his group into a relaxed, easy-going, straight-ahead set of improvisations. Then he adds a unique plunger mute "talking" effect on the guitar, which he makes use of periodically throughout the album.
"Idylle" goes on a slow walk, with Satie's sense of irony and play, and a gnome-like flavor leading up to very nice co-improvised contrapuntal section. "Gymnopedie 1" is the famous melody that Woody Allen used in his 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters. The group gives the song, intended as a dance piece, a nice lilt, presaging "Embryons Desseaches," with Tebar's soft guitar work against a background of a halting dance rhythm. "Croquis et Agaceries D'un Gros Bonhomme en Bois" includes some beautiful work by trombonist Robin Eubanks and trumpeter Sean Jones. "En Habit de Chaeval" incorporates Bach-like counterpoint and brass ensemble effects, leading up to rapid double-time improvs by trumpet, sax, and trombone, while "Airs a Faire Fuir 2" is a quiet, contemplative piece with a gentle melodic theme.
Tebar transmutes "Gnossienne 1" into a conversation among lost souls, with a superb trombone cadenza by Eubanks, followed by group breaking out into an upbeat rendition of Satie's theme, including some fine straight-ahead playing by Tebar. The only melody not composed by Satie, "A Solas con Satie."(translation: "Alone with Satie") closes the set; a lovely testament to Tebar's affection forand his sense of soul brotherhood with Satieit brings together the Spanish and French influences of this fine recording.
Gnossienne 3; Idylle; Gymnopedie 1; Embryons Desseaches; Croquis et Agaceries D'un Gros Bonhomme en Bois; En Habit de Chaeval; Airs a Faire Fuir 2; Veritables Preludes Flasques (Pour Un Chien) 2; Seul a la Maison; Gnossienne 1; A Solas con Satie.
Sean Jones: trumpet; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Stacy Dillard: soprano saxophone; Ximo Tebar: guitar; Jim Ridl: Rhodes, synthesizer; Orrin Evans: Rhodes; Boris Kozlov: bass; Donald Edwards: drums; Ramon Cardo: soprano saxophone (1); David Pastor: trumpet (1); Carlos Martin: trombone (1).
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