Etant Donnes ”, was recorded live at the Mellon Institute auditorium, Pittsburgh, Pa and as stated in the liners, these pieces are first takes, which for the most part is what improvisation is all about. An interesting instrumentation mix consisting of oboe, tuba, piano, alto sax, drums and percussion make for a refreshing approach complete with radiant soundscapes. The first track titled – “70 Cents Per Hundred” bridges the gap between chamber, improv and perhaps a smidgen of Ornette Coleman. On this piece there are many interludes of unison choruses which feed off the recurring melodies, a nod perhaps to Ornette Coleman. Despite the improvisation and interesting dialogue among the bandmembers, “Ensemble Duchamp” do indeed maintain some semblance of structure and compositional deployment as a foundation of sorts, yet the piece titled, “Improvisation” dispels that notion as we hear Cecil Taylor-like improv from pianist, Josh Yohe. Yohe also does a commendable job of alternating between alto sax and piano throughout these performances. “The Only Thing Worse Than A Loss” features somber, passionate oboe work by Lenny Young as this piece takes on the appearances of a slow dirge. Steady thematic development atop an odd metered pulse from drummer Ravish Momin opens the door for some furious lyricism by Christopher Meeder who displays admirable proficiency on the tuba. Various motifs and fluctuating states of intensity offer many moods as this piece and others unfold in somewhat of an evolutionary manner. The final track, “Ornette, Or Not” clocks in at 20 minutes and re-affirms some of the Coleman influence.
Simply stated, “Ensemble Duchamp” articulate free improvised jazz yet many of these pieces are constructed from well-conceived motifs and at times, rich melodies; although, some of these attributes seem subliminal by design. Dynamics, tonal color and musical craftsmanship set these folks apart from many bands who pursue similar avenues. Kudos to Massachusetts based Sachimay Records who are rapidly becoming a major force within the New England area, which has always been a proving ground for fine music. * * * *