Francois Jeanneau: Quand Se Taisent Les Oiseaux

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
François Jeanneau

Quand Se Taisent Les Oiseaux

Bee Jazz


Soprano saxophonist François Jeanneau is first of all among the grand old men of French jazz—although he would certainly chafe at being called "old," at least insofar as it describes his music. An important educator, he created and led for many years the Department of Jazz and Improvised Music at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris. During the 1970s, Jeanneau founded the large ensemble Pandémonium, effectively sparking the revival of contemporary large-group jazz in France that continues unabated to this day. In that same vein, he was chosen to be the first musical director of France's excellent Orchestre National de Jazz upon its creation in 1986. An indefatigable traveller, he has performed extensively and taught in far- flung but musically vibrant places ranging from Kazakhstan to Senegal.

Impressive achievements, and worthy of respect. All of which makes it surprising that Jeanneau has not released an album, as leader, in France for twelve years. More surprising still, perhaps, is that Quand Se Taisent Les Oiseaux, the album that breaks this discographic silence, sounds not a whit like the ponderous pronouncements of a senior statesman. Instead, the emeritus professor of French jazz has released a record that, while it may be cerebral and carefully crafted, also sounds lithe, light on its feet and, at times, kind of loud.

A lot of this has to do with the group which, while it has not regularly recorded, has been playing together regularly for a long time. And as with Miles Davis as he grew older, the 71 year old Jeanneau's bandmates are considerably younger than himself (he recently told an interviewer that, apart from drummer Daniel Humair, he had no desire to play with other musicians of his generation). The quartet's regular electric bassist, Linley Marthe, couldn't make this gig, so he is replaced by the able Guillaume Juramie. Drummer Joe Quitzke and pianist Emil Spanyi—whose playing can be heard to excellent effect in a slightly different context on the Sébastien Jarrousse/Olivier Robin Quintet's Tribulation (Aphrodite, 2006)—round out the core quartet, complemented on some tracks by double bass and kora.

What emerges is a record that sounds, in short, a lot like Weather Report. I mean this as a compliment. Of course, Weather Report is very much in the air these days, what with the recent release of their weighty retrospective Forecast: Tomorrow (Columbia/Legacy, 2006) and former frontman Joe Zawinul's forthcoming and backward-looking Brown Street (Heads Up, 2007). Maybe my judgment is clouded. Nevertheless, the most commendable elements of the earlier band are here in full, most notably memorable compositions and arrangements, and a keening soprano saxophone sound.

This is not to say that Quand Se Taisent Les Oiseaux is derivative. I don't know to what extent Jeanneau has been directly influenced by Zawinul and his fabled fusion pioneers, but I suspect that the similarity in sound derives from each party independently drawing water from the same wells: a fascination with African and Latin rhythms and percussion; the heavier beat, by no means plodding or thudding, allowed by the electric bass; an orchestral conception of sound (abetted by electric keyboards); and a harmonic and melodic sensibility for which the ultimate source is Charlie Parker.

Jeanneau has a distinctive voice on the soprano saxophone, even if, in the setting I have described, comparisons with Wayne Shorter are inevitable. On "Tourmentes," his solo departs subtly from its usual clean, controlled tone, here skirting an arhythmic, atonal freedom. Meanwhile, "L'Oeil Du Cyclone" is a lovely ballad on which Jeanneau employs a distinctly pre-Weather Report vibe.

Among the more refreshing features of Quand Se Taisent Les Oiseaux is a pragmatic approach to electronics and overdubs. Thus, though Spanyi plays acoustic (or minimally treated electric) piano throughout, the theme statements, with soprano saxophone in the front line, are usually doubled by electric keyboards. Likewise, "Rumeurs," a bombastic inflation of the time-honored practice of "trading fours," and thus a vehicle for Quitzke, features overdubbed percussion and electronic effects of various kinds. These effects, like the electronic "storm" noises on "Tourmentes," sometimes veer towards an almost kitschy charm, but generally enrich the sonic gestalt. (The approach falters only during the distracting distortion of the soprano saxophone solo on "Au-dehors Les Eléments...")

Ablayé Cissoko contributes virtuoso kora playing to three of his own compositions, broadening the record's sound palette. "Alerte 3" sounds like a jazz tune with kora soloing, while "Ninki (Le Dragon)"—where Cissoko really cooks in tandem with Spanyi—and "Tara (Renaissance)" sound like jazz settings of Senegalese songs.

Jeanneau has never slowed down, though he has at times wandered out of the limelight. With this album he strides, magisterially, back to center stage.

Tracks: Alerte 3; Rumeurs; Quand Se Taisent Les Oiseaux; Ninki (Le Dragon); L'Envol D'Eole; L'Oeil Du Cyclone; Au-dehors Les Eléments...; Tourmentes; Tara (Renaissance); L'Embellie.

Personnel: François Jeanneau: soprano saxophone; Guillaume Juramie: electric bass (1,3- 5,7,9); Joe Quitzke: drums and percussion; Emil Spanyi: piano and keyboards; Sébastien Boisseau: double bass (2,6, 8,10); Ablayé Cissoko: kora (1,4,9) and vocal (9).

Track Listing:

Personnel: Musician Name #1: instrument; Musician Name #2: instrument; Musician Name #3: instrument.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Bee Jazz


More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu" Extended Analysis Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder: Talking Timbuktu
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: May 22, 2016
Read "Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth" Extended Analysis Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth
by Doug Collette
Published: June 19, 2016
Read "The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl" Extended Analysis The Beatles: Live At The Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: September 11, 2016
Read "Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)" Extended Analysis Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)
by John Kelman
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent" Extended Analysis Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

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!

Buy it!