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Ghost Rhythms: Live at Yoshiwara

Mark Sullivan By

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French ensemble Ghost Rhythms present their first live album, recorded in front of a small audience in their rehearsal space. While there is no real venue named Yoshiwara, there is an infamous Yoshiwara district in Japan, which in turn lent its name to the depraved red-light district and club in Metropolis, Fritz Lang's 1927 silent sci-fi movie. So this performance is set in an imaginary place, evoking a dreamlike atmosphere (which is further extended in the individual credits for the tracks, listing a wide variety of times and places). Prior to this release, composers and co-leaders drummer Xavier Gélard and pianist Camille Petit had composed all of the music. But for this tenth-anniversary celebration they invited the other members to contribute pieces as well: five of the ten tracks come from four of those musicians.

Gélard and Petit have a rock and progressive rock background, but invited classical and jazz players to join them, resulting in a rich mix of musical cultures. "Yoshiwara's Theme" opens the set with atmospheric sounds, followed by a contemplative solo guitar theme (with a bit of ensemble commentary). "Maohee" begins with an insistent ostinato pattern which soon involves the whole band, including accordion, cello, and two saxophones. Tom Namias' electric guitar rides on top for the first part, then the mood softens, featuring Alexis Collin's accordion (both of these tunes are his compositions, with Gélard co-composing the second ), followed by a saxophone solo.

Guitarist Guillaume Aventurin's "Xanadu" has a funky groove; he solos over it effectively, as does pianist Petit and Maxime Thiébaut on alto sax. The cello introduces a new theme, and the tune ends with call-and-response from Thiébaut's alto and David Rousselet on tenor sax. "Funus" moves through a range of textures, and cuts between musical ideas, almost a synopsis of the whole group sound. Saxophonist Rousselet's "Circumambulation" is far more than a saxophone feature, as the whole band contributes to its different musical scenes. The album concludes with the only piece co-composed by the leaders. "Chamber Claire" starts with a cello solo, then a guitar-driven groove, before bringing in the whole rhythm section (including accordion). After a horn theme, Petit's piano takes center stage. Finally a hypnotic riff leads into the concluding music, featuring horn stabs and Gregory Kosovski's bass.

The group's instrumentation allows for a great deal of timbral variety, and all ten members have space to contribute. In addition to the chamber jazz suggested by this combination, they make stops in rock, funk and modern jazz territory. It's a fun ride, full of energy and variety. Despite the elaborate conceptual setup, it is arty rock at its unpretentious best.

Track Listing: Yoshiwara's Theme; Maohee; La Chose; Nattes; Kamaloka; Xanadu; Funus; Charivari; Circumambulation; Chamber Claire.

Personnel: Guillaume Aventurin: guitar; Alexis Collin: accordion, sound manipulation; Xavier Gélard: drums, sound manipulation; Gregory Kosovski: bass; Morgan Lowenstein: percussion; Nadia Mejri-Chapelle: cello; Tom Namias: electric guitar; Camille Petit: piano; David Rousselet: tenor sax; Maxime Thiébaut: alto, soprano, baritone sax.

Title: Live at Yoshiwara | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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