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Manu Codjia: Manu Codjia

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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Manu Codjia is among the most active sidemen on the French jazz scene and one of the most original guitarists playing jazz anywhere. His playing—clearly indebted to Bill Frisell, but also to Allan Holdsworth, Tommy Bolin on Billy Cobham's Spectrum (Atlantic, 1973), and a host of other influences—constantly generates new ideas on several levels at once: melodically, dynamically, and in the exploitation of technology. When he sits in on someone else's session, he leaves an indelible mark of his musical identity

Given this extroverted effervescence of his playing, it is perhaps surprising that he has been so patient and deliberate in turning out his own solo records. This, his second album, comes two years following his debut, Songlines (Bee Jazz, 2007).

Moreover, this self-titled disc moves only marginally from the musical conception of its predecessor. Once again, the electric guitar is complemented by acoustic bass and drums (Jerome Regard and Philippe Garcia replace Francois Moutin and Daniel Humair, the all-stars of the French scene who backed Codjia on the earlier disc.) The flawless recording environment of the La Buissonne studio, with engineer Gerard de Haro again at the controls, ensures the crystalline balance of searing electric guitar and gentle double bass. Ensuring the wrath of devotees of the iPod shuffle option, Codjia again indulges his penchant for two-part compositions split across two tracks (he is matched in this regard only by the Isley Brothers).

What's new this time is the inclusion of brass on a handful of tracks. Geoffrey Tamisier is a trumpeter in the Don Cherry/Lester Bowie lineage, expressive and iconoclastic. Tamisier's presence casts Codjia's playing in a new light. Is this how Codjia—who comes across as rather more populist and virtuosic—sees his guitar playing? The trumpeter is joined by trombonist Gueorgui Kornazov. To be sure, the brass adds a new color to Codjia's palette.

The compositions tend to be reserved, not overly approachable: from a pulseless kind of plainsong on "Sea Horse" to a mournful brass dirge on "Procession Song," many songs reveal more creativity in the individual and collective improvisation than in the written bits. "Bugsteps"—is Codjia drawing a contrast to John Coltrane's "Giant Steps"?—uses a complicated clockwork-like melodic line as a basis for a typically dexterous guitar solo and group crescendo and diminuendo.

Virtually every piece offers a Codjia solo somewhere between groovily competent and breathtaking. Most also feature engaging group dynamics making for a fine sophomore effort.

Track Listing: From the Outset, parts I & II; Brother Monkey; Jungle Jig, parts I & II; Flying Fishes; Sea Horse, parts I & II; Luna; Bug Steps; Procession Song; Raising; Some More Lubyes, Parts I & II; Le Manege, parts I & II.

Personnel: Manu Codjia: electric guitar; Jerome Regard: double-bass; Philippe Garcia: drums, sampler, electronics, parlophone; Geoffrey Tamisier: trumpet, flute, percussion; Gueorgui Kornazov: trombone.

Title: Manu Codjia | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Bee Jazz

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