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Christophe Wallemme: Namaste

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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The achievement of Namaste—and it is a genuine achievement—is also the achievement of Miles Davis's In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969): namely, providing room to breathe in a crowded room of musicians—soloists all, not a big band. (On Miles's subsequent Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969), in contrast, a crowded room of musicians was happy to sound like a hot and tumultuous marketplace.) Despite the carefully-crafted compositions and arrangements, it's that sumptuous but spacious sound fabric that is most remarkable about this record.

That sonic fabric is woven around a combination of the leader's bass, the Edouard brothers' Indian percussion, Nelson Veras's Brazilian guitar and Emmanuel Codjia's electric guitar—all of these elements are nicely highlighted on the title track. The tablas and other Indian percussion elements, featured in a bracing workout in the middle of "Tandoori Groove, are not merely seasoning or accents, but an integral part of the music's character. The compositions themselves feature convincing Indian melodic lines, bearing witness to Wallemme's long years of residence there.

Guitarist Codjia contributes a vigorous solo on "Reflection, against a consistently exciting accompaniment by Wallemme and drummer Galland. While Codjia deploys brash rock-influence coloratura on that cut, elsewhere he opts for the shimmering, atmospheric washes. In a crowded room of soloists, Codjia stands out.

If there is a shortcoming to Namaste, it is paradoxically the embarrassment of riches constituted by its musical resources. Like a Russian novel with lots of characters, each with his or her own panoply of names, nicknames and patronymics, it's sometimes hard to keep straight who's talking here. The electric guitarist has at least two voices (one frenzied, the other Frisell-like), the trio of reeds play a variety of instruments among them; someone—Veras?—has an affecting lute-like intervention on "Stone Cutter. The multitude of voices certainly prevents the record from boring the listener—not that there was much risk of that happening—but it also prevents the listener from becoming adequately acquainted with any of the soloists' musical personalities, with the possible exception of Codjia.

Like many bassist-leaders (Steve Swallow, Gary Peacock, perhaps even Mingus), Wallemme the bassist remains somewhat in the background on this record, though he has some noteworthy solos (on "Le temps des moussons," and elsewhere). To his credit, though, Wallemme the arranger, composer and bandleader makes his presence felt in every note.

Track Listing: Holi; Mon Jules; Namaste; Le temps des moussons; Tandoori Groove; Sweet Aum; Reflection; Stone Cutter; Trouble Time; Diwali; La Javanaise.

Personnel: Christophe Wallemme: double bass, composition & arrangements; St

Title: Namaste | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Bee Jazz


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