The quirky and visionary Dogs of Great Indifference
(Winter & Winter, 2006), by Jim Black's AlasNoAxis group, is among the most critically praised jazz records of recent years. But has this critical acclaim been matched by creative influence?
Apparently, the answer is yes, and what's more, it turns out that Jim Black's musical progeny can be found in France. This début recording by Rockingchair, fronted by trumpeter Airelle Besson and multi-reed player Sylvain Rifflet, mines a groove similar to that of AlasNoAxis, without being derivative. That is, one can detect the rock 'n' roll guitar, the no-nonsense horn lines, and a paradoxical proclivity for low volume at many points here: in the excellent opener "Boo Boo" and midway through "Tsunami," for example.
At times (e.g. "Fly Away"), Rockingchair
veers into a delightfully populist rock sound similar to Bobby Previte's The Coalition of the Willing
(Ropeadope, 2006), but Rockingchair does it better, with a lighter touch.
There are several quieter numbers on which guitarist Pierre Durand switches to the acoustic instrument. These tracks allow Besson and Rifflet to explore more self-consciously jazzy territory than a strict AlasNoAxis format would permit. Rifflet is restrained and contemplative on the clarinets (check the plaintive bass clarinet intro to "Désert"), and more forthright in the manner of Stan Getz
on the saxophones. Besson, meanwhile, marshals her resources with economy and intelligence. Those resources have considerable breadth: she plays tenderly on "Éternité," but muscles her way out front of the metal guitar at the close of "Fly Away."
Rockingchair as a band sounds more at home with its non-jazz influences than their Brooklyn mentors (they mention Radiohead, whose influence is discernible on "Forget It" and "Désert"). The record furthermore sounds a bit like a rock record, with its loving production values and varied instrumentation, but it never loses the freshness of a jazz performance.
Much as one admires Jim Black, and as well as Besson and Rifflet stand up to the comparison, it's unfair to have dwelt so long here on the AlasNoAxis connection. Rockingchair can rock on its own; and their sophomore effort (hopefully it won't be too long) is greatly anticipated.
Track Listing: Boo Boo; Forget It; Ma-Ion; Fly Away; D
Personnel: Airelle Besson: trumpet, bugle, keyboards; Sylvain Rifflet: saxophones, clarinets; Pierre Durand: guitar; Eric Jacot: double bass; Nicolas Larmignat: drums.
| Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: Chief Inspector