The Bridge #2.8 | January 2024, France

We’ve seen it a hundred times before, and never before. Two saxophones (and other things) on each side, pillars in flames of course, the framework of a double bass and all the terraces of the drums. Or conversely, the house is upside down, where and when Hunter Diamond, Florian Nastorg, Yoram Rosilio and Mikel Patrick Avery decide to do things differently. “What’s certain for me,” says Nastorg, “is that whatever I plan or expect, the music can be something else. In improvisational contexts, whenever I expected music to go this way or that way, it always went another way. And that other direction has always been the right one. The music decides, we play it. It’s as if we were the tools that make it possible to listen to it. It can decide, for example, to be built like a house, with windows everywhere, dormer windows, portholes, window wells. And musicians practice openings, embrasures everywhere, each showing a different exterior. Part of my current creative practice is site-specific improvisation,” says Diamond, “and I’m a great believer in the ability of a space to influence the energy of a performance. So I expect that we’ll achieve a collective sensibility through contact with the spaces in which we play, and that the development of our group sound will be indebted to the character of those spaces. I’ve spent very little time in France, and I hope not only that my lack of association with the places we’ll be visiting will breathe freshness into my playing, but that it will provide an objective and renewed lens through which Florian, Yoram and Mikel will engage.” On the subject of lenses… Diamond’s ideas, like Avery’s, have been heavily influenced by the culture of improvised music in Chicago: rejecting rigid boundaries between genres, approaching or ascending music from all its sides at once. Because there is this “confidence in the impalpable magic that can exist between living, sensitive beings, which Rosilio knows very well, endowed with the capacity to externalize and materialize small chemical and electrical mysteries, which can be received and taken into account by other living, sensitive beings, and find a meaning, an echo, a resonance, a response, a shadow, a contrast, a rebound, a crush, an engulfment, a disappearance, a crush, an explosion…”. A budding brotherhood on an epic journey. We haven’t seen anything yet.

Tuesday, January 16, Lyon. Barely off the plane, the train, the truck, barely out of the frost and fog, Hunter Diamond, Florian Nastorg, Yoram Rosilio and Mikel Patrick Avery storm the Périscope stage, discover for the first time the sound of their ensemble, the ensemble of their sounds – and try a game of musical chairs (time for sound checks). In the evening, they begin to fill the parchment with their fortune. From rustles to exclamations, we enter the lair of the beast, rubbing shoulders with the inhabitants of the canopy. A warning shot, then fire at will for the final bouquet. These four have a lot on their minds.

Wednesday January 17, from Lyon to Luzillé. The road is sometimes long and requires stops. The first in Clermont-Ferrand, to discover Auvergne’s gastronomy and black stone architecture. The second is at La Cappozzone, where the master and mistress of the house open their doors for an evening, invoking Dizzy Gillespie, Mars Williams and Karaoke Cowboy. Time too for an impromptu duet of flugelhorn and double bass.

Thursday, January 18, Brest. At the tip of the world, i.e. Plages Magnétiques and Cabaret Vauban, the four (2.8) are wandering. First, they shake the rocks in a tumultuous riverbed. They are the current, they are the splinters. Then, stranded on the shore, emerging from the eddies, they offer a caress, a tender stroll, a dream. To conclude, they confess to having forgotten time.

Friday January 19, Brest again. It wasn’t planned, but it was perfect timing. No stage, just a corner bar and paradise, the Triskell, on a street corner, Place Guérin. Hunter Diamond, Florian Nastorg, Yoram Rosilio and Mikel Patrick Avery keep a motley swarm of regulars and stragglers swinging, happy to squeeze and push into the narrow room. All the headlights are on or off. People whistle, laugh, shout and celebrate. The story goes that all this noise attracted a seagull, which flew straight into the wall.

Sunday, January 21, Albi. Inside the Conservatoire des Arts Rafraîchissants, in the Frigo, in the secret, in the light, they play the music of waiting, the music of wolves filmed with infrared radar, because regardless of what happens, doesn’t happen, it’s the waiting that’s magnificent. Ten or a thousand storms that didn’t start have become these wolves in the distance, these wolves inside.

Monday October 22, Toulouse. The medieval city of Cordes-sur-Ciel has been emptied of its inhabitants, so we invade it. Then it’s on to the pink city, where things don’t get any more complicated: everything flows naturally at the Théâtre du Grand Rond between Hunter Diamond (tenor saxophone, treasure islands, lost paradises), Florian Nastorg (baritone saxophone, robots and mechanical toys, rocky pitons), Yoram Rosilio (double bass, grains of sand in the machine, scorpions) and Mikel Patrick Avery, the decisive man who knew how to set things in motion or set them off at a moment’s notice. Un Pavé dans le Jazz.

Tuesday January 23, Penne-d’Agenais. It was in a “spacious chartreuse” that Hunter Diamond, Florian Nastorg, Yoram Rosilio and Mikel Patrick Avery began their second week, in good company: Sébastien “Bakus” Bacquias as second bassist. To gain access to La Carlane, you had to pass under a silver dome six months earlier, and for life, build Maison Possible by distilling saffron syrup, and so on. Quite a story. First set by the fireplace: duos only, whoever gets there chases another. Second set in the barn: these reverberations agglomerate, and twelve-year-old Luis takes his turn, with his alto saxophone, to come out of a Pandora’s box of tricks, so that they arrive at an even number. We pass into another world.

Thursday, January 25, Bayonne. This bistro, near a similarly named bridge, where Bastringue often takes up winter quarters, was made to receive something like the Holy Spirit: inevitably, a flame of fire landed on all heads as soon as the four musicians and their new guest for two days, Aymeric Avice on trumpet, had satisfied the Dionysian cult: to play everything that is vast, erratic, elusive, sensitive, inspired, spirited and unchanging. Even when it meant giving Peña Baiona an Aylerian treatment. It must be said that we’d done the rounds of the stairwells behind the city’s facades and built one or two imaginary temples facing the rollers of the ocean. This explains why.

Friday January 26, Simorre. Still with Aymeric Avice, but at Le Bouche à Oreille, an open space in an open village, a place within a place within a place, where things get busy and take their time too, The Bridge #2.8 (for now) climbs into the ring or the stage jar and, spinning like five lanternfish, circle after circle after circle, turns it into a crystal ball. Djalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhi or Rûmî or Ǧalāl al-Dīn Rūmī was even in the mix, declaimed by Hunter.

Saturday January 27, Vitrolles. It took ten hours to get to Charlie Jazz’s mill, as the farmers, up against the type of agriculture imposed on them by “supermarkets”, with its modes of exploitation in the literal and figurative sense, began blocking roads, lanes and accesses. Nothing, or almost nothing, gets through, but all goes well, everyone greets and supports each other, and Hunter Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Florian Nastoragesec, Yoram Rosilio le clair lascar, Mikel Saint Patrick was not a Saint but a Druid Avery revise their witticisms, polish their vocal chords (William DeVaughn sings well “with a gangsta lean” on Be Thankful for What You Got). They’ll do the same in the mill. They’ll have a wild party, with role reversals and revolutionary provocations, and Ellingtonian tongues too.

Sunday January 28, Germigny-L’Exempt. It’s as if Luis, the intrepid 12-year-old saxophonist who appeared in the former Chartreuse barn, had paved the way for the former Luisant barn. But there, in the past, there were rockets and mortars, all the tools of the artificers who live next door and who now open their doors to improvisers, precisely those who practice this art with a form of meticulousness and a thousand forms of abandon. Tomorrow we’ll visit a canal bridge and the Bec d’Allier, where the Allier and Loire rivers meet. Two or four wild rivers with saxophones, double bass and drums.

Tuesday, January 30, Nantes. Imagine two narrative arcs running in opposite directions, without ever going the other way. Imagine following the two-set concert from the beginning, with its plains of gradual river erosion, to the end, with its volcanic cirque of chiselled relief. Imagine you’re at the Pannonica, at the intersection of what Hunter Diamond, Florian Nastorg, Yoram Rosilio and Mikel Patrick Avery found there to explore and discover.

Wednesday, January 31, Pantin. For the final concert of this very first tour, at La Dynamo, we had to get behind the waterfall and waves of Frisbee Shop, the unbridled quintet that opened the evening. Pretending to be restrained and broken, wiping the slate clean of sounds, pleating the silence for a long time, keeping only the stigmata of the saffron-red sound. Access to the secret chamber.

And then there were all the encounters on the fringe. Full margin. Full heart. As early as January 19, when the crew split up: Mikel Patrick Avery and Yoram Rosilio on an expedition to the Lycée Fénelon in Brest, Hunter Diamond and Florian Nastorg on an expedition to the Collège du Château in Morlaix. The four adventurers share their visions with their young pupils. Improvised music as the art of conversation,” says Hunter. Let music be like a balloon that rises and moves between you,” suggests Mikel to the high-school musicians. There are no mistakes, only opportunities to move in new directions,” advises Florian. This will be confirmed at the end of the tour, with the students of the Cycle spécialisé jazz and Classes préparatoires à l’enseignement supérieur, at the Conservatoire à rayonnement régional (CRR) de Paris, or with the students of the Licence Musicologie of the Département de Musique de l’Université Paris 8 | Vincennes – Saint Denis. Or with a singer from Ukraine or a singer from Kurdistan, at the Atelier des Artistes en Exil (aa-e) in Paris. To improvise (on) freedom and love, as in song and as usual.