Aymeric Avice & Avreeayl Ra [LP#1] | April 2015, France

Aymeric Avice and Avreeayl Ra met in November 2013, in Chicago, as part of a quintet dedicated to exploring the possible relationships between jazz, improvisation and “trance” music. One a young trumpeter with a temperament to indulge in all manner of experiments and excesses, the other a veteran drummer and percussionist on the Chicago scene, with its histories, legends and musical utopias. The idea came to them, not only to continue their association in France, in the form of an unbreakable duo, like a modern Drum & Bugle Corps, but to open up their exchanges and debates to improvisers in their wake. As if to illuminate the crossroads.

Saturday, April 4, 2015, Paris

Here present. Barely arrived in Paris, upstairs in the resinous dining room of Le Temps des Cerises, on the edge of the Marais, under the gaze of a few old-time bike racers, Avreeayl Ra talks about his studio sessions for the Chess label, his time spent in New Orleans with Professor Longhair, one confidence leading to another… We dine in the company of Julien Desprez, with whom the drummer played in April 2014 in Chicago, with whom he will play again the following day, as well as Jean-Brice Godet and Paul Wacrenier, here present. As for Aymeric Avice and Avreeayl Ra, they met in November 2013 in Chicago, as part of a quintet [The Bridge #2] dedicated to exploring imaginable relationships between “jazz”, improvisation and “trance” music. One a young, temperamental trumpeter, allowing himself all kinds of experiments and outbursts; the other an over-invested drummer and percussionist and veteran of the Chicago scene, its stories, its legends, its musical utopias, those of Sun Ra or the AACM. The idea came to them to continue their association in France, in the form of an unbreakable duo, a modern Drum & Bugle Corps, and to open up their exchanges to improvisers in their wake. As if to illuminate the crossroads of elective affinities. It’s the first “Passerelle”, parallel to the bridges already built, thanks to a host of comrades and companions (a fraternity, an International): collectives like Coax, Muzzix, Capsul Collectif and GRIM, individuals like Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Denis Fournier, Samuel Silvant…

Sunday April 5, 2015, Paris

Easter Sunday. That evening, in the cavern of La Java, the duo is scheduled to blossom into a quartet with the reinforcement of Julien Desprez on guitar and Joachim Florent on double bass (with whom the drummer played in November 2014 in Chicago), for Coax, then invite Rasul Siddik on trumpet (with whom the drummer performed when Siddik lived in Illinois in the 1970s). The duo immediately click into place, starting with twists and turns, jolts and backflips, and flash actions. Their speed is a given. Their dynamism takes all the melodic and rhythmic stakes. With the four of them, and Avice bifide splitting his breath on his trumpet and flugelhorn simultaneously, it sputters and powders, in an electric halo. Strings interject. There are break-ins, incisions of sound like forced locks, which raise the question of seating – the drummer having no intention other than to hold on, and to let go. There has been an obstruction, and the music returns subterranean, by circuitous routes, resurfacing. Rasul Siddik has to sit down in front of the stage for the tone to drop and a construction to become discernible, like a building, as if in fog. Later, Sylvaine Hélary on flute, Jean-Brice Godet on bass clarinet, Paul Wacrenier on piano, Stéphane Payen on alto saxophone (with whom the drummer played in Chicago in April 2013) are added one after the other. Here present. Unidentified sound objects appear between instruments, within instruments. Grooves dig and crease, springs relax, tentacular. It’s the countryside and the Gulf of Mexico at La Java on Easter Sunday. The noisiest step aside in front of the clearing formed by flute, piano and double bass, in the center of which finally leaps the faun of the drums calling for intoxication, intense intoxication. Ra and Siddik speak in tongues, Hélary in his flute. Everyone gets closer.

Monday April 6, 2015, Lille

On the road to Montdidier in the north of France, Avreeayl Ra wonders about the construction plans of European cities and their influence on lifestyles, and on music in particular: how can circular thinking insinuate itself into linear thinking? To reflect on this, the two musicians sit on the ground, between two cars, in a freeway service area parking lot, and share a peace pipe. A few hours pass. In the low-ceilinged former Malterie, now home to Muzzix musicians and their allies, the duo opt for the outcrop. The roar of brass instruments in microphones and the rustle of brooms and sticks on skins and metal gradually grow louder, as Avice activates his pedals and Ra lights wicks under his drums. Between the walls of brick and imbrications, the wild beasts are unleashed. When the quartet arrives, with Julien Favreuille on tenor and soprano saxophones and Peter Orins on drums, everything is unsealed. Introductions are made quickly, and it’s a case of grabbing and burning. We make ourselves at home. We have every right. Twist and untwist, laminate, champlever (which Orins does impeccably). Each new stratum is a starting-block. The two drums are hollow and full, engaging and holding. The two blowers chirp and flinch. This forge blazes. A rest. And passers-by brawl in the dark streets of Lille.

Tuesday April 7, 2015, Tours & Luzillé

In view of Tours, we learn of the suicide of the local socialist senator, while on the banks of the Loire, the regulars drink their aperitif on the terrace at a time when the regulars drink their aperitif on the terrace. Like the musicians, they have that “astonishing habit of being born often” of which Eduardo Galeano spoke, dying the following week… That’s all there is to it, inside the café-bar Les Collettes, co-managed by members of Capsule Collectif: eternal recommencement. Everything opens up inside. Avice and Ra join Jean Aussanaire on soprano saxophone, Maxime Bobo on alto saxophone and Jean-Jacques Goichon on double bass to fly into the thick of things, approaching the elusive, which is not an object or an objective, but the infinity of understanding. Through the window Avreeayl Ra watches the traffic while sifting his hi-hat. Bus 17 passes by (destination: “Santé Alliance”). A regular settles in front of the bass drum. It’s perfectly normal, it’s everyday life. The viola, bass and drums give a lesson in relentlessness. Aussanaire prefers to crumple. When Avice returns with his trumpet’s bag of tricks, a clear line of orientation, molded and unmolded, everything reopens inside, everything is welcoming. Like on the hill behind Jean-Luc Cappozzo’s house in Luzillé, at sunset, as three deer scamper away. Welcome to the “Cappozzone”. Here (apart from the owner and his dearest lady): Daunik Lazro. The evening quartet settles in around the unlit stove, next to the gramophone, in front of the many friends who have turned up. The door has been left open, as has the music, just in case. The music clatters like a sheet hanging from the drum pole. Lazro vociferates on the baritone, then pulls back, decisive even in his uncertainties. Never left alone for too long, the two trumpeters cover the assembly with sound and care, the drummer exults and loosens the collar on a few continuities. In the second set, Jean Aussanaire reappears, accompanied by Géraldine Keller on vocals, for a seven-branched candlestick of shrieks and squeals. Late into the night, after the banquet and the Bas-Armagnac, Jean-Luc Cappozzo unveils a trumpet or cornucopia, exactly the same model as Louis Armstrong’s, which he has just acquired. He dares to play it wonderfully, while Avreeayl Ra begins a will-o’-the-wisp dance.

Wednesday April 8, 2015, Marseille

At dawn, our vehicle narrowly passes over the narrowest bridge in the country, before following the road of volcanoes, castles and power stations (except for this detail, it’s like being in a chivalric novel), to the hacienda of Montevideo, fiefdom of a former carpet merchant and still a music scene in Marseille – the GRIM that occupies it will be moving out very soon. The late afternoon is turquoise. Tonight, Aymeric Avice and Avreeayl Ra team up with Lionel Garcin on saxophones, Jean-Marc Montera on guitar and Bernard Santacruz on double bass (whom the drummer has crossed paths with several times in Chicago). Together, briefly, rumbling and buzzing, they lavish swarms and storms, blasts and echoes, sounding the alarm to open lively debates. No sooner had they done so than the other three entered the sacred precincts of the game, the great game. Total improvisation as a movement of occupation, where the aim is to curb accumulation. The first identifiable solo, that of the tenor saxophone, stumbles against the guitar and drums. Mired. But Garcin always manages to escape, to take to the open seas, to set them free, as if he were lapping up lyricism like a wildcat, diving in and out like a seabird. As for Avice, he hovers with Santacruz, far removed from the fray. The trumpeter and double bassist come to their senses and come on strong. There’s electricity in the air, tenebrous rhythms to which Montera attaches layers and charms of noise, torpor, and exhaustion. The night is turquoise.

Thursday, April 9, 2015, Montpellier

We wake up in Espace Montevideo like Sultan Shahryar in his still-whispering palace, like Perceval the Welshman in his unforgettably deserted castle, like the captain of the Walloon Guards Alphonse Van Worden among the all-too-certain apparitions of the Sierra Morena… What else is there to do but linger in the courtyard of this almost phalanstery, especially as the morning is turquoise? Outside, the military are on patrol, under what we’ve become accustomed to calling a “state of emergency” – and unfortunately, they’re not apparitions. To put it mildly, you’d think that mountain troops had been sent to protect the gilding workshop they’re stationed in front of, while the FO union is protesting against the reform of the school timetable. Like them, we have to break the spell and get back on the road… In Montpellier, it’s no longer a former malt house or carpet merchant, but former stables that provide the setting for Black Sheep. And maybe it’s Yggdrasil on the sound engineer’s T-shirt. In fact, the audience has to turn around a pillar from another time, with an impressive diameter. In this most conspiratorial of cellars, heavy with effluvia, happiness is still buzzing and the goddess-allégresse beckons again. Avice and Ra welcome saxophonist David Caulet and drummer Denis Fournier. The two generous generators of rhythm, the two goat-men, immediately set about building an immense swing, a catapult too, for they are adept at swinging and tilting, with tact and affection. Juggling is the best way to build. In front of them, trumpets and saxophones are like lights, sometimes torches. When singer Pascale Labbé joins them at the very end, it’s to sew her vocals into the lining of the receiving rhythms. A ceremony is complete.

Friday April 10, 2015, Nîmes

At the table, as on the first day, Avreeyal Ra tells us stories: the series of interviews he conducted with Sun Ra and lost with the rest of his belongings in an unreliable storage facility, the three-drummer band he co-led with Wilbur Campbell and Steve McCall, occasionally Rashied Ali… Visiting Denis Fournier, he spins his rainstick wheel, making his own flutes. Drummers are inventors. We head for Nîmes and its arena, where we manage to get in after closing time, under the guise of scouting for a film. In the empty stands, wordlessly, Aymeric Avice grabs his trumpet, Avreeayl Ra his mbira. They are stunned. And all the time, I was thinking of the lions, man…” says Ra on the way back, “It’s cold-blooded, man! Fortunately, at Place de la Placette, you can’t make it up as you go along, Subito has other circular games, other ways of socializing (even in the toilets, where Avreeayl Ra surreptitiously holds back the organizers to settle scores gangster-style). The last duet is diluvian, and of dilution. The trumpeter cuts stringy arrows of breaths, the drummer makes stringy bundles of rhythms, everything unravels, their instruments, the room, the square, the city, the country, the swamp snails, Fausto Coppi and Fontella Bass…. There’s very little time left. Their final guests appear: Philippe Lemoine on tenor saxophone (with whom Avreeayl Ra played in Chicago in November 2014), Guillaume Séguron on double bass and Samuel Silvant on drums (with whom Avreeayl Ra played in Chicago in April 2014). Despite the urgency, the state of emergency, they’re going to give the bird names of sounds with a lookout’s caution, launching, interrupting, picking up, formulating. With an ear to the ground, Ra first pampered his cymbals. Now he slaps them, draws his drums, prepares, arranges a second return to calm, further away, safer, he on the flute, Silvant on the frame drum, others on the voltes de vents. It is from here and only here that we can proceed to the most affirmative groove of all, at the end of the course, sempiternally. Trance music is finally found, the music of the Yellow Emperor according to Master Tchouang: “Then I abolished all inertia, I let the rhythms go. It was like a primitive surge, a formless polyphony, a continuous unfolding out of a silent darkness. It moved into the limitless, yet remained in a shadowy abyss. It sounded like death, it sounded like life. It seemed to become fruit, then end in flower – going, flowing, spreading, moving outside all norms.” Tonight, after the dinner table, we’ll be sleeping in children’s rooms. It’s an eternal restart.