WORKS: Sonate en état de jazz; Le regret; Improvisations on Songs from ‘La fugue’
PERFORMER: Simon Mulligan (piano), Frank Walden (alto saxophone)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5688
Here is a meeting of two remarkable pianists – both equally brilliant as ‘classical’ and jazz players, though that isn’t quite as rare as you may think. Alexis Weissenberg – that super-charged Bulgarian-born virtuoso – is featured as a composer and in his Sonate en état de jazz of 1982 he takes four dance-forms as the basis of extended structures in which a tonal framework is all but disguised by intricate dissonant counterpoint. The dances’ rhythmic character is sometimes barely evident, least of all in the opening ‘Évocation d’un tango’, for which Weissenberg provides an intriguing programme note. I am not completely at ease with the intellectual superstructure of this music, which seems faintly penitential, but it’s impressively sustained nonetheless.
Le regret (1962) sounds like its title – dreamy, with a yearning top line – and at 11 minutes it’s real ‘endless melody’. But I enjoyed most of all Mulligan’s improvisations on four songs which Weissenberg wrote for a French musical comedy called La fugue, and in particular the first, ‘Spirale’, which is a sort of jazzy tarantella on a dizzy love-song. It’s amazing how anyone’s fingers can think so fast.