Laurent de Wilde

COMPOSERS: Laurent de Wilde
LABELS: Warner Jazz
WORKS: Stories
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-49732-2
There was a time when naming three groundbreaking European jazz musicians was a bit like naming three famous Belgians: it was hard to get past Django Reinhardt on both counts. America has had a virtual monopoly on calling the changes in jazz music since the music moved out of New Orleans. But that’s no longer the case. Consider the successes of Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek or Swedish pianist Esbjørn Svensson.

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Now take a listen to Mauve, from Austria-based trio of ARKADY SHILKLOPER, ALEGRE CORRÊA and GEORG BREINSCHMID. Corrêa is on guitar, Breinschmid on double bass, and Shilkloper leads on French horn, a notoriously uncooperative instrument. Not only does the horn bend to his will, it does so wittily and exuberantly, and in the most unusual settings.

Shilkloper et al are denizens of the Vienna Art Orchestra, so you know to expect the unexpected (here that includes an alpine horn). But this Mephistophelean trio is something else, its sound morphing from central European to Brazilian, with Corrêa’s guitar lending the Latin tinge.

Flautist Malik Mezzadri is even more of a musical magpie, which is not surprising for someone who is half-French, half-African and grew up in the Caribbean. On his curiously titled double album 00-237/XP-1, flute and alto saxophone swirl giddily around a thumping rhythm section, borne aloft on a magic carpet of keyboards.

By fusing elements of world music (from Celtic to Middle Eastern) and high-energy jazz, with ample space for improvisation, Malik has created a music that connects with both the brain and the feet.

The France-based MAGIC MALIK ORCHESTRA (more often a quintet) includes keening American altoist Steve Coleman, plus oud-player Mohamed Rifi Saidi. But it’s Malik who is usually blowing at the centre of things, sometimes singing a wayward, wordless top line, sometimes doing both simultaneously. If you need a comparison, think of the way wind-player Roland Kirk could be fun, touching and furious in equal measure and you’re getting close to Malik’s appeal.

Frenchman LAURENT DE WILDE’S new offering, Stories, starts with the trumpet of Flavio Boltro skating over a jungle (drum ’n’ bass, that is) backdrop. A peculiarly British phenomenon, the jerky, fast tempo rhythm backing returns more than once in the course of this atmospheric electro-jazz set.

De Wilde’s contribution on the Fender Rhodes keyboard consists of subtle, impressionistic scene-setting. He takes care of the programming, too. But what catches the attention is the eerie, lost-in-space sound of the alto sax and trumpet. And just when you thought that the trombone had gone the way of the tuba in jazz, here’s Julien Chirol sliding in to give fat definition to de Wilde’s noodlings.

NEW COOL COLLECTIVE, a group of Dutch musicians, has taken another peculiarly European concept – acid jazz – to its logical conclusion with its debut album, Bring It On. Acid jazz gigs usually involve obscure records played by DJs to facilitate frenetic dancing. NCC has broken that mould by writing catchy originals and rearranging other stuff. The result is an electrifying, rare groove – rare because you so seldom hear a happening big band in these straitened times – belted out with a big hook in every number.

With its catchy street themes, tongue-in-cheek material (the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’) and clever charts, Bring It On should be essential listening for youth jazz orchestras all over.

So much for ‘old’ Europe. Across the Atlantic, the standard repertoire continues to hold its own in the face of incursions from grunge merchants such as The Bad Plus or Medeski, Martin & Wood.

A living embodiment of the dialectic that is jazz exists in the shape of the MARSALIS family. Elder brothers Wynton and Branford, especially, have not always seen eye to eye over what the music should be (Wynton the traditionalist v Branford the moderniser). Not that you would guess from the new live family recording made in New Orleans, their home town. Perhaps it is father Ellis’s unifying presence at the piano, but the siblings roll along cheerfully and generously.

Amazingly, this is the first time that all four sons have stood on the same stand together. Even then, busy schedules meant that only one rehearsal was possible. That could only be for the good, as no swagger is lost in the impromptu trading of choruses between Wynton (trumpet), Branford (tenor sax), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums).

Ellis comps patiently and reassuringly in the background, occasionally stepping in to round up the tune and take it home.

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There will always be a place for the music of New Orleans and standards like ‘Struttin’ With Some Barbecue’ (which closes the Marsalis family album). But jazz music’s centre of gravity is shifting. Importantly, it is moving towards a place that is no longer hung up on notions of tradition.