Suite africaine (Carnet de routes)
LABELS: Label Bleu
PERFORMER: Louis Sclavis (ss, clt, b-clt), Aldo Romano (d), Henri Texier (b)
CATALOGUE NO: LBLC 6609
The trio comprising French reedsman Louis Sclavis, Breton bassist Henri Texier and Italian drummer Aldo Romano, in addition to producing some of the most challenging, invigorating jazz recorded in France in recent years, also toured extensively in Africa throughout the Nineties.
This richly imaginative album, complementing an earlier recording inspired by the band’s travels in West and Central Africa, was sparked by a 1997 visit to the East and South of the continent and, like its predecessor, is accompanied by a booklet containing the eloquent tour-documenting photographs of Guy Le Querrec.
The trio’s music is a lively mix of light, elegant scurries, fiercely scrabbling free-for-alls and carefully considered solo ‘animal portraits’ (Romano’s ‘Impala’ particularly evocative of its subject), intelligently interspersed with the odd plangent lament or graceful dance.
Sclavis’s passionate, pleasantly garrulous reeds are faultlessly propelled by Romano’s assertive yet supple drumming, but it is Texier’s lithe but full-bodied bass that binds the band’s music together, softly cushioning its more contemplative passages while infusing the up-tempo pieces with fierce, plunging urgency.
If jazz’s epicentre has lately shifted eastwards, towards Europe and Africa, it is as much to the vigour and originality displayed by the likes of this trio on labels such as Label Bleu, Enja and ACT as to the more celebrated ‘European’ sound captured by ECM. Chris Parker