Critic Jacques Denis presents the album REVISITING AFRIQUE by Count Basie and Oliver Nelson of the duo Sangoma Everett & Lionel Martin
This duo is the story of a meeting of the third type. Imagine a sax/drums pair that began to climb one of the ultimate peaks of Count Basie’s Grand Orchestra, engraved in the winter of his career, in December 1970. On paper, the case seems complicated. In music, it is another pair of sleeves, because more than proper transposition, this is a reappropriation of a repertoire predominantly composed by the chief arranger Oliver Nelson. The latter had the good taste of joining Gabor Szabo’s Gyspy Queen, and two tenors compositions of the time: Love Flower by Albert Ayler and, as a superlative conclusion, Japan by Pharoah Sanders. Fifty years away how to do otherwise?
How to transcribe a big band format into a formula that is tightened to the extreme? By not sticking to the line close to the original formation, but rather by working in mind to suggest a proofreading of the most original. That’s why, apart from a short nod to step right up as an introduction to a virtually recomposed section, the saxophonist and drummer bet on a dialogue with the bone, two speeches that mingle and challenge us. This is the way to hear the theme that follows. Cross road of Sangoma Everett indicates the direction of the entire disc: at the intersection of the trajectories of these two musicians who in place and conversation space chose to place themselves at the intersection of the jazz of yesterday and that of today, from here and there, in black and white, as long as it pulses.
Between Lionel Martin, a telluric saxophonist, a breath irrigated by years to attend the punk jazz tangent and Sangoma Everett, a drummer with a polyrhythmic elegance, chopsticks soaked in the great tradition he experienced with Clifford Jordan and Dizzy Gillespie, Memphis Slim and Eddy Louiss, what’s common? Many things, if one does not stick to appearances only, starting with an openness to the worlds of music, that their respective paths tell. This plural of the suggestive is found in this album which plays their respective singularities. It was in this Exchange that the homage could only take its common sense. After creating a first Quartet around his compositions (but also of Pharoah Sanders, one of his marottes), where he invited Sangoma Everett, Lionel Martin chooses to go further in collaboration with the one he admired for a long time secretly. « We ended up in the energy, in the desire to go up and up again… So I figured why not play as a Duet, we’ll have even more space. Yes, but what to play? »
The answer comes once again from a good old LP, for this black wax lover who, as a good tracker, often searches the corridors of time for answers to his terribly contemporary aesthetic problems. « Listening to Count Basie’s Africa album I knew it was a topic for us. What I like about it is basically a certain simplicity, a ratio to the bass line very simple and repetitive with very powerful themes, without ever falling into something hyper connoted big band. I lifted the disc in the night; in the morning I was at Sangoma, and we tried! He had a small keyboard, I stuck it with Scotch to make a drone, and it was gone: we had the pitch, we only had to record. They will do so by following the order established by Oliver Nelson, just allowing himself a little detours when Basie’s African Sunrise becomes Ethiopan sunrise in remembrance of the wanderings on the Addis Ababa side of Lionel Martin.
The result of these sessions made in Lyon, you hold it in your hands.
A powerful sound, an interaction of all moments, the suspension of the moment, the two most complementary compers were found there in themselves: all alike, different altogether.” Our idea was not to swing like Basie, but to groove in our own way. » It is thus, in all spontaneity, in complete symbiosis, that they arranged a thematic thought in large format: drums of Ember, saxophone on fire, and more than once, a line of keyboard self-sampled, a base that whirs and resonates like a drone quintessential for the music to take off, elsewhere. Far from betraying the melodic foundations, the continuous flux produced by this pair of electrons of free jazz brings us tirelessly to the two mamelles of the African-American identity: the Blues and the Gospel already well present in the versions put in sound by Oliver Nelson.