There are waters into which one enters with confidence, currents that inspire such a feeling of security that one surrenders to them with delight.
Listening to Christian Brenner‘s new album (with superb artwork by Philippe Lecomte), a true defender of the spirit of jazz, evokes a feeling of well-being synonymous with reconciliation with the world, a moment of choice conducive to poetry.
This month, the pianist releases Avant l’Été, a project nourished by the numerous concerts he has given at Café Laurent over the past 20 years.
The invitation to travel is obvious on the beaches of Avant l’Été, and it takes on a particular dimension here with the desire to resolutely open up the landscape of emotions felt with others, in contact with nature. The work gives pride of place to the piano, of course, and includes rather melancholic interludes performed solo by Christian Brenner, such as “Manchester”, “Tides“, or “Vincent and Natacha“. But one quickly becomes aware that the melodic motives thus highlighted are present, as diffuse as they are fertile, in the compositions played in quintet, like an essential backwash that would dominate the tempo of an incoercible and powerful tide.
Authentic story, therefore, animated by a game of questions and answers developed with the members of the group, which can only have an idea all the people having the taste of the scene, that it is as spectator or as artist.
The will to cover a wide sound spectrum is expressed notably by the contribution of tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, under the expert hands of Vincent Mascart and Stéphane Mercier, and the orchestral experience is here highlighted in a context deliberately marked by the intimacy of chamber music.
In passing and in a fundamental way, Christian Brenner and his band opportunely remind us that this intimate dimension was not opposed to the federative and dancing aspect of the music of the illustrious big bands, and it is this universality of traditional jazz that the musicians propose to perpetuate.
Stéphane Mercier further enriches the soundtrack with the use of the flute, which is absolutely in keeping with the aesthetics of classical quartets and symphonic poems (the record was recorded in Brussels, where the saxophonist plays in the Jazz Station Big Band). The titles themselves celebrate the elements, the passage of time, the seasons, love, through the unfolding of a great dreamlike theater.
The album deploys these source ideas as matrices from which the group draws, while partially improvising its discourse. As in literature, the art of punctuation, structures and form serves an essential purpose here, that of confidence in one’s own resources and a hope imbued with a certain spirituality.
“Kerbouron” is a timely illustration of Christian Brenner‘s and Vincent Mascart‘s love of Brittany, while “Valse d’Automne” is more than a testament to a literate heritage in the service of a non-linear harmony. Bruno Shorp and Vincent Delestré put the music in weightlessness with a complex rhythmic drive that never gives in to gratuitous demonstration, which gives it an immense power of suggestion.
“Ballade pour Flo et François“, which we had the chance to listen to in preview at Café Laurent, is a marvel of a piece, where attention to others becomes a hymn to the milky way.
“Les Reflets“, offers a complex decoupling, with emotional tableaux shot through with stormy flashes, made perceptible by a band in a state of grace.
“Tides” is a more feverish track than it sounds, with temperamental considerations that serve its unfolding admirably.
“May Be” instantly gets into your head, both dense and ethereal, while “Before Summer” plays with all the springtime nuances to indicate a possible rebirth.
Finally, “June“, the final point of the recorded work, is like an ultimate completion for Christian Brenner‘s artistic sensibility. A lyricism, a poetics that do not hide their transcendent dimension. One thinks of nature, of loved ones, feeling that at the end of the road is a haven of peace and euphony.
Avant l’Été has been released at the end of April, 2023 by the label Amalgammes.
Christian Brenner: piano & compositions
Vincent Mascart: tenor and soprano saxophones
Stéphane Mercier : alto saxophone alto and flute
Bruno Schorp : double bass
Frédéric Delestré : drums
©Photo Header, Steven Gargadennec