+ Philipp Schaufelberger, Bänz Oester, Frank Kroll,
Hélène Breschand, Michel Godard, Wolfgang Zwiauer
Swiss drummer-composer Pierre Favre has been bringing new impulses to European jazz since the 1960s. At home with all of the music’s styles, from New Orleans to bop to free playing, he is in every context a uniquely lyrical, melodically-minded drummer. The range of ECM musicians with whom Favre has played gives an index of his open-mindedness: from Dino Saluzzi to Arvo Pärt to John Surman and Barre Phillips. His leader dates for the label have included discs with Kenny Wheeler and Steve Swallow (“Window Steps”, 1995) with singer Tamia (“De la nuit... le jour”, 1987, “Solitudes”, 1991) with fellow percussionists Paul Motian, Fredy Studer and Nana Vasconcelos (1984).
“Fleuve” introduces his new ensemble, a group of most unorthodox line-up. With tuba, double-bass and bass guitar, the music does not lack authority at the bottom end when needed, but it is also highly mobile and agile, and is given plenty of room to move inside Manfred Eicher’s spacious production. Its music is elegant, sinuous, poetic, its timbres and textures surprisingly evocative of renaissance music, its lyricism timeless. In Favre’s pieces, the differentiated dynamics, arrangements and melody are influenced and developed primarily from the sound colours of his solo percussion playing. Sometimes drums, harp, bass and guitar function as a core ‘rhythm group’ inside which musical ideas are perpetually interchanged, with tuba / serpent and reeds as frontline voices. Just as often, however, the contributions of all seven musicians overlap contrapuntally, a procedure that has its roots in traditional jazz, utilised to decidedly non-traditional effect.
Renowned Swiss filmmaker Pio Corradi, who has also been cinematographer on more than 60 films since the 1970s, working with Robert Frank, Xavier Koller and many other directors, recently completed a film portrait of Pierre Favre entitled “Poetry In Motion”. The film is premiered at KKL Lucerne, Switzerland, on October 28th. Following the screening, the Pierre Favre Ensemble will play music from “Fleuve”.
All of the ensemble members are well known in their respective areas of activity. Like Favre himself, reedman Frank Kroll has experience in improvisation in and out of jazz: he has worked with Indian sarod master Vikash Maharaj and Afghan percussionist Hakim Ludin, as well as a long list of European players including Herbert Joos, Bernd Konrad and Hans Koller.
Michel Godard, formerly a member of the Ensemble InterContemporain, the Venice Baroque Ensemble and Arban Chamber Brass, is also long-established as the most in-demand tuba player in improvised music and has played with Louis Sclavis, Gianluigi Trovesi, Enrico Rava, Horace Tapscott, Misha Mengelberg, Kenny Wheeler and dozens more.
Harpist Hélène Breschand has worked with composers including Luciano Berio, Emmanuel Nunes and Bernard Cavanna, and is a member of the Ensemble Laborintusan and the Orchestre Trans Européennes and is active as a soloist, chamber musician and improviser. Her musical partners have included Sophie Agnel, Henri Tournier, Jean-Marc Montera, Garth Knox, Michel Doneda and many others.
Bassist Bänz Oester, active in jazz contexts from standards to free improvisation, leads several bands of his and has also played with Dewey Redman, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and the Vienna Art Orchestra.
Guitarist Philipp Schaufelberger has also toured extensively with Dewey Redman, and given concerts with Paul Motian, Joey Baron, Jim Black and others. He has been a member of Harald Haerter’s quartet since 1994 and of Lukas Niggli’s group Zoom since 2000. Like Michel Godard he was previously a part of Favre’s Singing Drums project.
Bass guitarist Wolfgang Zwiauer has played across the genres with musicians from Gerorge Gruntz to Wolfgang Muthspiel to Candy Dulfer, and co-produced recordings by Shirley Grimes and Mat Callahan.
Percussionist Pierre Favre has delivered one of his most captivating albums. It is hardly surprising that the musician who produced such unexpected colours and textures as a solo act and from a percussion quartet should find so many possibilities in the almost wilfully unconventional instrumentation employed for this edition of the Ensemble. While there is a strong rhythmic backbone to these seven Favre compositions, with bass, drums, harp and guitar often acting together as a unit to carry the pulse, it is the agreeable melodies and the ingenious, fresh and attractive voicings that distinguish the session. … This is a gratifying listen.
Barry Witherden, BBC Music Magazine
The stylistically far-ranging Swiss drummer and composer Pierre Favre has produced something as unusual as its lineup. … A haunting blend of eastern and medieval influences, imbued with a stately melancholy, it owes as much to the melodic flavour of Favre’s compositions and his understated playing, as it does to his composer’s control of the ensemble. Subtle, with lovely dynamics and beautifully balanced colours, ultimately it burns with more light than heat.
Ray Comiskey, Irish Times
Ein feiner Sinn für Kontraste, lichte Töne und dunkle Klangballungen, in denen die Elemente toben, bestimmen seine Musik. Favre gibt nie den Trommelathleten, der seine technische Versiertheit zur Schau stellt – bei ihm geht es um anderes: Er ist ein Poet, der mit Trommeln, Becken, Gongs feingliedrige Klanggedichte zaubert.
Christoph Wagner, Jazzthetik
Gitarre, Harfe, Sopransaxophon und Bassklarinette, Kontrabass, E-Bass und Tuba umgeben den Rhythmus-Zauberer Pierre Favre. Bei so vielen Tieftönern kommen Favres Perkussions-Instrumente besonders gut zur Geltung. Sanft und fernab jeglicher Hektik entwickeln sich sieben filigrane Stücke mit magischen Melodien und Rhythmen. Die präzise, Wärme vermittelnde Abmischung erhöht den Genuss der Musik.
Werner Stiefele, Audio
Fleuve, seine neueste CD, ist nur ein weiteres Beispiel seines endlosen stream of consciousness. Das Septett besteht für einmal aus einer wundersam sparsam verzweigten „Rhythmusgruppe“, der Harfe von Hélène Breschand, davor und dazwischen Michel Godard an der Tuba, Frank Kroll am Sopransax und an der Klarinette und Philipp Schaufelberger an der Gitarre. Das Ganze ergibt so was wie Pierre Favres kleinen Budenzauber, eine Folge von maßvoll ausgelassenen, an Renaissance erinnernden Tänzchen, ziselierten Miniaturen. Diese Poesie ist nicht gemütlich, sondern scharf. Über all den tiefen Sounds weht ein zauberischer Atem.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
W. Stiefele in Audio 1 / 07: "Sanft und fernab jeglicher
Hektik entwickeln sich sieben filigrane Stücke mit magi-
schen Melodien und Rhythmen. Die präzise, Wärme ver-
mittelnde Abmischung erhöht den Genuss der Musik dieses
maximal siebenköpfigen Ensembles."