17 May 2006
BAROQUE JAZZ TRIO
Nineteen-seventy was a propitious time for musical mixtures: Pop music was becoming more psychedelic, in part by integrating elements of Indian music, and fusions between jazz and non-Western styles were quite common. The Baroque Jazz Trio went both with and against the flow.
In late 1969, three French musicians — harpsichord player Georges Rabol, drummer Phillippe Combelle and cellist Jean Charles Capon — were eager to devote themselves to musical projects off the beaten path. They called themselves the Baroque Jazz Trio, and chose from the start to work in a territory without boundaries, a place that really pushed the limits of jazz — and drawing inspiration from world music from Brazil, India and Madagascar. The trio dubbed their style “baroque,” in part to emphasize the bizarreness of their project. Also, they didn’t want to suggest the idea of mixing two genres.
What was created was a truly unique and phenomenal collection of French jazz — or music, for that matter — unlike any I’ve heard before. The group was avant garde without being unlistenable, classic without sounding stuffy, innovative without being over the top. Given the heavy use of tabla in the set, the album’s got a really driving rhythmic component, making for some seriously funky numbers that have become heavily sought after jazz-dance tracks over the years. The role of the harpsichord is surprisingly strong, played in almost modal lines, but with a hesitating, lilting groove that’s quite different from the overly-used piano at the time.
Originally released on the cross-culturally fertile Saravah label, known for championing experimental work by Brigitte Fontaine and the Art Ensemble of Chicago among others, the self-titled Baroque Jazz Trio was hampered by comparisons upon its release. Labels such as “Bach Jazz,” “Chopin New Time” or “Jazz Goes Baroque” caused the recording to lose its specificity. Like so often previously, retailers and fans no longer knew where to stand, and the record was buried in the no-man’s-land of unclassifiable music, a retreat — and more often times a graveyard — for surprising or disconcerting sounds. That is, until hoards of beat diggers, DJs and vinyl enthusiasts resurrected this gem of a forgotten musical experiment.
This, the only recording by Baroque Jazz Trio, completely fulfills the musical demands of this anachronistic tribe of musicians, guided by an obsession for the discovery of forgotten or lost sounds.
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