Monday, October 09, 2006 guest: Philippe Elhem on Kris Wanders and the New York Downtown All Stars

UPDATE: a factual correction.

[Philippe is an eminent member of the Brussels Free Jazz Gang (and a fine vintage at that: Chateauvallon '72). He also writes for many prestigious music magazines and is a cinema buff. His report picks up where my Dave Burrell Trio concert review left off.]

It's too bad you didn't stay, at least for the first set: Kris Wanders's concert was remarkable. He's a really curious character and his story isn't all that far from Henry Grimes's.

Wanders was part of the first wave of European "Free Music," playing with Fred Van Hove, Peter Brötzmann, The Globe Unity and Schlippenbach, then, over thirty years ago, he exiled himself to Australia and rapidly ceased giving any signs of life. Many even thought him dead.

All of a sudden, he reappears out of nowhere, contacts a few people, reunites his old band puts together a new band and goes on a European tour! Peter Jacquemyn compared him to Brötzmann ("They're on the same level") and, for this concert at least, he wasn't wrong.

I talked with Wanders - he speaks very good French. He's very kind and humble and had the excellent idea of giving me his only recording (made in 2004!). One could easily confuse him with Brötzmann and the album greatly resembles the best of FMP's output, minus any "retro" flavour the music could have had, as the Australian musicians he plays with are young. (...)

On Friday we went to Lille for a fabulous concert by the NEW YORK DOWNTOWN ALL STARS QUINTET with Herb Robertson (as leader), Tim Berne, Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Dresser (what an incredible bassist) and Tom Rainey. We almost missed it, as we got lost in Lille. Two long suites, one per set, everything was fresh and the musicians themselves said it was the best concert of the tour.

Tim Berne is still as unfriendly as ever. Strange character. I think that there's some humour in his way of being, but it's hard to know just how much.