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Four reed players of the European improv community in a series of compositions exploring drones, flutters, grainy tones, and powerfully radical approaches to the sax.

Baron / Denzler / Guionnet / Rives

Baron / Denzler / Guionnet / Rives: Propagations (Potlatch)
Label: Potlatch    
Released in: France    

"I suppose one of the more daring things you can do nowadays is to form a saxophone quartet. Do you deal with the weight of history inherent in your horn or try to shrug it off? Or do you simply see what four saxophonists with a thorough understanding of what has transpired in the last decade or so of contemporary improvisation can do these days?

It sounds like the latter was the approach here. There's no indication of how the pieces were put together, though it sounds as if at least the basic attack was agreed upon beforehand (if not, all the more impressive). But whatever the case, it by and large works. The musicians (Marc Baron, alto; Bertrand Denzler, tenor; Jean-Luc Guionnet, alto; Stephane Rives, soprano) concoct three works ranging between about ten and seventeen minutes in length, allowing the ideas plenty of time to flourish. The first limns territory that one might have expected coming in: soft, grainy and generally high-pitched, long tones edged with spittle. That it's not so surprising doesn't at all mean it's in any way unenjoyable and this one is fine, very delicate in its balance of tones and the succession in and out of the sound field. The first portion of second track gives me a bit of a problem, essentially because a large proportion of the sounds are key pops and other plosives, elements that carry a wee bit too much of that baggage from prior generations of free reedists. Still, the mini-explosions are arrayed with care over fainter flutterings and breaths and when it splays out into its last half, the saxophones coming to resemble nothing so much as a wheezing harmonium, it's rather nice.

But the payoff is the final piece. Here, after several minutes of sour, whistling squeakiness, the quartet summons forth all the inherent richness in their axes; the harmonium is cast aside and the pipe organ appears and raises the roof. Massive slabs of pure reeditude-we're still talking drones, no screaming and screeching, just hugeness. The effect is liberating. Not so much in a cathartic manner as found in the finest of free jazz squalls, but more in the sense of a recognition that this capability, too, is in the saxophone and it's been too often ignored in recent years. Diving into their lower registers, the metal begins to vibrate and thrum. They split back out into various pitch levels, one (Denzler, I would guess), maintaining the stuttering bottom, perhaps Rives scratching the ceiling. It's a beautifully full performance, excellently structured. Good to hear that a format one might have guessed to be played out, isn't."-Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen

"Bertrand Denzler is a tenor saxophone player. He has played in Europe and Latin America both as a solo act and with musicians such as Xavier Charles, Peter Frils Nielsen, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Barry Guy, Ninh Lê Quan, Urs Leimgruber, Günter Müller, Bob Ostertag, Norbert Pfammatter, Hasse Poulsen, Mark Sanders, Mathieu Werchowski, and Otomo Yoshihide. He is a member of the groups Hubbub, Nanocluster, Laps, Denzler-Mariage, A3/1, and Chamaeleo Vulgaris. He has put out a number of compact discs on various labels." (

"Jean-Luc Guionnet is an elusive figure. A Parisian artist active in many fields (music, visual arts, cinema), he has mostly worked in electro-acoustics but also has a career in free improvisation, playing alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, church organ, and piano. He has collaborated with Éric La Casa, Éric Cordier, and André Almuro on tape music. His main free improv and jazz projects include Hubbub, Schams, Return of the New Thing, and the Joe Rosenberg quintet.

Guionnet made scientific studies before shifting to fine arts. He studied musique concrete under Iannis Xenakis and Michel Zbar, but also pursued studies in philosophy (esthetics) with Geneviève Clancy. His first works date from the late '80s and are mostly collaborations with filmmaker André Almuro (some have been issued by Ground Fault). Then came a lasting partnership with electro-acousticians Éric Cordier and Éric La Casa. Together they wrote the series "Afflux." Guionnet also produces the Ateliers de Création Radiophoniques ("creative radio workshops") for France Culture. His eclecticism has kept him at bay of recognition -- because to the eye of the press it strips him from some credibility and because running careers in philosophy (he was co-director for the review Terre des Signes from 1993 to 1996), painting (he exhibited from 1992 to 1997), and music simultaneously tends to be time-consuming.

The release of an eponymous CD by Dan Warburton's free jazz quartet Return of the New Thing in 1999 on the respected label Leo Records introduced Guionnet to a wider audience. Since then his activities as an improviser have constantly stretched toward the fringes of experimentalism. His participation in the French-Swiss group Hubbub and his duo with guitarist Olivier Benoit (&Un, 2002) follow the school of Berlin reductionism."

-All Music, François Couture (

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Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
European Improv, Free Jazz & Related
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
November 2007
Free Improvisation
Quartet Recordings

Get additional information at Bagatellen

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Price: $17.95
In Stock


Shipping Weight: 5.00 units

Quantity in Basket: None

Product Information:

UPC: 3491570000526

Label: Potlatch
Catalog ID: P107
Squidco Product Code: 8703

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2007
Country: France
Packaging: Jewel tray, not sealed.
Recorded on January 12, 2007 by Pierre-Henri Thiebaut.


Marc Baron-alto saxophone

Bertrand Denzler-tenor saxophone

Jean Luc Guionnet-alto saxophone

Stephane Rives-soprano saxophone

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Track Listing:

1. Part 1 9:54

2. Part 2 13:54

3. Part 3 17:21

The music is continuos; time codes have been added for listening reference only.