Focus on French Jazz: Thomas Enhco + Rémi Panossian
Fri-5-Jul-2013 • The Peggy Corkum Music Room • Halifax Jazz Festival (link)
Set 1: Thomas Enhco, piano; Chris Jennings, acoustic bass; Nicolas Charlier, drums
Summary: A poignantly-programmed set of aural soundscapes, drenched with emotion, drama, and excitement.
As the young musicians took to the stage, what I thought were random warm-up notes surreptitiously coalesced into the opening of the trio’s first song. Enhco’s award-winning film scoring expertise was immediately on display with his first piece, which depicted clear visual images of moving water rushing down a stream or crashing onto the shore. These images were brought to intensely dramatic heights throughout the piece, with the musicians alternating between furious torrents of sound and gentle washes against a window, all with such perfectly-executed transitions that I was left awestruck at times. The first piece was really more like a three-part suite; fittingly, it was titled La Fenêtre et la Pluie, or The Window and the Rain.
Enhco’s trio continued with a blistering rendition of the jazz standard All The Things You Are, during which each musician turned in truly superb hard bop solos. After proving their mettle with that standard, they played two more originals that featured a host of unusual and pleasing sounds: creative string-plucking techniques by Enhco on piano; unusual bowing techniques by Jennings that made his bass sound like a Chinese zither; and energetic but incredibly sensitive accompaniment on drums by Charlier.
Set 2: Rémi Panossian, piano; Maxime Delport, acoustic bass; Frédéric Petitprez, drums.
Summary: A The-Bad-Plus-like recasting of the piano trio in a modern, funky setting with sophisticated compositions and seemingly telepathic interplay between the musicians.
This group had a completely different approach. Self-described as a funk/rock band, they used the instrumentation of the traditional acoustic jazz piano trio to develop a vastly different range of sounds. Pannosian’s compositions were mostly anchored to solid, funky grooves built off the left hand of the piano, the bass and the drums, but the creativity and sophistication of these grooves must be highlighted: this wasn’t just a jam band rocking out to a solid backbeat, it was three expert musicians playing complex arrangements with exciting and abrupt transitions within each piece.
This show was a real composers’ dream, because it gave so many great examples of how differently you can build a piece of music that sounds like real jazz, but also conforms to so few of its usual structural tendencies. With the exception of a few well-chosen standards, all of the tunes we heard were completely original in their makeup and approach. In short, this was a creatively rewarding way to kick off this year’s festival.