Conny Bauer, trombone. Johannes Bauer, trombone. Barry Guy, doublebass. Jean-Noël Cognard, drums. Another meeting organised by Mister Jean-Noël Cognard. Here he got some of the best European free improvisation musicians. A very nice yellow box with 3 LPs recorded in 2012, studio and live. Including a serie of photos from Philippe Renaud. Recorded and mixed by Patrick Müller. Limited to 300 copies."
Released in 2013 but recorded in February 2012 is this improv sprawler featuring bassist Barry Guy and French drummer Jean-Noël Cognard, whose Disques Bloc Thyristors label is responsible for this cloth-boxed, triple vinyl luxury. The rest of the mass is taken up by the trombone-playing Bauer brothers, of whom Johannes sadly passed away this past May. The first two discs were recorded in studio at the Conservatory of Chatenay-Malabry while the third was captured live; a sequencing that implies a trajectory between the group’s opening murmurs and the dying sighs of the live show, but hopes of a rich and eventful narrative are to be dashed. It takes big balls and/or grand delusions to put something like this on triple coloured vinyl where other improv estuaries like the Petit label favour CDRs for their ephemerality, but the Bitches Brew Sessions this ain’t I’m sorry to say and the ‘all at once’ approach of side 3 is in fact the final destination.
The trombonists are the best barometer of the state of play: either a ruddy-cheeked conviviality or a dour and long-winded listlessness. They talk over one another on side one while Barry Guy gets mesmerised by the skittering of his own fingers. By contrast, Cognard’s playing suggests a good deal more at stake – perhaps because he stumped up the readies. His playing is the most varied, whether drumming circles around the others to give shape to things or capriciously instigating a new pace and direction, but all too often it’s in vain. As is so commonly the case, this event is a drunken group photo: exposing the full mechanics of interactivity, where everyone’s dead keen on taking their style ‘to the limit’: Side A’s 6am calisthenic beginnings with pizza dough string stretching and shaping; lots of breathy, burbling, growling and politely parping trombones and a promising spell of low register bass and breath harmonics suddenly collapsed by a promising drum-led freak-out that pummels through to the end of side B. This vignette is the first in a series of abortive outbursts that threaten to kick the sluggish ensemble into gear, like a moment of 4/4 rock bombast on side C that seems set to take us somewhere when suddenly…" The Soundprojector