Tip! Before coming to Europe, in 1970, pianist Manuel Villarroel was a vet in his native Chili. A few years later, as leader of the Machi Oul Big Band, he returned to the animal kingdom. A very specific kind of animal, for sure, the Quetzalcoatl, also known as the Feathered Serpent. What is behind this title (also the name of one of the three original compositions on this album released on the Palm label in 1976), is first and foremost a sort of homecoming…
After discovering the jazz of Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Villarroel was taken by the free jazz which was all the rage at the time in America and Europe, and this would inspire the first version of his Machi-Oul project. This was a septet, with which the pianist would record, in 1971, the tremendous Terremoto (re-released by Souffle Continu FFL085). After this masterstroke Villarroel was invited to record with Perception (Perception & Friends) and with Baikida Carroll (Orange Fish Tears). While these were notable contributions, Villarroel was already looking into other combinations.
“I had to deal personally with my situation as an expatriate, without disavowing it. I tried not to betray my roots, I tried to translate into my music what was essential to me, to reflect my origins – Latin America, its musical and above all human feelings – while remaining faithful to jazz, which is the mode of expression of the musicians in the group”. This then is the ‘homecoming’ we mentioned, which would incite Manuel Villarroel to compose what he would call “structured free music”.
In January 1972 the pianist enlarged his formation to reach the size of a real big band: the Septet became the Machi-Oul Big Band. Three years later in January 1975, with producer Jef Gilson at the helm, fifteen musicians including those from the old Septet (Jef Sicard, François and Jean-Louis Méchali, Gérard Coppéré) worked on a rare form of jazz. From togetherness to dissonance, we danse to it “Bolerito” then shake it up on “Leyendas De Nahuelbuta”. As for the concluding serpent, it is a piece which is impossible to pin down: “Quetzalcoat” is as impressive as it is difficult to grasp. To remind ourselves of this, lets listen to it again.