East-West Collective | Humeurs | RogueArt Jazz

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Didier Petit: cello, voice | Larry Ochs: tenor & sopranino saxophones | Miya Masaoka: koto | Xu Fengxia: guzheng, voice | Sylvain Kassap: clarinets

All compositions by Didier Petit and East-West Collective except By Any Other Name (For William Kentridge) by Larry Ochs.

Recorded on June 20th 2013 by Eric Moffat (assistant engineer: Jose Alvarez) at Unsound Recording, San Francisco, California, USA. Mixing, editing and mastering: Jean-Pierre Bouquet, L’Autre Studio, Vaires-sur-Marne. Liner notes: Alexandre Pierrepont. Photographs: Marek Lazarski (www.cooljazzphotos.com) Cover design: Max Schoendorff. Cover realisation: David Bourguignon. Producer: Michel Dorbon

Special thanks: Patricia Nicholson Parker, Nader Beizaei, Lutz Wagner, Al Evers, Jay Liu, Sarah Cahill, Carlos Tortolero, Brent Miller, Yong Ping Tian, Lyn Hejinian, John Gilbreath, Josh Berman, Alain Drouot, Ken Pickering.

This recording was made during the East-West Collective US tour in June 2013. This would not exist without the help of Mid-Atlantic Arts and FAJE; we are grateful to them.

Tracklist: 1. Mountain (7:06) 2. Wine (8:59) 3. Humeur du Dessous (5:02) 4. By Any Other Name (for William Kentridge) (15:06) 5. Humeur de Terre (4:10) 6. Road (7:16) 7. Humeur de l’Esprit (5:51)

East-West Collective | Humeurs | rougeart jazz

Miya Masaoka, Larry Ochs, Didier Petit, Sylvain Kassap, Xu Fengxia | Vision Festival, New York, June 14, 2013 | Photo by Marek Lazarski

New mood theory

The traveler listens, and says: I have seen a plate smoke on a winter morning, thirty porcelain men bring down the sail under a luster of clouds. At other times, I have heard through a much too high window that the statuary gardens were being watered, that the sky was being torn to pieces. Maybe it was just a dream, but no matter: I hosted this liturgy.

Before “traveling writers”, there were traveling musicians, who had the advantage of never recounting the stories of their adventures solely alone, but often with other people, in concert with new acquaintances whom they met right there and then, this occurrence modifying what they had come to say and share. Without the shadow of a doubt, Didier Petit is one of their descendants. Much beyond a career and a fate tied to a common national scene, he has made a philosophy, a joyous knowledge, of meeting the other, who is truly other – in such a way that this cello player can guide him without him feeling he’s being guided, or rush him without him feeling rushed. Such is with the emancipated Xu Fengxia, a Chinese guzheng player and former partner of Peter Kowald (another great traveling musician), amongst others, who redefines with her the traditions of improvised music based on “western” and “eastern” “traditions”. These three concepts are often a source of discord, but here they are laid out like the rook, the knight and the bishop on a chessboard. Even more, Didier Petit is one of the few European improvisers to travel to the Far East, year after year, and sometimes even with the “passer-through-walls” clarinet player Sylvain Kassap.

The traveler listens, and says: to be born again by chance, to be born again and use shapes. Shapes are transient, but we must go through them. To be born again as a fox. To give birth to the redness which opens us from top to bottom and cries out to us. Within the wonder of the sun and his, to mumble and to know, to dry up the milk, to grab by the throat the Honey-Queen on its lanky legs. I laid by her body, and I laid alongside mine, us three seeking the wind. Maybe it was just a dream, but no matter.

This is how the East-West Quartet or Trio (with or without Peter Scherr at the upright bass) was created in May of 2009, in Hong Kong, and performed shortly thereafter in Guangzhou, Beijing and Qingtao, with Teodorico Pedrini as their tutelary figure, who was a Lazarite brother from the 18th century, and a traveling musician. He was a composer and luthier for China’s emperor, and knew, through his knowledge of both cultural universes, how to open the door to the worlds. It is an Ariadne’s thread that the cellist weaves on his weaving loom: “The East-West concept was born from multiple desires. The first one was to create a durable link between these two practices that are Chinese traditional music and European improvisation. The practice of acoustic instruments in both traditions are quite similar in regards to technique – the use of the tones being one of the most obvious example. Moreover, the use of modality and elements of “theatricality”, along a horizontal musical organization, made with strata and moods, allow for a fruitful confrontation of these two cultures.” Philosophy: for Didier Petit, to improvise is to put oneself in certain states, from the most contemplative to the most frantic ones, it is to go from one mood to the other, it is the science of (recurring) imbalances, and (transitory) restoration of balance. To improvise, is to be deeply moved and to move deeply.

East-West Collective | Humeurs | rougeart jazz

Larry Ochs, Miya Masaoka, Sylvain Kassap (standing, from left to right), Didier Petit, Xu Fengxia (seated, from left to right) | Photo by Rogueart

The traveler speaks again: I wanted to offer in sacrifice the permanence of things, those that do not hold us back and that we barely notice, those that dazzle us and acidify. I wanted to make a thing of the present the eternity of the cycles, of the penultimate world and its contagious light. From nothing, which may just be a figurehead.

The koto, the Japanese version of the guzheng, was made subject to Miya Masaoka’s expertise and comparable appropriation. She is a “Sansei”, or third generation Japanese American, who is often associated with saxophone player Larry Ochs in a trio with cellists, precisely, Joan Jeanrenaud or Peggy Lee (“Spiller Alley”, Rog-0016), and in “Maybe Monday” with guitar player Fred Frith. Xu Fengxia and Miya Masaoka know each other by reputation, and an invitation was sent to them to join their European and American partners, in France in April 2012, and in the United States in June 2013. Their pinched-string instruments, constantly adjusted and unadjusted to the sound of Didier Petit’s sensitive or wild cello, launch generous summons of intoxication to Ochs and Kassap’s wind and freed breath instruments! We can thus expect anything from this East-West Collective and its interactive / imaginative strategies devised by Petit (a secret map showing placement and displacement of different types of good will), from the guzheng and the koto under the fingers and fingernails of the two weaving sisters, of the chancellery of air by the labile clarinet, of the chancellery of water by Kassap’s bass clarinet, of the sopranino’s flint, of the torch and resin from Ochs’ tenor. Through the stupefying (meaning intoxicating, and deeply moving) shaping of the polyphony, the art of speaking with multiple voices, modulating other-voicely songs which spark the fuse of shapes, this theory of traveling musicians in all of their states and mood changes establishes for us today that there cannot be “world music”, but instead music of passing, music of passing between worlds. As clandestine as ultimate beauty. And so unbelievably sumptuous.

The traveler listens, and says: I was called by a name that is not mine, and that is revealed by music. I barely had the time to assemble a bouquet of our hands and feet and to hang from the rope of our bodies. I heard this voice, the orgeat of this voice: what is happening to us? And with a more evasive tone: who are we, really? I stumbled on the chimney of dreams. I was with scarlet crows.Alexandre Pierrepont (translation: Remain Tessler)

East-West Collective | Humeurs | rougeart jazz

Miya Masaoka, Sylvain Kassap, Xu Fengxia, Larry Ochs, Didier Petit | Vision Festival, New York, June 14, 2013 | Photo by Marek Lazarski


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One thought on “East-West Collective | Humeurs | RogueArt Jazz

  1. The East West Collective constituted one of the surprise hits of the 2013 Vision Festival in New York City. As their name implies the five strong outfit comprises improvisers from both the Occident and Orient. Their origin lies in French cellist Didier Petit’s regular visits to the Far East, often with clarinetist Sylvain Kassap in tow, where he perceived a connection between Chinese traditional music and European improvisation. Guzheng player Xu Fengxia and koto exponent Miya Masaoka were invited to join for tours in France and America, and with the addition of reedman Larry Ochs (the “O” of the ROVA saxophone quartet, and a frequent collaborator of Masaoka), the East West Collective was born.

    Overlapping passages distinguished by combinations of unusual sonorities and careful listening form one of the unit’s defining traits. Rarely does the whole ensemble play at the same time. While some segments verge on the abstract others are unexpectedly tuneful or rhythmic, especially those in which Masaoka or Fengxia evoke reiterated guitar like motifs. Although all but one cut is generated on-the-fly, the sleeve notes intimate that Petit furnishes strategies or road maps to guide at least some of the pieces. If so they must be very light touch as they leave no compositional signature. No-one dominates as egos are checked at the door. Although theatrical elements occur in performance, particularly from Petit who echoes his countrywoman Joëlle Léandre in his use of voice, they do not impinge on the recorded sound.

    Even when the instrumentation goes through constant flux, the collective pulls off the trick of maintaining momentum. Och’s episodic “By Any Other Name (for William Kentridge)” provides a case in point as cello and both reeds revolve around an elegiac broadly sketched melody, before a scratchy section which ultimately gives way to strummed koto and guzheng, suggesting a deconstructed blues. Further metamorphoses take place before a return to the two horns in loose fugue. Extended techniques are used sparingly and unobtrusively, such as Kassap’s bass clarinet multiphonics at the outset of “Humeur de Terre.” Each of the selections is characterized by restraint, which makes the sequences when they do all come together stand out in sharp relief, serving as emphatic punctuations in a subtle but rewarding discourse.

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