Matthew Shipp: piano | Sabir Mateen: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet | William Parker: double bass | Gerald Cleaver: drum set | Denis Lavant: spoken words
Music recorded on December 19th 2004 by Leon Dorsey at Leon Lee Dorsey Studio (New York, Ny, USA). Spoken words recorded on June 7th 2005 by Michel Mathieu (Draveuil, France). Mixing: Anthony Ruotolo. Mastering: Jean-Pierre Bouquet. Producer: Michel Dorbon
A unique booklet including: The copies of an unpublished manuscript by Jean Genet and of the excerpt of another one. An unpublished text by Angela Davis. An original interview of Matthew Shipp by Steve Dalachinsky. An unpublished text by Alexandre Pierrepont. Jean Genet photograph: Rajak Ohanian. Declared Enemy photographs: Lorna Lentini
Excerpt from manuscript of a Jean Genet article for “L’Humanité” – courtesy Charles Sylvestre, L’Humanité | click the image to enlarge…
Tracklist: 1. Chicago 68 (2.41) 2. Marche Funèbre (20.12) 3. Flowers (4.35) 4. Alberto’s Workshop (4.13) 5. Mettray (4.24) 6. Black Panthers (3.28) 7. Abdallah (4.32) 8. Le Rouge et le Noir (12.38) 9. Larache (5.45)
The spoken words (the poem “Marche Funèbre” and the text “Le Rouge et le Noir”) are by Jean Genet; all the compositions are by Matthew Shipp
It was by chance, during his short stay in Paris in 2000
that Matthew Shipp came across Rajak Ohanian’s photograph of Jean Genet. He instantly recognized the writer, saying “Our Lady of The Flowers is one of my favourite books.” And that’s how it all started. Four years later, he brought together Sabeer Mateen, William Parker and Gerald Cleaver to express what Genet meant to him. Then, Denis Lavant joined them to add Genet’s words to the project.
In his lifetime, Jean Genet had no real connections with Jazz but he did share with past and present Jazz inventors the same source of inspiration: the life of the underdogs.
From yesterday’s slavery to today’s prisons and ghettos, Afro-Americans know too what confinement means.
Just like Genet’s works are a menace to the Establishment, Jazz always gets out of the clutches of any force in power, despite so many takeover attempts.
And it so happens that Jean Genet’s path crosses the ones of Matthew Shipp, Sabir Mateen, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver or Denis Lavant.
Therefore, Declared Enemy’s music can eventually meet Genet’s works. A dialog takes place between music and words, fierce or tactful, always respectful, never complacent.
The recording took place on a December the 19th. Nobody knew it was Jean Genet’s birthday. There is no such thing as chance. — Michel Dorbon
Gerald Cleaver, Sabir Mateen, Matthew Shipp, William Parker (from left to right) Photo by Lorna Lentini
Jean Genet was born the illegitimate child of a prostitute
who spent a majority of his youth wandering between the prison systems of Europe for theft, smuggling and male prostitution. As a writer, he was noticed by Jean-Paul Sartre through whom he was able to achieve some popular support, but throughout his life he would remain an outsider to a world looking in. It is this outsider-as-artist quality in Genet’s work that bandleader Matthew Shipp cites as a primary influence on his own artistic perspective. The world is full of symbols which the artist is free to extract to his own isolated place of mind and re-fabricate for his own purposes. For Genet, these symbols involve sexuality and death. For Shipp, they involve constructs of musical creation. And to these artistic intentions, for Salute to 100001 Stars Shipp presents nine intricate selections of music: seven instrumentals and two spoken word performances of Genet’s work that push and pull at the listener with a creative force all his own.
Indeed all of the members of Declared Enemy, including frequent Shipp collaborator William Parker (bass), Sabir Mateen (clarinet and alto sax) and Gerald Cleaver (drums) have made careers out of abandoning the traditional routes of mainstream jazz. (Mateen can be spotted giving impromptu performances of free music throughout the New York City subway system with the quartet Test.) All a very appropriate cast of characters to pay tribute to the French poet/playwright/novelist.
Throughout the album’s nine pieces, deft use of loose motivic frameworks guide the free improvisations, pulling the album together to have an impact more like that of a suite than nine individual tracks. “Chicago 68,” the opener, is a rhythmically flurrying duet between Parker and Cleaver that conjures the impression of a tangled African drum circle, a perfect introductory call to arms. The second track is a spoken performance of Genet’s poem “Marche funèbre” by Denis Lavant. For the next five instrumental tracks, Shipp is careful to underlay each song with its own unique stylistic foundation for improvisation, ranging from the delicately chromatic “Flowers” to the hard-edged groove on “Black Panthers.” “Metray” is sparse and jagged, with Shipp utilizing his unique technique of “ghosting” notes, hitting the keys for a split second and capturing the reverberations in the soundboard with the sustain pedal so that the initial sound has disappeared but the remnants linger eerily in the air.
What better way to close this thoughtfully assembled suite of music than with a track entitled, “Larache,” named for Larache, Morocco, Genet’s burial place. Matthew Shipp and Declared Enemy definitely find musical inspiration that reaches outside the lines of conventional jazz. With their homage to Jean Genet they present an album that pulls the listener beyond the conventional expectations of music as well. — Seamus Seoighe
Sabir Mateen, Matthew Shipp, Gerald Cleaver, William Parker (from left to right) Photo by Lorna Lentini
Though Jean Genet never wrote explicitly about jazz
there are a few tendril-like connections between the novelist/playwright and the music that comprise something of a pre-history to this very compelling recording. In 1968, Robert Malinké Elliott directed and produced Genet’s searing play-within-a-play, “The Blacks,” in St. Louis, which catalyzed the formation of the Black Artists Group. Genet’s stature among such intellectual beacons of the African American liberation movement as Angela Davis was reinforced when Genet came to the US in 1970 to give conferences in support of the Black Panther Party (Davis’ absorbing ’91 Paris speech about Genet is reprinted in the CD’s booklet).
Yet, the political affinities between African American radicals and Genet are not enough to get one to the present recording. It is the prominence of ritual – albeit most often manifested in the form of sexual obsessions – that pianist Matthew Shipp found to be profound in novels like Our Lady of the Flowers. As Shipp rightly points out in his booklet interview with poet Steve Dalachinsky, these rituals are attempts by the disenfranchised to hold a hostile world at bay, if not transform it into a personal world.
Subsequently, the quartet of Shipp, saxophonist/clarinetist Sabir Mateen, bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver are not declaring themselves enemies of a specific political system, but of all forces degrading people, using Genet’s writing as a counterpoint to their own improvisations. Denis Lavant has the perfect voice for Genet’s texts; particularly for the non-French speaker, the music created by text and voice is blunt without being crude, and emphatic without monotony. If, after several tracks, Lavant’s timing seems to be spectacularly impeccable, it is because he had the advantage of adding his voice to completed quintet takes.
Conversely, the quartet recorded their material knowing there would be a prominent, additional layer, which manifests in pockets of subtle colors, moments of near silence, and, at the other end of the spectrum, an impressively sustained simmer. In this regard, Mateen’s decision not to play tenor, a horn on which he summons great power, and instead plays alto and clarinets in a more sparing manner makes eminent sense. In his interview, Shipp mentions Rachmaninoff’s recording of Chopin’s “Funeral March” as a touchstone of a funereal facet of his art, a quality that repeatedly seeps into this recording. Cleaver’s ability to alternately supply turbine-like power and deftly placed collage elements makes him a fine counterpart to Parker, who exerts an authoritative presence throughout the proceedings.
This is a stark, strange project, but it draws the listener into its depths, where the demands for a more humane world are declared. — point of depature
Denis Lavant | Photo by Jerome Bonnet
CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)