AMN Reviews: Guillaume Gargaud – 17 Compositions [New Focus Recordings]

Guillaume Gargaud’s seventeen compositions for steel-string, acoustic guitar are short—none is longer than a minute and three-quarters—linked pieces of an elegant simplicity. The simplicity is more in the concept than in the sound, which can be subtly complex; each piece involves self-imposed constraints that in effect attempt to convert some of Gargaud’s improvisational gestures into etudes centered on certain pitches and pitch relationships. And this is where the complexity comes in. For despite Gargaud’s focus on a paring down of material, the often-recurring pitch relationships that make up that material and that Gargaud introduces, elaborates, and plays variations on, are harmonically sophisticated and shot through with a dissonant tension that belies the rather quiet mood in which they’re presented. While each brief piece can stand alone as a kind of tone poem complete in itself, listening to the entire sequence is like seeing an object from many different perspectives which, taken together, give a picture of the essence of the thing.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Guillaume Gargaud & Eero Savela – Helsinki [Plus Timbre PT109]; Mauro Sambo & Matilde Sambo – sentieri paralleli [Plus Timbre PT112]

One of the pleasures of the long-form improvisation is that it allows the improvisers to invent freely and to explore as many ramifications of those inventions as their sensibilities demand, and their skills allow. In a sense, the long-form improvisation is, at least potentially, a fully articulated picture, in sound, of the interaction of a unique musical personality with time. The albums Helsinki and sentieri paralleli, both of which contain long, unbroken improvisations, provide just such portraits of the four musicians who created them.

The thirty-four-minute-long Helsinki Part 1, recorded in what now seems like the antediluvian pre-covid month of February, 2020, documents the first time guitarist Guillaume Gargaud of Le Havre, France, and Finnish trumpeter Eero Savala played together. That this was their initial meeting isn’t at all apparent in the music, which develops with a smooth, unbroken progression of ideas that are realized with an unhesitating assurance—not only for the entirety of the lengthy first piece but on the shorter follow-up as well. What both improvisations reveal is a strong lyricism carried along on Savela’s warm, mid-range voice, the unhurried phrasing of which contrasts with the bright, staccato tones of Gargaud’s acoustic guitar. Gargaud supports Savela’s melodies with sympathetic chords and countermelodies that evidence a sophisticated harmonic sense working in real time.

In contrast to Gargaud and Savela, who hadn’t met before recording Helsinki, it’s safe to say that Mauro Sambo and Matilde Sambo, a father-daughter duo, knew each other before recording sentieri paralleli and in fact they’ve previously collaborated on a recording. Also in contrast to the spartan instrumentation of the Helsinki set, Mauro and Matilde both bring a broad range of instrumental voices to their music. Mauro is represented by electronics, contra-alto clarinet, gong, Tibetan bells and other percussion, cello, zither and kumbus; Matilde is here on electric guitar, electronics and field recordings. Both musicians use these resources with discernment; there’s no overcrowding of textures or overshadowing of individual contributions. Their nearly thirty-eight-minute-long, single-track album begins with an electronic flourish in an echoing space and unfolds as a deliberately paced, ever-changing soundworld that pulls the listener into its nuanced, mist-enshrouded topography. All the more striking then when the mist evaporates and the lone voice of the contra-alto clarinet emerges, or an electric guitar arpeggio, or a clutch of pre-recorded speech.

Daniel Barbiero

AMN Reviews: Guillaume Gargaud – Strange Memories [Setola di Maiale SM4160; Chant Records CR2009GU]

Guitarist/composer Guillaume Gargaud of Le Havre, France, is a well-recorded artist, having appeared in some twenty-five recordings, including eight solo recordings. Guillaume frequently plays electric guitar enhanced by pedals and computer sound modification, but on Strange Memories, his new solo release, he limits himself to acoustic guitar. Gargaud’s fluency on acoustic guitar is well-documented; for example, just a year ago he played that instrument on Magic Intensity, a fine duet recording with pianist Burton Greene, who is himself a veteran of the avant-garde jazz world of the 1960s. The improvisations on Magic Intensity are free-floating but cohesive, a pattern that Gargaud continues to follow on Strange Memories. On this new recording Gargaud’s improvisations follow a free-associative logic that takes them through harmonic and melodic developments constrained only by the chromatic imagination. The music is by turns abstract and melodic; Gargaud’s playing is sharply-etched with the occasional garnish of some extended technique and scordatura and, on one track apparently, some hardly-there electronics.

http://www.setoladimaiale.net

Daniel Barbiero