For4Ears / CD1241

Frederic Blondy / piano, Bertrand Denzler / tenor sax, Jean-Luc Guionnet / reeds, Jean-Sebastien Mariage / guitar, Edward Perraud / drums

Hubbub as a project shares Mariage and Denzler in common with Chamaeleo Vulgaris, a project which impressed with its mixture of dark and witty, rather rock-inflected free improv. Hubbub put aside the eletronics which worked so well for Chamaeleo; instead the quartet plays together as a unit rather than forming a shifting pool of musicians for Mariage and Frederick Galiay to draw on.


Bertrand Denzler | Photo: Gérard Rouy

Inevitably the results are closer to more familiar improv yardsticks, but this music still has a strongly atmospheric, very textural quality which immediately impresses. Broken into just two, half-hour segments, it presents neither focussed developments of single ideas nor quick-change scrabbling;instead these are drifting, slowly-evolving soundscapes.Although electronics aren’t used, the aesthetic they helped realise in Chamaeleo is here again with Hubbub. Specific sounds are only intermittently attributable to particular musicians; instead, the ensemble blends extended techniques using an holistic strategy.

Of course, it often does happen that individual statements can be clearly attributed. Guionnet’s Jaleika sounds like a double-reed and he plays long, keening notes on it; Denzler, although he uses a huge range of tactics, always sounds himself, enjoying the gruff wuffle of the tenor. Blondy’s piano is a prepared one, as you might imagine, and it rings out only to dive back again into the percussive substrate which seems always to be around in this music — credit of much of which must go, of course, to Perraud, who sounds a little like Roger Turner, a drummer of the very dramatic gesture and an eschewer of riffs. Mariage is comparable with Hans Tammen; he lacks the range of the latter, but he plays cleverly here and makes an indispensible contribution.


Sebastien Mariage | Photo: Gérard Rouy

One’s overall impression is, however, of the submission of individual egos to the greater aim of collective music-making. This is hugely successful, as it so often is in improvised music, and it feels rather odd, listening to this music, to refer to it was quintet improvisation at all. Improvisation it certainly is, and of an extremely good sort, ever-evolving but never feeling sketchy or out of ideas. Richard Cochrane