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French clarinettist-composer-improviser Louis Sclavis continues his musical adventures with Gilles Coronado and Benjamin Moussay, the guitarist and keyboardist who contributed creatively to his Atlas Trio album Sources. Now Iranian classical percussionist Kevyan Chemirani, a master of the zarb or tombak, brings a new dimension to their world of sound. Adventurous contemporary music, says Sclavis, can be broad enough to embrace different but complementary traditions: “‘Silk and Salt’ indicates my desire for this work to take an imaginary, nomadic, Central Asian route, but also to address the idea of emigration in world history.” In this case: journeying away from and back to jazz. Travelling melodies and rhythms predominate. The changing contexts inspire some of Sclavis’s finest clarinet playing and some highly dynamic group interaction, all captured by producer Manfred Eicher in this recording, made in Studio La Buissonne, near Avignon, in March 2014. Silk and Salt Melodies is Louis Sclavis’s tenth ECM album, following on from Rouge (recorded 1991), Acoustic Quartet (1993), Les violences de Rameau (1995/6), L’affrontement des prétendants (1999), Dans la nuit (2000), Napoli’s Walls (2002), L’imparfait des langues (2005), Lost on the Way (2008), and Sources (2011).

Sclavis’ discography includes a number of themed projects, including powerful tributes to Rameau, painter and collage-maker Ernest Pignon-Ernest, silent filmmaker Charles Vanel and more, but with the current ensemble he has allowed himself to be guided primarily by the musical dispositions of his players to create templates for new composition. This particular combination of players clearly fires his imagination. The Atlas Trio with its unorthodox instrumentation rapidly carved a space for itself at the junctions of several genres including but not limited to jazz, free improvising, chamber music, minimalism and rock. With the addition of Kevyan Chemirani, the range of reference expands greatly. A number of the new pieces take Iranian rhythms as their starting point.

Kevyan is the son of leading Persian musician Djamchid Chemirani, one of the first musicians to develop possibilities for the zarb as a solo instrument. Kevyan studied with his father, and has gone on to teach the music himself, while also playing in many different formats – from classical Iranian music to pan-cultural contexts which have found him working with musicians from India, Greece, Turkey, and Spain. In jazz and improvised music he has played zarb, bendir and other drums with Albert Mangelsdorff, Michel Portal, Renaud Garcia-Fons, Sylvain Luc and more.

Guitarist Gilles Coronado collaborated with Sclavis in the project Signes Exterieurs with saxophonist Matthieu Metzger and choreographer Mathilde Monnier. Recent projects have included, in addition to his own quartet, work with François Merville, whose album O mago Hermeto paid tribute to the music of Hermeto Pascoal, and collaboration with vibraphonist Benjamin Flament and bagpiper Fraser Fifield. Previous associations include his own band Urban Mood (1994/2003), Marc Ducret, Bruno Chevillon, Aka Moon, Daunik Lazro, Barre Phillips, Alain Joule, Philippe Deschepper, Benoît Delbecq, Geoffroy De Masure, Steve Argüelles, Thierry Madiot, Steve Coleman, and many others.

Keyboardist Benjamin Moussay studied music in Strasbourg and Paris with pianist Hervé Sellin and bassist J-F Jenny-Clarke. He has since played with Archie Shepp, Glenn Ferris, Dave Liebman, Daniel Humair and many others. He leads his own trio, and plays in duo with singer Claudia Solal. In addition to a long line of jazz influences (including Monk, Tristano, Ellington, Herbie Hancock) and inspirations from classical music and contemporary composition (from Beethoven and Bach to Ligeti and Reich) he has also been inspired by a range of rock, pop and ambient music makers including the Velvet Underground, Radiohead, Aphex Twin and Fennesz.

Lyon-born bandleader Louis Sclavis has become one of the most widely-respected jazz musicians in Europe while emphasizing his distance, geographically and metaphorically, from the jazz tradition.

“It’s not uncommon for artists to shake things up by changing personnel to explore roads previously untraveled”, noted John Kelman in an All About Jazz review of Sources, “but few push themselves so relentlessly into new territory through revamped instrumentation as Louis Sclavis… Here, however, even the clarinetist’s renowned unpredictability is trumped by a collective sound like no other, one that searches for – and finds – a new paradigm of contemporary improvised chamber music.”