The notion of Marciac patron and arch conservative Wynton Marsalis sharing a stage with Messrs Kühn and Portal may seem unlikely, but when Emile Parisien was named artist in residence at the 2017 festival, a collaboration with his early mentor became almost inevitable.
I headed straight for the DVD, and even on my modest home theatre system the magic of this special occasion burst vividly into life. Witnessing Parisien’s young guns as they inspire Kühn and Portal to scale the heights reminded me why I described Sfumato as an embodiment of the past, present and future of European jazz. Inter-generational and pan-stylistic, it’s probably no exaggeration to say that there’s something here for almost everybody.
Opening with the hard-hitting “Préambule” and “Missing a Page”, the musical alchemy begins in earnest when the barefoot Pierani takes the stage for “Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine I-III”. One can only marvel at his virtuosity on the most archetypically French of instruments, and seeing is believing when Marsalis makes his grand entry after 35 minutes. Following warm embraces from Kühn and Portal we are treated to some good old New Orleans polyphony from Parisien, Peirani and Marsalis on Henry Lodge’s “Temptation Rag”. The full band assembles for Kühn’s intense “Transmitting”, where Marsalis’s upper-register acrobatics are sensational.
The 5000-strong audience weren’t going to allow the band to leave without an encore, and the full theatre of the ritual is preserved for posterity. Closing with the wacky “Poulp”, the band (minus Marsalis) stretches out for some uncompromising fun. An unmissable addendum to one of the great albums of 2017.
CD: Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine I-III; Temptation Rag; Transmitting; Balladibiza I-II; Missing a Page (57.00)
DVD: Préambule; Missing a Page; Le Clown Tueur de la Fête Foraine I-III; Temptation Rag; Transmitting; Balladibiza I-II; Arome de l’Air; Poulp (99.10)
Parisien (ss); Joachim Kühn (p); Manu Codjia (elg); Simon Taileu (b); Mário Costa (d); with guests Wynton Marsalis (t on 4, 5); Vincent Peirani (acc); Michel Portal (bcl). Marciac, 8 August 2017.