Clément Janinet & La Litanie Des Cimes: Woodlands

French fiddler weaves African and South American music into his trio’s otherwise free-flowing, post-Sclavis chamber-jazz vocabulary

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BMC Records, an imprint of the Budapest Music Center, has carved out a niche as the home of some of the best new European chamber jazz. This latest release from French violinist Clément Janinet’s trio La Litanie Des Cimes (“litany of the peaks”) is his second for the label, and the group’s first since their critically acclaimed eponymous debut release for Gigantonium in 2021.

Janinet, who studied with Didier Lockwood, weaves parallel interests in African and South American musics into the trio’s otherwise free-flowing, post-Sclavis chamber-jazz vocabulary, while an expressionistic streak keeps the music fresh and unpredictable. Their music has been described as authentic French blues, and whilst very distinct from the African-American idiom, it is inarguably rooted in the storytelling traditions and folklore of its place.

On the striking opener Let’s Turn!, Pasquier’s earthy clarinet surfs a series of minimalist string loops as it gathers rhythmic momentum. Quiet Waltz is almost as simple as it sounds, Janinet’s solo tip-toeing to a teetering waltz-time before the structural walls slowly implode. Triplett Tragedy, by contrast, is a timeless drinking song cum murder ballad sung by Ducret, and the powerful folk-blues dirge which follows is one of the disc’s many highlights.

Elsewhere, the austere Dark Sky displays the trio’s allegiance to Sclavis, Ornette Under The Repetitive Skies (also the name of one of Janinet’s bands) plays with the melodic and harmonic freedoms of its namesake, while Within The Neck blends traditional West African music with a minimalism recalling South African composer Kevin Volans. The closing Epilogue opens with a folksy flourish redolent of Nils Økland, and Janinet’s searing solo lights the blue touch paper as a series of rhythmic loops take hold. As the piece finally fades into a slow and deliberate diminuendo, I’m left keen to hear more.

Discography
Let’s Turn!; Quiet Waltz; Triplett Tragedy / The First Oak; Dark Sky; Ferns; Ornette Under The Repetitive Skies; The Last Oak; Within The Neck (Tribute To Bina Koumare); Shadows; Epilogue (39.05)
Janinet (vn) with Élodie Pasquier (cl, bcl); Bruno Ducret (clo, v). Budapest, 24-26 May 2022.
BMC Records CD314