Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sonny Simmons and François Tusques - Near the Oasis (Improvising Beings, 2011)

Near the Oasis is a collaboration between pianist François Tusques and the criminally underrated alto saxophone and English horn player Sonny Simmons. Simmons was a contemporary of the great Eric Dolphy and used Dolphy's musical discoveries as a launching pad for his own unique style of playing. This album was recorded at the 16th Vision Festival, in the spring of 2011. The open with the lengthy track “Near The Oasis/L'Alexandrin Africain” which features Simmons’ English horn (Cor Anglais). They dig in deep soil turning over idea after idea before letting them loose. This is a rarely used instrument in jazz and it has a wonderfully evocative ancient and eastern feel, an exotic and biting tone and is carries this medley into unexpected and interesting places. They take on two Thelonious Monk compositions, “Round Midnight” and “Bolivar Blues” both of which work quite well. Tusques is in his element here, skirting the melodies and then referencing them in an unexpected fashion. Simmons clearly loves the possibilities that these songs allow him and responds accordingly. They even reference bebop with a performance of the Dizzy Gillespie standard “A Night in Tunisia.” It is noted on Simmons’ website that “He is a bop native, that’s where he comes from. Free-jazz was only an extension of the idiom, and, to his taste, still is.” This is a really fine performance and album. Simmons and Tusques are really focused in a simpatico fashion. Moving from free to bebop and remaining unpredictable throughout. Near the Oasis - Improvising Beings.

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