Bertrand Denzler/Antonin Gerbal/Axel Dörner

Le Ring
Confront CCS 65

More a scrutiny of sound then storytelling, the unbroken 41-minute improvisation that is Le Ring is like inspiring but untitled non-figurative visual art. Not only can you observe the skill that went into applying the thickening ridges of paint and line organization in a vital fashion, but the non-specific inscription allows you to ascribe an array of meanings to the art. Elsewhere Berlin-based trumpeter Axel Dörner plus tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and percussionist Antonin Gerbal, both of Paris, have confirmed that they can easily play straight-ahead Jazz. But this session has its origin in the timbral exploration and transformative parameters related to solo investigations and other group projects such as Denzler’s involvement in the Hubbub quintet and Dörner’s membership in the Contests of Pleasure trio.

Elongated strands of whines, whistles and slurps drip from the horns like the dribbles from Jackson Pollock’s paint brush to establish the CD’s frame of reference, with the drummer’s solid, but irregular pace creating an easel and canvas on which the improvisations take place. At the same time although the interface include small animal-like scratching, shrill whistles and pipe-organ-like tremolos, protracted pauses, like highlighting of certain figures in a visual composition, means that the program evolves with relaxed Fauvist simplicity rather than the frenzy associated with action painting. As individual section move in and out of the blurry foreground, the reedy character of the saxophone and the metal-ness of the trumpet are emphasized over notes or tones. Midway through, a crescendo of irregularly vibrated kazoo-like snorts, buzzing toy bagpipe-like tremolos from the trumpet and near-mechanized almost random-seeming drum smacks, soon dissolving into muffled Mylar rubs, hand muted brass growls and reed burbles. Having establish a definitive identity like an art movement following an important exhibition, in a Picasso-like move the three then confound expectations in the piece’s final minutes. With a palette of sour and contorted sonic daubs passed between the horns, backed by variegated percussion pressure, a climax is reached at supersonic speeds as if the engorged timbres are being forced through a too narrow hole only to emerge as buoyant flanges that immediately fade.

Symbolically the three have attained the sonic brass ring with Le Ring. But a liking for a twisty ride full of provocative surprises is needed to full appreciation of the disc.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Le Ring

Personnel: Axel Dörner (trumpet); Bertrand Denzler (tenor saxophone) and Antonin Gerbal (percussion)