Paris Gare du Nord
London - The Vortex
After a final early breakfast in Bondy, prepared by now 50 year old pianist Benoît Delbecq, I headed over to Gare du Nord to meet with the ever ebullient Joëlle Léandre. I am blessed to consider Joëlle as a colleague and a close friend. She is one of the most passionate musician I know. A true pioneer and ground breaker in the music world.
When Joëlle had to undergo surgery on her hand to fix tendon and cartilage issues due to years of hard playing and travelling with a double bass, I came up with the idea of commissioning her to write a piece for me. It would provide her with a bit of income while convalescing, and keep her mind occupied on something more creative than doing physio! This meeting was arranged so she could hand over the manuscript. The piece was commissioned with help from Jeremy Berkman, and to be performed with him in Canada and with Samuel Blaser in Europe. Joëlle walked me through the different section of the piece while enjoying espressos at a café across from the station. The piece looks amazing! I can't wait to learn it and present its world premiere in the near future.
After riding the comfortable Eurostar to St-Pancras, I met up with Alexander Hawkins, who made my quick visit to London a most pleasant one. We walked to Café Oto for a cup of tea (when in Britain...), then treated ourself with an early dinner of fish&chips at a restaurant nearby. Good start!
We proceeded back to The Vortex, where we had coffee on the Plaza with Oliver Weindling, the founder of the British label Babel Records. Oli regaled us with many great stories, including the fact that I appeared on his label in 1997 on one single track from an album by The Recyclers (Benoît Delbecq, Steve Arguelles, and Noël Akchoté), my first recording with Benoît ever! We were set up at Vancouver Community College Auditorium in June of 1995 for a session only to be cut short by the genatorial stall, who insisted on vacuuming the stage after we had done only one bit of recording with me on contrabass clarinet! That is the one piece that is on the CD...
The gig that night consisted of a double bill. For the first half I was joined by Alexander on piano, and John Edwards on bass. The second set was an astonishing display of ensemble virtuosity by the monster trio In Love With, composed of brothers Théo and Valentin Ceccaldi (on violin and cello respectively), and Sylvain Darrifoucq on drums, toy percussions, and ebows. Keep an eye out for them, as they will most certainly blow your mind!
The first set was sheer joy for me. To play with musicians as generous and experienced as John and Alexander is a real treat, as the music making is so powerful yet created with a certain ease. John has performed with a who's who of the creative music world, notably with Evan Parker and Peter Brotzman. He's a take-no-prisoner type of player, digging right into the thick of things while keeping a keenly telepathic ear on the proceedings. He is a combination of everything I love about bass players; solid grounding tone, impeccable time, and a huge sonic palette at his disposal. Alexander can be best described as "the most impressive pianist of his generation". If you have not heard him play with Louis Moholo, you are missing out! Same can be said for his Convergeance Quartet, with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, Bassist Dominic Lash, and drummer Harris Eisenstadt. I've had the pleasure of performing with Alexander in a trio with Harris at the Vancouver jazz festival over the last two years, both time to an enthusiastic crowd. The music was so electric that we are planning a trio session in Vancouver in July for a future CD for the Songlines label.
Throughout the day, Alex impressed me with his relaxed demeanour, driving through traffic while keeping up with a stimulating conversation, without ever loosing focus. I want to thank him here for making my visit so pleasant and glitch-free!
And now off to Italy! Stay tuned...