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25 August 2010

Dave Burrell - 'La Vie de Bohême' (BYG/Actuel)

If we ever get to the end of Disclocated Underbite Spinal Alphabetised Encourager Templates and you've been paying attention closely, then you'll probably figure out that my own tastes in 60's and 70's jazz runs towards the anti-classics - the free-stompin loft gutbucket party jams. But if you look even more closely you'll see that my favourite moments are when the masters of this form turn back towards composition and melody, bringing their raging adventurism to an exploratory point. When they reference folk forms, traditionals and classical elements it's a fine line, but one that if tred carefully, can be extremely rewarding. Case in point - Dave Burrell's arrangement of Puccini's La vie de bohéme, in a band with Ric Colbeck (trumpet), Grachan Moncur III (trombone), Kenneth Terroade (sax and flute), Beb Guérin (bass) and Claude Delcloo (drums). I'm no expert on Puccini's original but this clearly refracts a classic through the same 1969 Parisian moss that infused so many of these wonderful Actuel sides. The first 20 minutes is the first act of the opera, which finds Colbeck and Burrell frequently quoting the melodic riffs in unison, and Terroade fluting around like a devilish fly. It's the Delcloo-Guérin-Burrell axis, though, which really breaks this thing open. This is a very free, loose reading of Giacomo's work, with rhythms often unraveling and the songs breathing in a unique space. Side two picks up the second act midway through and begins a pounding drumbeat with a dissonant left hand piano line, and the rest of the dudes flutter in and out. It's relentless, except it does relent, turning into a Claude Delcloo extended solo. At some point in this eardrum-rupturing tribal mediation, my stylus got stuck in the perfect way, right on the beat, skipping back to form a perfect loop. But the third movement is soon underway, with cymbals skittering around like birds, ringing piano chords that build up, and the occasional hop-skip-and-jump into other waters. It's a beauty. Movement four reminds me a bit of Vince Guaraldi's timless Peanuts soundtracks, showing how Burrell is capable of the most expressionistic playing, with a few stray voicings for flavour. Guérin is rather understated throughout this record but when it comes in, it hits hard. There's some bent Dixieland crabcakes just before the end, the truest expression of the Bohemian life, and then it goes all minor and austere, and then it turns into free-circus Dada music. It all feels very Pucciniesque again as it crashes to a halt, a Bohemian life lived, explored and extended.

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