Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Thursday, 5 July 2012


A while ago I wrote about Bernard Lubat and His Mad Ducks (read about it here).
In 1972 the band got back together, this time dropping the Mad Ducks name, and instead following a trend in rock groups (borrowed from jazz groups) of using their own names.
Still on the chic Les Disques de Pierre Cardin label, they were recorded in action at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. The '72 jazz festival also produced live recordings from label-mates Phil Woods and his European Rhythm Machine and Jean-Luc Ponty (neither of which have come my way yet but I'm sure they will!).
It like the fact that session-kings and studio-masters like Lubat and Louiss get the chance to play in front of people and at such a prestigious event as Montreaux. I also like the fact that this record consists of material that doesn't appear elsewhere - maybe even written with the event in mind!
And what a mix of music it is!
Unlike the Mad Ducks record, Live at Montreaux seems to stretch out and explore some pretty wild and frankly psychedelic places. Whereas the Mad Ducks was a fun, well dress mod, kind of a record this one really lets its hair down and goes on a trip!
Claude Engel's playing is also much more prominent and he bring a definite rock element to the proceedings. Perhaps not surprising for one of the founder members of prog group Magma, Engel's playing is technically brilliant and drenched in acid. Mindblowing stuff! His playing has the same effect as John McLaughlin's does in Miles Davis' group of about the same time. Its rock, its psychedelic, its 'out-there' and it pushes his band mates into some interesting and 'un-jazz-like' territory.
Jazz-veteran Eddy Louiss, however, is the jazz-foil to Engel's rocking. Playing fender and electric organ, his playing is more 'straight' jazz around which Engel seems to jump and dive.
Lubat's playing is also out of the top drawer. Never predictable, never repetitive (which for a drummer is really saying something) he isn't laying down the rhythm, he's a front-line contributor up there with Tony Williams.
Finally, Marc Berteaux provides the funk with his electric bass.
All of these elements come together on the opening track Les Adventures de Pinpin au Togo (Emmanuel Pinpin Sciot being their producer as well as the designer of the collage on the Mad Duck's album).
If you don't like jazz-rock or fusion then this track isn't for you!
What  I like best about it is that, while you can hear the fantastic musicianship of the people involved, it never becomes self indulgent like much fusion.
Live in a Magic Forest changes the tone from frantic and furious to calm and relaxed. Gently weaving the organ is relaxing, leading the listener further and further into the Magic Forest, accompanied by percussion and eventually joined by Engel's guitar and the music becomes more forceful and strident and suddenly the Forest is no long calm but buffeted by musical winds. Eventually, Engel takes off and we leave the jazz behind and move into a very prog world.
Over on side two we kick off with 5th of July, Dulong Street. A driving funky monster of a track this is, for me, the highlight of the record and the reason to track it down. Tight and funky bass, wild drumming, great organ work and, when he comes in blistering guitar, this is incredible stuff. I can only imagine what the audience where doing while this track was being played - and it wasn't sitting down! Engel's solo perfectly complements and doesn't overwhelm his band mates. It only lasts for 6 minutes and 20 seconds but it feels a lot longer.Terrific stuff!

The record concludes with Mickey Schroeder's Dream, which shifts gears from dancing through Dulong Street, to drifting away on a narcotic haze. Written by Lubat I wonder if it is him on the electric piano that opens the track. In a similar way to Live in a Magic Forest, this is swirls and eddies around your head. Gradually the drifting organ meets some phased percussion (could this really have been done live in 1972?) adding a further layer of psychedelia. Disembodied singing kicks off some slightly 'eastern' sounding percussion (still phased and treated) and we feel we are falling into a drugged up dream-like state.

That's enough for now. I'm off to find more Lubat stuff!

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