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Lost On the Way

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Album Review

The purely magical, tonal, dancing alto or bass clarinet and soprano saxophone of Louis Sclavis are heard fully on this recording with his quintet, where he explores a variety of ethnically inspired motifs guaranteed to delight one and all. Where improvisation has always been his strong suit, here it is relegated to solos, as his written music takes center stage. Fellow front-liner Matthieu Metzger plays alto and soprano sax — together he and Sclavis create a whirling dervish cone of sound that reflects a definite European stance removed from American jazz. Electric guitarist Maxime Delpierre also adds a bit of electronica on occasion, while electric bass guitarist Olivier Lété and drummer François Merville keep the rhythms percolating and recreational. There's nothing really extended or drawn out, as the composed themes to the music are complex but compact. "De Charybde en Scylla" is fun to hear in its Euro-funky dance form inspired by the pithy bass clarinet of the leader. A Balkan or klezmer strain is infused into the wonderful "Bain d'Or" and a modal one-note construct is exploited for improvisation and some electronics on "Un Vent Noir," while a thin harmolodic approach à la Ornette Coleman is extant during the intro of "Les Doutes du Cyclope," merging into a diffuse funk. The band has aggressive, demonstrative tendencies, as the stompy juggernaut motion of "Des Bruits à Tisser" is wound around hollowed-out single notes, while the title track is a stealth romp with the reeds assimilating a singing accordion type sound akin to peer saxophonist David Binney. But the group generally plays on passive emotions — listen to the nonchalant but melancholy "L'Heure des Songes"; the hesitant "Le Sommeil des Sirènes" with steady drumming juxtaposed against the loose, flowing clarinet of Sclavis; and the lonely waltz "L'Absence." Perhaps "Aboard Ulysses's Boat" brings the most evocative tone in a slow, mysterious casting jarred slightly by the curiously macabre guitar of Delpierre. The emotional range of this recording from track to track is a marvel to behold, and considering the title, not so much wandering as it is searching for that one blind spot, or the forgotten path that leads to finding treasure. This is masterpiece among many well-crafted efforts by Sclavis, and comes highly recommended for fans of or newcomers to his extraordinary music. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 1953 in Lyon, France

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the finest clarinetists in free jazz and avant-garde, Louis Sclavis plays improvised music with unusual clarity and precision. And while his technique is huge, it doesn't overshadow his musicality; Sclavis is a most expressive player. Sclavis began studying clarinet at the age of nine. He played in a local brass band before entering the Lyon Conservatory of Music. From 1975-1982, he played with a variety of ensembles, including and most notably the Henri Texier Quartet and Chris MacGregor's...
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Lost On the Way, Louis Sclavis
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