Woodwind ace and exploratory composer Louis Sclavis sports a superior musical identity. The Frenchman has gotten his hands into a little of everything over the years, whether he’s engaged in electronics-based frameworks, abstract jazz or free-form improvisational settings. His lengthy tenure on the Euro jazz radar, equates to a fruitful and ever-inventive legacy. The artist’s latest ECM Records release is inspired by the voyages of Ulysses, yet to these ears, it’s simply the sum of the moving parts that yields the bountiful fruit, regardless of Sclavis’ personal influences or aspirations.
The leader’s muse features an amalgamation of Eastern and Western musical underpinnings, to include rock, European folk, and avant-garde tendencies. Sclavis possesses a broad vernacular, evidenced by several spiraling unison passages atop multifarious excursions and cunningly executed deviations with reedman Matthieu Metzger and guitarist Maxime Delpierre. With memorable themes, and odd-metered panoramas, he takes the listener on a buoyant expedition, abetted by fiery jazz-rock grooves, African percussion vamps and scorching improvisational episodes.
Delpierre’s steely guitar lines assist with the band’s high-impact movements during "le sommeil des sirenes." Then the musicians shift the tide with their combination dirge-ballad on the rather mystical piece "Aboard Ulysses’s Boat," where the saxophonists generate gobs of counterpoint. Nonetheless, the preponderance of these works are engineered on semblances of suspense and intrigue, but Sclavis finalizes the album on a temperate note via a supple clarinet and bass sequence, heard on "L, absence." Overall, the musicians create a fluid building block for the mind’s eye, whether it’s imagining the tales of Ulysses or just about anything else that sparks a notion or two. Sclavis has produced yet another winner here.