EFG London Jazz Festival – Henri Texier’s Hope Quartet at Kings Place


Sébastien Texier (B and alto clarinets & alto saxophone), François Courneloup (baritone saxophone), Henri Texier (double bass) & Louis Moutin (drums)

Reviewed by: Julian Maynard-Smith

Reviewed: 17 November, 2017
Venue: Hall One, Kings Place, London

Henri TexierPhotograph: www.mediapart.frSixty minutes plus ten more for an encore – blimey, this was a short gig. But a musically satisfying one, the band tight and free of the self-indulgent riffing and noise interludes that can mar live improvisatory music. And Henri Texier was a generous raconteur, although we probably didn’t need him to tell us the compositions were all originals – they were soaked in his musical DNA.

And what a complex DNA it is. The blues is obviously in his blood, but so too are free jazz and traditional African music, and his own Breton roots. And perhaps even the music of Native Americans, to whom Texier dedicated the concert. His sinuous tunes (several here from the 2016 album Sky Dancers) often have a dancing, incantatory, even ceremonial quality about them: bass lines shuffle like restless feet, drums patter like a clapping crowd (particularly when Moutin hand-drummed on toms and snare without the rattle), and clarinets and saxophones provide vocal cries on top. It’s even not too fanciful to imagine the clarinets and alto sax of Henri’s son Sébastien as women’s voices contrasting with the male tones of François Courneloup’s baritone. Or even as the shrieking and snorting of animals as on ‘Sacrifice’, originally conceived as an accompaniment to a film scene in which an animal is slaughtered.

The fact that Texier junior and Courneloup usually played the melodies in unison reinforced the incantatory feel, but occasionally felt like a missed opportunity. A rare moment of counterpointing between clarinet and baritone, just before the encore, was sublime and hinted at the additional beauty that might have been. All the solos were excellent, but those of Texier senior deserve a special mention: right-hand fingers strumming like a flamenco guitarist’s, left-hand fast as a startled crab, expressive glissandos, double-stops – it was a masterclass in bass-playing technique and originality.

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