Let's not beat around the bush, this is one hell of a record. I have to wonder how come I've never heard of these guys before? Luckily, for me, Sylvian Didou dropped me a line from Nantes (France) to see if I'd be interested to hear his record, ObLik: order disorder. ObLik's bandcamp site describes their music as: "A la croisée entre le jazz et la musique improvisée, cette formation mélange tradition et modernité"*, which indeed sums up the group's music very succinctly. The album, out on the small French label Ormo Music, is an outlet for several of Didou's projects. The label has a few other little gems also worthwhile checking out, one example being The Wøøøh - more on that at a later date. In the meanwhile I'll stick to the most recent release, Oblik.
In a time when jazz tends to be based around the virtuosic soloist, this record demonstrates how the group is stronger than the individual. The album has a fantastic collection of compositions which enable the superb ensemble to create many delightful musical episodes. Composer and bassist, Sylvain Didou, has made some remarkable arrangements which really hold together well, describing the compositions as 'Mingus-esque' might give you some sort of clue as to the direction the music takes.
The quality of the music means that each track has plenty of high points, great melodies, group and solo improvisations, rhythmical developments, in fact so much it's nigh on impossible to pick out any one thing. Of the ten pieces, the amazing opening track Le Chat (tk1) takes us on a thirteen minute tour which makes you curious to find out what else will follow. The stuttering melody and sprinkled piano lines lead us into a complex arrangement where the whole group comes together to play a looping melody. The horns are split up into various configurations so that some play the unison melody whereas others join the piano and bass to play a counter melody. It's a powerful start to the album. The melodies of Longitudinal (tk2), Jazz, Jazz (tk3), Yeah (tk5) and Enea (tk8) are other compositions which shine out brightly. Even if melody is one of the main elements, pieces, such as Perdrigon (tk7), start with a skilfully arranged theme, but soon the ensemble dives into free form improvisation where everyone adds their voice as needed. 3D (tk9) builds from a tenor sax/bass duet into a finely detailed miniature piece where the sax line holds the composition together leaving the other instruments to gradually creep in unnoticed, playing atonal bluesy lines that wind around each other. On this record the soloists all come up with fine offerings, but, interestingly no one soloist grips the limelight, making the album a real ensemble work.
As I mentioned earlier, the way the compositions are built reminds me a little of the way Charles Mingus liked to compose, finding ways to inspire his players but also to work within the framework of each piece, which could include tempo changes, stop-time and much more. Another reference is the ensembles sound - partly due to the groups make up - echoes, in a way, Elton Dean's Ninesence, mixing styles and strong melodies to great effect.
I said at the beginning this a very fine album which has many strengths. It's certainly one of the best albums I've heard this year, I suggest that you rush off to ObLik's bandcamp site, give it a listen, and see if you agree!
Here's an mp3 of Perdrigon, track seven from the album
ObLik is: Pierre-Yves Merel - Tenor sax; Alan Regardin - Trumpet; Alexis Persigan - Trombone; Cyril Trochu - Piano; Fabrice L'Hotellier - drums; Sylvian Didou - Double bass.
If you're a Facebook user (I'm not) then there's also a link to Ormo Record's page here.
* = Translation: Somewhere between jazz and improvised music, this group mixes tradition and modernity"