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Sclavis, Louis: Lost on the Way

Concept albums are hard to write convincingly, however remove the prospect of lyrics from that challenge and for many the whole process would become virtually impossible. Not however for soprano saxophonist and clarinet player Louis Sclavis who has based this uncompromising jazz workout on the journey of Ulysses.

Taken as individual tracks, this is dark, haunting music with angular time changes and instrumentation that one moment seduces you with its simplistic beauty and the next has you enthralled, yet decidedly off balance with the demanding cacophony that encapsulates you.

It was whilst revisiting some unused snippets from Sclavis' 2005 album L'imparfait des langues that the inspiration to portray Ulysses' trials through new music was born and it is in this setting that Lost on the Way really begins to reveal its true identity. Not only do the songs flow seamlessly into one another, but they do genuinely take on the feel of an epic voyage that throws many challenges at the listener. Once those trials have been accepted though, you are transported into the voyage itself.

Tracks such as "Aboard Ulysses's Boat" perfectly convey the uncertainty of visiting strange and foreign waters where unknown danger is lurking round every corner, whereas "The Last Island" allows bassist Olivier Lete to haunt you with his sparse punctuation and is genuinely quite unnerving.

More easily accessible are the beautifully melodic "De Charybde en Scylla" and "Bain D'Or" where Sclavis marries his clarinet with Matthieu Metzger's saxophones and Maxime Delpierre's respectful guitar tones. These tracks feel like a time of great belief, when hopes were high of a joyous journey and as the music faces the subsequent encounters that hope becomes a far distant, but never forgotten echo.

The performances on this album are quite stunning, especially when you take into account the vast array of emotions that are so confidently displayed. Sclavis is inspiring throughout, however the other musicians are equal to his skill and the controlled pandemonium created by drummer Francois Merville is disturbing yet compelling.

Sclavis also handles the production on the album and the stark, simple sound he has created leaves the impression that these songs were recorded in dark atmospheric surrounding that allowed nothing other than the emotion in the music to shine through. It's hugely effective. Credit also goes to ECM Records as the CD booklet continues that atmosphere with its simple black and white portraits of the band concentrating on the music.

Lost on the Way is at times a difficult and deeply uncompromising listen, however if you allow yourself to swept along by its beauty and to meet its dangers head on, the rewards are quite wonderful.

Track Listing
1. De Charybde en Scylla
2. La première île
3. Lost on the Way
4. Bain d'or
5. Le sommeil des sirens
6. L'Heure des songes
7. Aboard Ulysses's Boat
8. Les Doutes du cyclope
9. Un vent noir
10. The Last Island
11. Des bruits à tisser
12. L'Absence

Added: November 23rd 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: ECM Records Louis Sclavis Page
Hits: 2125
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Sclavis, Louis: Lost on the Way
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-11-23 17:40:29
My Score:

Clarinet/sax veteran Louis Sclavis turns to Homer's Ulysses for his latest release on ECM Records, the dark & mysterious Lost on the Way. Part soothing jazz, and part raucous free-form adventure, Lost on the Way never fails to pull the listener in and carry you on a fascinating journey. Along for the ride here are Matthieu Metzger (sax), Maxime Delpierre (guitar), Olivier Lete (bass), and Francois Merville (drums), making for a formidable ensemble.

Though this is an all-instrumental affair, which is not all that common in the 'concept-album' world, Sclavis and his band weave their way through 12 tracks of exotic jazz music, always led by the squonking sax tones from both Sclavis and Metzger. The wild title track, or even the complex "De Charybde en Scylla" offer plenty of intricate improvisations as well as carefully thought out melodies, and even the lighter, quirkier numbers such as "Bain d'or" and "Les Doutes du Cyclops" work really well here. Though you don't hear him as often as some might like, when Delpierre comes out of the shadows, his snakey, often times smoldering guitar lines are a pleasure, reminding of some of the greats like Frisell, Scofield, Stern, and Rypdal.

Lost on the Way is one of those CDs that probably will get overlooked by many jazz & fusion lovers, and that would be a shame, as there's plenty of like here. Seek this one out.

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