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Con Ramon Lopez 2002

Percussionist Ramon Lopez understands that if you tap the spirit of Rahsaan Roland Kirk´s music, it doesn´t matter what liberties you take with it. Many of these nine duets run far afield from Kirk´s originals while retaining a viable connection to the multi-instrumentalist´s legacy. The rants and scats by Chim Nwabueze (who plays a delirium-inducing saw), Benat Achiary and Joelle Léandre (who also contributes a fevered arco bass version of “The Inflated Tear’), and the uncorked exuberance of instrumentalists like tromboniste Thierry Madiot and trumpeter Harry Beckett, exemplify Kirk´s unhinged rapture. Concluding on a slow-burning exchange with Maroccan vocalist and guembri player Majid Bekkas is a masterful stroke, as it adresses Kirk´s underlying spiritual gravity without diminishing it to repertory.


..:: avant My friend Morton heard "Els Segadors" the opening track from this CD and declared that it sounded as if Beñat Achiary’s vocal were operating in a different universe to the rest of the band. I would not normally argue with Morton, particulary since he recently lent me his recording of Yoko Ono and Ornette Coleman playing together and did not think the same situation applied. The fact is on this rare occasion Morton and I do not hear the music in the same way (though personally I do not have a problem with the concept of a parallel universe).

Before I listened to this CD I went back to the first Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra recording which, superficially at least, covers the same ground. I found that "El Quinto Regimiento" is on both sessions, and another ’song’ which Signor Lopez has adopted, "La Santa Espina", is also to be discovered on the end of Mr. Haden’s later "The Ballad of The Fallen" album for ECM. I am glad that these cross-overs have been made with the two 196’s/80’s war-horses, because by drawing attention to the ’common ground’, it is easier to hear how very different the Ramon Lopez Civil War Quartet is from the old American Liberation Orchestra. Whereas the latter always had something of a repertory band about it, albeit one that could flame these beautiful melodies with a strong political commitment and a ’free jazz’ ascetic, the new Leo collection of Spanish Civil War tunes feels much more ’integral’. The Quartet take many more liberties with the source material, sometimes bending things completely out of shape. It is as if the original music, refashioned from fragments of a heroic past, is abstracted out of historical existence. If that sounds like a criticism it is not meant to be. How we deal with the past reflects how we deal with today. The effect here is to give a real weight to the lengthy imprvised passages.The Quartet play, but are never merely playful, yet on something like "Los Cuatro Generales", with the added dimension of Beñat Achiary’s vocals, the music almost soaks up the crazy irony of the situation. The carnival becomes the funeral becomes the carnival.  My reading of the Spanish Civil War is that, perhaps like all bloody conflict, events often degenerate into tragic farce. The fighting and killing, at times became the product of a gross social absurdity rather than a defence of "Land & Freedom". If this is how I read it, it is also how I heart it. In my view, this recording is a genuine soundtrack, it deals with the subject but it does so using the sound of musicians improvising. The title "Songs Of The Spanish Civil War" might give the impression that this is a vocal based session, it isn’t. Benat Achiary is only on three of the cuts. For my money the real joy of this session is how all four players act as a true collective. Thierry Madiot’s bass trombone is exceptional, operatic in its willingness to describe it self as well as the subject. When Daunik Lazro blows baritone sax alongside the slide horn it feels like the bottom of the well is being lifted to the surface. Ramon Lopez is wonderful clattering drummer (I’d love to see what his kit looks like), on "El Paso Del Ebro" he generates a head of steam under Daunik Lazro’s alto wich is Sunny Murray proportions. Regular Avant readers will already know where I place Paul Rogers. On the same track he takes a bass solo that is as articulate as profound language. Throughout this session Mr. Rogers draws the whole Quartet together whilst producing his own porfolio on the state of the bass. Since his move to France some years ago his profile in Europe has increased markedly. Paul Rogers presence in the Ramon Lopez Quartet is important. I hope we get to witness this line-up during on Spring/Summer’s gig circuit.

Time is too short. If we are going to listen, there has to be for a reason. Ramon Lopez’s music is an intense statement of improvisation on an theme. "Songs Of The Spanish Civil War" does justice to its subject, not simply by being a broadsheet for anti-fascism; true artistic endeavour gets beyond the boundaries. Hey! Morton try this one again!

STEVE DAY. AVANT (Angleterre)