Saturday, 26 February 2011

Alain Eckert Quartet - Alain Eckert Quartet (981)


In 1981, parallel to his work with Art Zoyd; Alain Eckert formed his own group with Patricia Dallio, Alain Lecointe on bass and Serge Bringolf on drums. The result was a sound like a mini-orchestra, with vibraphone, violin and a separate wind section (trumpet, sax, trombone and flute). The violinist was Michael Nick and the sax player was Philippe Gisselmann who had both previously been Yochk'o Seffer's sidemen. In fact, 'Strave' the first double album by Serge Bringolf, and the 'Main Eckert Quartet' album show similar influences in their tendency towards the fusion of jazz and Central European music, a fine example of which is the music of Yochk'o Seffer. Here, without the usual failings of jazz-rock, they show an intelligent style of playing which is a pleasure to listen to. The delicate, original and passionate style of Patricia Dallio was first found on the 'Alain Eckert Quartet' album which opens with 'First' which is similar to Art Zoyd's writing at the turn of the decade. The remainder of side one teeters on the edge of jazz-guitar fusion, only just redeeming itself with the intricate backing. There are perpetual similarities to the vamps that Zappa used to back his solos, which fool you in that their initially overt simplicity conceals a wealth of fine detail. Alain Eckert uses this to good effect, except that generally his guitar sounds a lot more like Larry Coryell or Philippe Catherine than Uncle Frank. Particularly noteworthy are the second side of Eckert's album with 'La Danse des Abouts' and 'Duo' and the fourth side of 'Strave', which exhibit a certain subtlety in their arrangements and the compositional and instrumental qualities. But is the Alain Eckert Quartet album as good as any Art Zoyd release? Sadly, no ... it has all the indications of meticulous attention to detail, yet not enough vibrancy or power to stir the listener.

'Strave' is a more exciting album for the Zeuhl / Magma devotee. The first side is a long piece with luxuriant brass, mock-Kobaïan vocals and unusually for this genre, Milt Jackson-like vibes. For me it lacks a certain edge that electric guitar could have provided. The second and third sides are predominantly composed for bass (the lead instrument) and drums, with flourishes such as the violin solos. The brass section and the choir work in tandem, endlessly contributing wordless themes that are strongly reminiscent of Magma (71-80, it bugs me but I can't pin-point exactly what they are quoting from) or Zao (their first two albums). Serge Bringolf's second album 'Vision' represents a further step towards pure Zeuhl music with a nine piece formation performing what is commonly referred to as jazz-fusion, but with strong guitar riffs from Alain Eckert, thick brass and energetic vocals in the same scat-style that Vander has used extensively since the early eighties. Many "Magma School" collectors cherish this album. Bringolf's next release was a collaboration with Siegfried Kessler (a long time associate of the Kobaïan fraternity). 'Agboville' is principally a piano / drums work-out with a few vocals which displays flashes of Vander's opus 'Wurdah Ïtah', but (since Kessler is a more conventional jazz pianist than Vander) perhaps the feel is more accurately comparable to Faton Cahen's first solo album; 'Piano concerts'. 'Agboville' is also a succinct example of the Zeuhl sound that many other Magma inspired groups have produced, yet as with 'Wurdah Ïtah' the approach has been compressed to the bare essentials. Strave 'Live' is a reasonable endeavour, but not as successful as the studio albums. Alain Eckert plays on this one too, but perhaps the Funkiness of the first side detracts from the splendour that Strave produced in their earlier works. Alain Eckert Quartet "First" 1981Alain Eckert and Serge Bringolf




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