Sunday, September 27, 2009

Belmondo & Yusef LATEEF - Influence 2005

Belmondo & Yusef LATEEF - Influence 2005
Label:B flat

This double set is an ambitious tribute by French jazz siblings Lionel and Stéphane Belmondo to the 87-year-old world-jazz pioneer, Yusef Lateef. The venerable exotic-reeds specialist himself is featured on the instruments - including oboe, "moan flute" and argol - that he brought to jazz half a century ago. In his long career, Lateef has fruitfully explored bop, classical, Middle Eastern, African and Oriental music. These two discs are broadly split between a classical wind-ensemble music - with cymbal washes, woody, rough-toned reed sounds, and crisp solos - and a mix of Lateef's early jazzy pieces and newer, more eclectic ones. Much of the music is slow and Lateef is often pretty quavery. But solos from polished trumpeter Stéphane and Monk-ish pianist Laurent Fickelson are excellent, guest trombonist Glenn Ferris is extraordinary, and the writing is consistently subtle. Still, you might need to be a fan of the inventive but marginal Lateef (as the Belmondos certainly are) for it to be more than a patchily illuminating curiosity.
John Fordham.The Guardian.
Les frères Belmondo" are a popular fixture on the French jazz scene, but the guest star on their new album is a little less well-known this side of the Atlantic. Saxophonist Yusef Lateef is a bluesman who ranks as one of the most influential creators of Afro-American music. Born in the 1920s, Yusef lived through several eras of jazz and music became his passion, his escape route, his reason to live. (It should be remembered that, right up until 1965, "negroes" had not even the most basic of rights in the world's biggest "democracy."). Before his thirtieth birthday, Yusef converted to Islam and began expressing his newfound spirituality through his work, introducing the transverse flute and "exotic", non-European instruments not usually found in the jazz world. Broadening his musical horizons, Yusef trained in Nigeria for four years and, besides establishing himself as an avant-garde performer, also proved his talent as a composer. He discovered the work of Arnold Shoenberg in 1948, completed a PHD in music in 1959 (before Duke Ellington) and wrote a number of piano sonatas and two symphonies as well as various pieces for saxophone. In short, classical works – but only in so far as the term classical could be applied to the compositions of Fauré, Poulenc and Debussy!
Continuing his work in breaking down musical barriers, Yusef accepted Lionel and Stéphane Belmondo's invitation to participate in the making of their new album. The American 'statesman' had been particularly impressed by the brothers' work after listening to l’Hymne au soleil, an album on which the siblings recorded their own version of compositions by Lili Boulanger (1893-1918), Gabriel Fauré and the organist Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). The Belmondos' new album, Influence, features Stéphane on trumpet while Lionel pairs up with Yusef on tenor and soprano sax and flute. Lionel, who masterminded the entire project, is still brimming over with excitement after putting his idol on a plane back to the States. RFI Musique caught up with him post-airport.  
RFI Musique: The title of your album appears to be a clear statement of intent. This is your acknowledgement of Yusef Lateef's influence on your work ...
Lionel Belmondo: Well, first of all, Yusef's someone who set up his own label, YAL. There have been 80 releases on it so far and anyone who's interested can order Yusef Lateef albums from his website. We can really identify with someone who takes this approach as we created our own label, b-flat, so that we could exercise control over projects with our distributor Discograph. That's the price you pay for freedom. And let's remember, there's no freedom without culture!
Influence is the title we chose for the album because Yusef is one of the musicians we've always had a lot of respect for. But now that influence has become a mutual thing. We're influenced by Yusef, but Yusef's also influenced by us. Thanks to us, he's just gone back to the States with Rachmaninov's Second Symphony!
This process of exchange is very much reflected on Influence which is a double album: there's one CD of compositions by Lionel Belmondo and Christophe Dal Sasso and a second CD based on Yusef Lateef's compositions ...
The concept of the album sums up our whole approach. Originally, the plan was to do a single album…We started work with Christophe, who's like a second brother to me. He wrote material for Yusef. We were working on this special music software called Final and, like Nadia Boulanger and Poulenc or Stravinsky, we used to get round the table and discuss stuff. The discussions would often get quite heated and we'd end up clashing or rowing over certain things.
One of the tracks we chose for the album was Shafaa, which means "intercession" in Arabic. But Christophe also wrote this 17-minute suite for Yusef, called Influence. Christophe and I have known each other since we were fourteen and I really wanted the album to have the title of one of his compositions. Christophe's a really decent, honest kind of guy. You'd never catch him trying to earn a bit of extra cash working for (the TV reality show) "Star Ac."
So on one album you've got five tracks shot through with all your influences – French music from the 20th and early 21st century and, of course, the jazz greats such as Coltrane, Gil Evans, Wayne Shorter and Bill Evans. Then there's the second album where you worked on Yusef Lateef's compositions ...
Yes, and that was without knowing how he'd play at the age of 84! We took Morning and Métaphor from one of his first albums, Jazz Mood. Then there's Iqbal, a ballad he wrote as a tribute to his daughter. There was originally one single exposition on the track, but I decided to create a second one. This was a technique I'd used in the past with 19th-century French composers such as Fauré and Boulanger. I didn't want it to be too nostalgic for the past. What we're interested in is the link between past and present.
Iqbal is a very special song dedicated to his daughter who died in her sleep. I cry every time I hear it.
By Valérie  Nivelon.
Yusef Lateef- (Tenor Sax, Oboe, Flutes)
Stéphane Belmondo- (Trumpet, Fluegelhorn)
Lionel Belmondo- (Tenor sax, Soprano Sax, Alto Flute, Clarinet)
Glenn Ferris- (Trombone on CD2)
Laurent Fickelson- (Piano)
Paul Imm- (Bass)
Dre Pallemaerte- (Drums)
01. Shafaa (Belmondo)  10:10
02. Si Tout Ceci N’Est Qu’un Pauvre Reve (Boulanger arr Belmondo)  10:04
03. Apres le Jeu (Sasso)  6:49
04. Influence (Sasso)  17:40
05. Orgatique (Belmondo)  7:55
01. An Afternoon In Chatanooga (Lateef)  5:10
02. Suite Overtime (Lateef arr. Belmondo/Sasso)
    a.) Morning  12:21
03. b.) Metaphor  8:45
04. c.) Iqbal  5:10
05. d.) Brother John  13:49
06. Le Jardin (Lateef)  4:15
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