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Friday, March 4, 2011

What I'm listening to today, clarinetist and composer Louis Sclavis

In 2002, Sclavis recorded "Napoli's Walls" which was released on ECM. He has six other recordings with ECM, and seven with Label Bleu He is often categorized as an avant-garde or free jazz clarinetist, but is also known for his expressiveness. He has written music for film, and "Napoli's Walls" is his attempt to provide a soundtrack to the street paintings of Ernest Pignon-Ernest.

In the liner notes, Christian Rentsch writes that Pignon-Ernest “has been leaving behind traces of himself since the 1960s - in Avignon and Grenoble, in Charleville, Anvers and Lyons, mostly in France, but also in Italy and elsewhere. Between 1987 and 1995 he worked in Naples, where he excavated the city's overlapping and interwoven stony layers of Orient and Occident, of myths and religions, with their secret rituals of life and death, their conflicting images of women and especially of destruction, suffering, perdition.”

The music and the perspectives are kaleidoscopic. Pignon’s works are site-specific: in Naples he affixed dozens of drawings and paintings at strategic points throughout the city. His strangely beautiful pieces, inspired by his experiences of the town and its history (particularly its musical history, which embraces all options from Gesualdo to opera to popular Neapolitan songs and street cries) provide Sclavis with new musical cues and clues. As Sclavis says: “The work of Ernest Pignon-Ernest is like the script of an opera. In it one can find emotion, drama, all the dynamics necessary for music. I let myself be swayed by his images…We play here through a present and a past that are closely layered upon each other, in trails of noises, words, imperatives.”

 This video comes from a live performance of "Napoli's Walls" at Jazz a Vienne, France. Enjoy!

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