Massilia (Tribute to Ed Blackwell)
Moving zone 26.03.1995
Night scene #1: Cremona (March)
Night scene #2: Haarlem (August)
No easy bread
The second coming
Night scene #3: Orléans (January)
Laurent Blondiau - trumpet, flugelhorn
Matthieu Donarier - saxophones, clarinets
Gábor Gadó - guitar
Sébastien Boisseau - double bass
Stefan Pasborg - drums, tubular bells
Compositions by Laurent Blondiau (7, 13), Sébastien Boisseau (1, 4, 16), Matthieu Donarier (2, 14), Gábor Gadó (12), Stefan Pasborg (6, 11), UNIT (3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 15)
Recorded and mixed by Gilles Olivesi at Tom-Tom Studio, Budapest, January-June 2006
Mastered by Pierre Vandewaeter, Studio Lakanal, France
Portrait photo: Annabelle Tiaffay
Cover art and Art-Smart by GABMER / www.bachman.hu
Produced by László Gőz
Executive producer: Tamás Bognár
The recording was supported by the French Institute, Budapest; AFAA (Association française d'action artistique); CRDJ (Colletctif Régional de Diffusion du Jazz en Pays-de-la-Loire); the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the National Cultural Fund of Hungary
Franck Bergerot - Jean Buzelin - Jazzman (fr)
Paul Hübner - Klassik.com (ger)
Hans-Jürgen von Osterhausen - Jazzpodium (pdf) (ger)
Galamb Zoltán - Ekultura.hu (hu)
Olasz Sándor - Rockinform (hu)
This disc has a history. Or rather, a geography: in Unit, the bugle is from Brussels and the guitar from Hungary, the basses matured in France on the hills of the Loire valley, the reeds go to touch base near Marseilles, and the side drum on the Baltic coast.
Line-ups like this are common nowadays, but they are usually the result of pure chance, the random conjunction of individual trajectories which, one fine day, meet. To set up a musical project like this, the leader puts together a team that proves to be cosmopolitan – or not. One rehearsal, two or three gigs, one recording session, then each goes his way, and life continues. Somewhere else. With other people. Under other skies. After the shared creation and emotion comes the burst, the scattering. And that is all. The members of Unit were keen to outdo mere randomness.
The chance of the encounter is obviously also one of the contributing factors to Unit (and their music). However, as in a successful improvisation, it is not the determining factor. Because in music chance is worth nothing unless nourished by the richness of a good ear, the depth of culture, the mastering of practice, and the sensitivity of taste...
These are the “criteria” that the members of Unit have brought together. Before choosing each other. Before making new rules of play, a new source of inspiration, out of their different nationalities.
So is Unit a “concept” group, then? Yes. But no more nor less than any other. To be the most common figures, the piano solo, the trio with bass and drum kit or the leader surrounded by his gang, are nothing other than concepts, a basic geometry which inevitably conditions all musical developments.
A “concept” group, then. Because in Unit, the geographic origin of the musicians is much more than an anecdote: it is a basic principal. Because in Unit there are no leaders, but one by one, four of them venture onto the territory of the fifth (not forgetting the collective improvisations-compositions).
And it is European itineraries (real or imaginary) that feed this inspiration. Here, it is a question of Bergen and Haarlem, of Cremona and Orleans. It is a question of moving frontiers, and the distribution of the instruments in space is in flux (Moving Zone 26.03.1995 – the date the Schengen agreements came into force). It is a question of contaminated black earth, and of snow that covers a concrete sarcophagus, and sound becomes menacing, oppressive (Summer/Winter 26.04.1986 – the date of the Chernobyl catastrophe).
This European label might be merely anecdotal and the idea of the transnational group a commercial invention like many another. But this is not the case; there is much more to it than meets the eye.
Much more than a seductive laboratory where one observes with pleasure what results from the meeting of five individuals with both a common culture and distinct roots. Because each one of them represents much more than just himself.
Gábor Gadó is a founding element of new Hungarian jazz. In addition to their own qualities, with Mâäk’s Spirit in Belgium and Yolk in France, Laurent Blondiau and Sébastien Boisseau are, each in his own way, at the centre of a collective that is one of the most creative in their respective countries. And if Stefan Pasborg is one of the most sought after drummers in Denmark, Matthieu Donarier is equally as popular for the saxophone in France.
Beyond the individual personalities, what gives a buzz to Unit’s music is the multitude of networks to which each of the musicians is connected.
Unit is not a showcase of European jazz: it is an antenna. It is a system that captures, amplifies, integrates, mixes, develops, and enriches the various musics of creation in the way that they are usually invented and practiced in this part of the continent...
Translated by Richard Robinson
Laurent Blondiau plays the trumpet and the flugelhorn. He is also the original instigator of Mâäk’s Spirit (collective of Belgian and French musicians) and is an energetic manager for the group. He went to the Brussels Royal Conservatory where he studied with Bert Joris and Richard Rousselet and graduated with a first prize in 1990.
Before initiating Mâäk’s Spirit, Laurent was the leader of the Laurent Blondiau Quintet with Nathalie Loriers, Peter Hertmans, Otti Vanderwerf and Bilou Doneux (Queen of the Apple Pie, 1996). He is, and has been, a member of numerous groups including: Octurn, Kris Defoort’s Dreamtime, Love Supreme, Rêve d’Eléphant Orchestra, Thôt, Moiano, Saïma, Kris Defoort’s Opera, Passages (a choreography by Fatou Traore), Nathalie Loriers Extension, Le Gros Cube (Alban Darche Big Band), Vegetal Beauty, Seven Wheels (with Fabrizzio Cassol), Jean-Luc Lher Quartet (Marc Ducret, Franck Vaillant), Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Magik Malik Orchestre.
He has collaborated on a wide variety of other projects with many other musicians such as: J-L Rassinfosse, Michel Herr, Eric Van den Westen, Dre Pallemaerts, Nic Thijs, Aka Moon, Garrett List, Lee Konitz, William Sheller, Steve Houben, Joe Lovano, Toots Thielemans, Greg Osby, Maria Schneider, Ghalia Benali, Mahmoud Guinéa, Pierre Vaiana, Mamady Keita, Momo Wandel, N’Faly Kouyaté, Baba Sissoko (for the project Anye Ben Kafo).
Matthieu Donarier learned to play the clarinet before turning his attention to the saxophone at the age of fifteen. After spending a few years practicing classical and contemporary music at the National Conservatory of Rennes, he settled in Paris for four years to study at the Jazz Department of the National Academy of Music, directed at the time by François Jeanneau, Daniel Humair, Jean-François Jenny-Clark, Hervé Sellin and François Théberge. He graduated from there in 1998 with a first prize, awarded unanimously.
In the same period, he founded the Matthieu Donarier Trio with the guitarist Manu Codjia and the drummer Joe Quitzke. Winners of the Concours National de la Défense in 1999, the group toured for several years in Europe, the Middle East and Canada before releasing its first album in 2005 on the Yolk label.
In parallel with this personal project, he was in the society of musicians such as Eric Le Lann, Pat Metheny, Stéphane Galland, Linley Marthe, Moktar Samba, Christophe Monniot, Marc Ducret, Bruno Chevillon, Eric Echampard, Joachim Kühn, Michel Portal, Louis Sclavis and many others.
As a result of these experiences, Matthieu Donarier created his own musical language through improvisation, composition, and playing his four instruments, all in B flat (tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet). He is currently involved in a dozen French and European groups, such as Baby Boom (Daniel Humair Quintet), the Gábor Gadó Quartet, Le Sacre du Tympan (Fred Pallem & Friends), the Stephan Oliva Quintet, Le Gros Cube (Alban Darche Big Band), Caratini Jazz Ensemble, Michael Felderbaum Quartet, Zâr (Iranian Music with Saeid Shanbehzadeh), Story Tellers (Stéphane Kerecky Trio) the Christophe Walleme Group, and more recently Kindergarten (with Poline Renou). All of these projects take shape in very different aesthetics, which in turn feed contemporary influences into jazz.
Gábor Gadó started his musical studies on the violin, then switched to the classical guitar. He graduated in 1983 from the Jazz Department of the Béla Bartók Music Conservatory as a student of Gyula Babos, following which he featured in the bands of the vanguard of Hungarian jazz musicians. Amongst his first partners were Róbert Rátonyi Jr, Ferenc Snétberger, Attila László, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Elemér Balázs and Kálmán Oláh. Later he appeared more and more frequently in international line-ups, for example alongside Gerald Veasley, Randy Roos and George Jinda.
The first band he organised was called Joy, and recorded an album entitled Cross cultures. In 1991 he released Special time, the first album under his own name, then toured Europe with Nikola Parov. In 1995 he moved to France, then briefly lived in London too. After five years the Gábor Gadó Quartet was formed in Paris: Matthieu Donarier (tenor saxophone), Sébastien Boisseau (double bass), Joe Quitzke (drums).
He first played with his French partners on the album Greetings from the angel, which was followed by Homeward and the outstandingly successful Orthodoxia.
Gábor Winand’s album Corners of my mind, composed by Gábor Gadó, was chosen by the French magazine Jazzman as one of the best albums of the year in 2002.
In 2003 his achievements earnt him the Bobby Jaspar prize, awarded by the French institution L’Académie du Jazz each year to the European jazz musician of the year – the highest international recognition of his work to date. He is a sought-after guest at French and international festivals and clubs, and has performed at the following places: Coimbra Jazz Festival (Portugal), Festival de Jazz de Montlouis/Loire, Rencontres internationales de Jazz de Nevers, Festival Crest Jazz Vocal, Festival de l’Hotel d’Albret (Paris), Tete Montoliu Jazz Festival (Barcelona), Festival de Jazz de Souillac, Festival de Jazz de Vitrolles, Fete de la musique de Téhéran, Mittel Europa Jazz Festival de Schiltingheim and the Paris Jazz Festival.
Sébastien Boisseau started his apprenticeship in the town of Dreux, with his uncle Damien Guffroy, bass player with William Christie, Minkowski and Herwegge. He encountered jazz at the age of 12 through the bands of the music school he attended. In 1991 he entered the national conservatory and the university of musicology at Tours. Also at this time, he met Jean-François Jenny-Clark for the first time, who would remain one of the major influences on the young bass player. In 2000 he became the first bassist to win the first prize for soloists at the prestigious jazz competition of La Défense in Paris.
In 2001, he met Gábor Gadó and then Daniel Humair. From then on, the great Franco-Swiss drummer involved him in many ventures together with Michel Portal, Louis Sclavis, David Friedman, Marc Ducret, Charlie Mariano, Jiri Stivin, Joachim Kühn, Tony Levin, George Garzone, Pino Minafra... but it was at the heart of the Baby Boom quintet (with Donarier, Monniot and Codjia, Baby Boom CD, on the Sketch label), that this powerful and imaginative rhythm was expressed most often, and he even welcomed the guitarist Pat Metheny for an exceptional concert at the Vienne Jazz Festival in 2003.
With Gábor Gadó came the debut of the French quartet with Matthieu Donarier and Joe Quitzke (albums: Homeward, Orthodoxia, Unknown Kingdom) and the collaboration with the BMC label. The links with this label are reinforced each year and Sébastien Boisseau can be found in some recordings by Gábor Winand (Corners of my Mind, Opera Budapest), or again in the album Stringed by Alban Darche.
With his French friends Alban Darche and Jean-Louis Pommier he founded Yolk in 1999. In 2005 this collective of improvisers and composers, who developed their own label and worked on different lines, from the sensitising of the young public, to the production of creative projects, received the Django D’Or for live entertainment.
Involved in numerous projects in France (Triade, Eric Watson, Stephan Oliva/Francois Raulin, Le Gros Cube, Francois Jeanneau Pandemonium, Jean-Marc Foltz trio, Marguet/Kühn quartet) he can also be heard at the heart of the Belgian group Mâäk’s Spirit, in the European Jazz Ensemble, in the Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti’s European Legacy, or even in the formation with pianist Kálmán Oláh and saxophonist Kristóf Bacsó, whose recording Fitting was released by BMC.
This wealth of experience has led him to many festivals and countries in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, Scandanavia and elsewhere.
www.sebastienboisseau.com / www.yolkrecords.com
Stefan Pasborg graduated as a soloist at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Conservatory in 2002. He has become known on the European jazz scene as a highly personal drummer as well as a composer and bandleader, and has become especially well known for his work within more experimental jazz. He has performed and recorded with a number of internationally renowned musicians, including guitarist Marc Ducret, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, trombonist Ray Anderson, and saxophonists John Tchicai, Jesper Zeuthen and Lotte Anker.
At the present time, he plays regularly with Ibrahim Electric, Delirium, Ictus, Rřd Planet, Toxikum (co-led with saxophonist Liudas Mockunas), and a number of other bands. In addition to Denmark, Pasborg has performed in a large number of other European countries as well as Asia and the United States. He has been awarded several prizes, including the soloist prize at the 16th European Jazz Contest in Germany; the Rhythmic Music Conservatory Talent Prize; the first prize at the 5th European Tournament for Improvised Music in France; and the Danish Arts Foundation’s grant for artistic work in 2003, 2004 and 2005. At Danish Music Awards Jazz 2004, he received two Grammys, and was voted New Jazz Name of the Year.
Gilles Olivesi attended a school called IMFP in order to learn the craft of sound engineering. At the end of his cycle of studies, he immediately started applying his skills in diverse and complementary areas such as concerts, studio recording and mastering.
While working for theatres or concerts, he was hired in Studio La Buissonne in 1999, a studio considered one of the best in Europe in terms of jazz and improvised music. Thus, working side by side with Gérard de Haro, he took part in numerous sessions through which he met remarkable musicians (Paul Motian, Marc Copland, Joachim Kühn, Marc Ducret, Louis Sclavis, Michel Portal, Jean-Marie Machado, Daniel Humair) who would be influential in his career. He also worked on albums produced by labels such as ECM, Sketch, Enja, ACT, Blue Note, Universal.
During the same period, he had a chance to meet with the new French generation and establish strong links with artists such as Médéric Collignon, Sébastien Boisseau, Alban Darche, Vincent Courtois, Airelle Besson and Sylvain Rifflet, Louis Sclavis (album: Napoli’s Walls) and the bands Triade, Le Gros Cube; as well as labels such as Minium, Yolk or even BMC for whom he worked on the mixing of the trio Oláh/Boisseau/Bacsó (album: Fitting) as well as the album Opera Budapest of Gábor Winand and Gábor Gadó.
Gilles Olivesi is one of those few sound engineers who is truly considered as part of the band. His ability to offer both a perfect restitution of acoustic sound and original sound treatments, makes him one of the most demanded French sound engineers. If one had to listen to an example of his mixing skills, it would have to be the album Reverse of Guillaume Orti and Olivier Sens (label Quoi de neuf docteur).