Jacques Coursil – Black Suite 12” LP

Jacques Coursil-black suite

A bit of a mood-piece this one. For me personally, under the right conditions/during particular modes of mind, it’s a real blinder (though I rarely spin this record, it’s a specialist job). Let’s get to the leader here, Jacques Coursil, clearly one fine trumpet player, having previously worked with/amongst the Sun Ra Arkhestra & others in the US before immigrating to France where I believe he has stayed right up until this day. This 1969 recording session commenced the day after the truly epic Burton Greene-Aquariana LP, that has almost exactly the same line-up. This album loses the secondary bassist  & stray flautist from the Aquariana action & drops Anthony Braxton into the foray on contrabass clarinet along with Beb Guerin on bass/cello, Arthur Jones on alto sax & a very reserved & clement Burton Greene on piano (& I suspect some other bells & percussion) & drummer/percussionist Claude Delcloo (also massively contained & minimal on this effort). It’s a thirty one minute piece that is sundered in half & assigned to each side of the wax (Black Suite parts one & two). Some compositional formations are ingrained, but the majority of commotion here appears to be of an improvisational nature. Beside the interchange, each reed (& Beb on cello) is given a soling section, starting with Coursil, then Braxton, Guerin & finally Jones. The style here is Flot, i.e. massively hesitant, slowed, wandering & uncertain – sentient but totally indifferent. I struggle a lot with this theme of Avant-Jazz, for me it’s soporific, uneventful & quite self-indulgent. I wonder if skilled, heavily weeded musicians getting sucked perhaps a little too much into the personal abstract phenomenon of thinking out-loud about non-confirmed subjects, on an instrument, is the presiding conclusion here?! Then again, perhaps I am just too crude & impatient to cognate the subtleties at play? I guess really it depends entirely on the individual & god-forbid you listen to an idiot like me or anybody else to tell you, research & experience for yourselves, always. but this Blacc Suite LP does get my respect, approbation & appreciation. It’s well played & exigent (despite all the torpor & seriousness) & there is a multiplex of sounds & instruments, yielding a decent tranche of variety & changing sequences. As aforementioned, the percussive angle is hugely muted, with bells & chimes along with the odd mallet thump & tweaking of piano wire the only vestiges permitted. Atmospherically it’s admittedly a decent contribution. The whole notion of pensive erudition is all up in this. It can be somewhat sententious, but the quality of playing, the novelty & adventurism of tracts of the music make it special & winning for me. In some senses, the ultra-slow pace of it all allows an enhanced scrutiny of the sounds projected. Actually, everybody performs very well on the LP, but Braxton’s segment I particularly favour, just because of the absurd sound he gets out of that ridiculous instrument. He also at one point (perhaps with the exception of Guerin who also tips things more towards the bizarre) pushes parameters more in the direction of perturbing & discordant, with some ultra-low shrieking exclamations. This is a great LP by a cult figure that so enigmatically disappeared for so long. Thankfully Coursil is back now in a big way. This particular LP, along with a second highly rated expedition Jacques lead on Actuel titled “Way Ahead” has not been reissued & tends to be quite sought after by collectors.

Rekd: 1969

Label: Actuel/BYG