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Idle Moments

Sahib Shihab and Gilson Unit - La Marche Dans Le Désert

Sahib Shihab and Gilson Unit - La Marche Dans Le Désert

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French avant garde classic originally released in 1972 on the cult independent jazz label Fortuna, now reissued by Souffle Continu records. Though not as far out, It makes for a great companion piece to the aforementioned Le Massacre Du Printemps released only a few months previously on the same label. Here Jef Gilson is back behind his keyboards heading up his Unit, who were joined by Sahib Shihab, the revered American saxophonist who had previously played with Weston, Gillespie and Coltrane, and had at the time settled in Europe. To mark this special occasion, he put aside his baritone saxophone to play a soprano varitone (on ‘Mirage I’ and ‘Mirage II’. The amplified instrument, while losing nothing of its natural sound, was capable of generating the same presence as Gilson’s electronic keyboards. To make things even more interesting, Gilson and Pierre Moret (usually behind his organ) took turn playing the Ondioline, an electronic keyboard invented in 1941 but apparently never used before in a jazz set-up (it has an unusual feature: it is suspended on special springs which makes it possible to introduce a natural vibrato if the player moves the keys from side to side with his playing hand, resulting in an almost human-like vibrato). And it would change the face of modal jazz: in a forest of percussion, Shihab and Gilson go on a sensual stroll in the desert, the caravan passes by, evoking Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane as much Pierre Henry and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Truly unique stuff. Lovingly remastered from the master tapes, the sound on this vinyl reissue is absolutely spot on and dead quiet, which is essential with such music that uses a lot of quiet/loud dynamics. Much more than an oddity, this real treasure of spiritual / modal jazz which has now become more widely available, some fifty years after its original release.

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