Vincent Courtois | Daniel Erdmann | Robin Fincker Nothing Else
The trio of Vincent Courtois, Daniel Erdmann and Robin Fincker has been a highly esteemed band on the contemporary European jazz scene for the past thirteen years.
Following their previous concept albums with composed songs, the group now shows a new aspect of itself with an album of purely improvised music.
Although Nothing Else is a single CD release, the album is designed and structured as a double disc, and consists of sixteen contoured and suggestive tracks.
The titles mostly refer to places the trio have visited on tour, leaving behind memories of their sound.
The unusual combination of two saxophones and a cello opens up a captivating sound world, and the passionate, joyful and humorous performance, the freshness of the improvisations, irresistibly captures the listener's imagination.
Vincent Courtois - cello
Daniel Erdmann - tenor saxophone
Robin Fincker - tenor saxophone, clarinet
About the album
All compositions by Vincent Courtois, Daniel Erdmann and Robin Fincker
Recorded at BMC Studio, Budapest on 26-28 January, 2022
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó
Daniel Erdmann plays Selmer saxophones and Vandoren reeds & ligatures
Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Nicolas Dourlhès - CitizenJazz (fr)
Jos Demol - Jazz'halo (BE)
George W. Harris - Jazz Weekly (en)
Ken Waxman - JazzWord
Peter Dobšinský - skJazz (sk)
Georges Tonla Briquet - Jazz Halo (be)
Komlós József JR - alfoldiregiomagazin.hu
Olasz Sándor - Riff (hu)
Vincent Courtois / Daniel Erdmann / Robin Fincker: Nothing Else, Part 1
Vincent Courtois / Daniel Erdmann / Robin Fincker: Nothing Else, Part 2
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
Music has no denotational meaning. Rather, music has an effect on listeners’ minds and souls, moods and imaginations in a more holistic sense. Those effects can converge or diverge among listeners. Listeners can feel attracted, more or less, by certain tonalities, moods, energies, rhythms, orchestrations, dynamics, or specific combinations of those characteristics, and, of course, also by a certain musician’s personality as such. These characteristics can evoke specific inner streams, emotions, mood-states and a desire to immerse oneself in the sounds, which can result in a more or less deep impact of the music on listeners’ senses and souls. We are used to speaking of a matter of taste then, which is a relevant but a somewhat static view of the above process of taking music in. I prefer to say that listeners have their own (inner) dramaturgy when listening to music, be it at different gradations of consciousness. It determines how listeners filter musical input, how they deal with it, how their inner time connects to ongoing musical time, what and how they synthesise and integrate the flow of the music (or not), how hungry or thirsty they get from its magic.
THE RECORDING SESSION
The album title Nothing Else triggers a “but …” that can be filled in after listening to the music. The pieces are short, precise, suggestive, easily digestible and, all in all, of a certain lightness. The sixteen pieces of the album are a result of a non-pre-structured, open-process musical meeting of French cellist Vincent Courtois, French-English reedist Robin Fincker (clarinet, tenor sax) and French-German saxophonist Daniel Erdmann in the wonderful hall of Budapest Music Center.
These three musicians have formed a sworn trinity for quite some time. Actually the trio started to play thirteen (!) years ago at Paris Banlieues Bleues Festival.
“I remember it as a very calm and relaxed session, I always like recording in January, the focus of the new year, not much stress” according to Daniel Erdmann, and Robin Fincker adds: “I agree it felt relaxed and easy. We hadn’t seen each other in a while due to Covid restrictions, and BMC set up a context where the music could come naturally. We hardly used any headphones in the session and just played to the sound of the room. Also there is a sense of mutual trust with Bogi and the BMC staff which is great when recording ‘risky-music.’ We didn’t feel any pressure to deliver anything, which can often be the case in the studio.”
CHARACTER(S) OF THE GROUP
In terms of instrumentation, two saxophones and violoncello, this trio is an unusual one, and to make it not only work but also unleash unusually engaging potentials, there has to be the right chemistry and trust, that fits the compasses and inner song lines of the involved musicians.
“That is the beauty of a real band I think,” says Robin Fincker. “Although Vincent has always managed to find enough concerts for the trio to be evolving there is also a magical element in the trio that we always find an instant connection when we meet, no matter how long ago the last concert was. I think we are able to be ourselves in the trio whilst being at the service of the group sound… which is the best way of staying fit!”
Cellist Vincent Courtois with his unusual clear, full and sharp vibrato-free sound, has no fear of entering the sound field of two heavy saxophones and realises an equally strong or at times even leading voice in it. All three instruments can merge into one strong sound, that shifts, spectralizes, flares, curves and can be screamingly eruptive. There are plenty of melodious elements in the music but not as usual in a purely linear progression. Lines arise from constant alternation with each other, like a horizontal-vertical swing, and remain crispy and extensively agile. The elaborations manoeuvre between collage- and canon-like forms, which can induce a strong undertow when listening. Also, occasionally the instruments don’t have their familiar calibrated sound, especially concerning the cello. It sounds like a guimbri or harpsichord in Madona and Ulm, or like a flute or a rebab in Wrocław, a piece full of microtonal elements.
TITLES & TRAVELS
Titles of musical pieces can refer to things, persons, events or experiences that triggered in some ways the emergence and creation of the music or to which the music is related to for certain reasons. Titles then also can give impulses or set frames to people’s (inner) listening dramaturgy. There can be a whole narrative behind a title or it can be rather enigmatic. Titles can be highly suggestive as in the case of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” suite or are more open to listeners’ imagination. This album is an exponent of the more open category - open in the creation of the music as well.
“… as it is all improv we didn’t want to find a kind of figurative title that explains too much about the music,” remarks Vincent. “I don’t really like when the title is coming after the music as it usually does with impro.”
Ulm, Wrocław, London are clearly city names, but what about Abja-Paluoja or Correggio and Madona then? Actually, these titles offer a glimpse into the life of a band. Abja-Paluoja is a village in the south of Estonia and Correggio is situated in Italy. It is in fact a small town in Reggio Emilia. Madona, also a small town, is not in Italy, but in Latvia. The titles turn out to be places the trio played while travelling in recent years, leaving its sounds in spaces, souls, and minds on this route. The titles are a reference to the band’s biography and are a long echo of the musicians’ inner vibrational grounds. This naming should be understood as something that incidentally happened, not as an intentionally pursued set-up. It can also, I think, be considered as a tribute to the audiences’ contributions to the music. In the same way that this band has travelled and played a great variety of places and sites, so its music manifests itself. It is what it is, variety keeps you adaptable and fit, and is mirrored in the variety of the pieces and playing.
“Touring as much as possible is a good way to keep the music fresh and in development, and then ‘always trying new things’: that’s the maxim of the group” remarks Vincent.
MY/YOUR OWN LISTENING DRAMATURGY
Because I know and appreciate the unit’s music and character I expect music that goes beyond peristaltic progress, beyond a floating iridescent mode or beyond a minimalistic repetitive approach, to name a few possibilities. I am eager to hear something with a strong melodic substance emerging from the hidden or undiscovered evidency, balancing on the verge of the expressible and something that gains sense, drive, moving impact and unity by manoeuvres from different angles – all executed with passion, playfulness, and economy, as well as joy and humour. When listening to Nothing Else I felt that all my needs were met, that everything spurred my imagination and deepened my immersion in the music. Also the lightness of these improvisations, and at the same time their sharpness and decisiveness was something that attracted me. There is something in the music that responds to my desires and offers me something freshly created and new to me.
Let’s take a few pieces from the album as example. Gărâna begins with a plucked ostinato that morphs into a melody of loneliness alternating between the two saxophones. Correggio sounds apocryphal, encrypted, before a great melody emerges from some raw texture and transmutes into a fiery ride. Abja-Paluoja sounds remote, lightly delayed, and at the same time prancing, even a bit drunk (reminding me of the Tom Waits song The piano has been drinking). In Port Louis all three instruments coalesce in a wonderful lyrical way creating chamber music colourings as well as folksy echoes. Kuopio is elegiac and conjuring, close to Coltrane. In London there is some spookiness at the beginning, some wispy shadowplay, then strong hatching before it turns into a dancing mode that triggered for me images of Marcel Marceau and Joseph Nadj in their distinctive pantomimic motion and mystic, arcane action.
So, the key words for my perception are “loneliness”, “encrypted”, “lyrical”, “elegiac”, “Coltranesque”, “spooky”, “shadowplay”, and “mystical”, all perceptions my dramaturgy thrives on, unfolds and develops.
MOMENTUM, EVIDENCE, CONSISTENCY
Considering these descriptions, it is the dynamic morphing quality, its high degree of real-time momentum, its momentous certainty and captivating consistency, that make its way into the vibration of the listener’s inner ear. Ideally there is an open, dialectical relation between listeners’ own dramaturgy and the stimulation by versatile manoeuvres of the musicians, a continuous back-and-forth between both. Nothing Else has to offer a lot to get this process going and to keep it up through its sixteen pieces, lasting about 70 minutes. It will stimulate and clear up listeners’ senses and can take you to fascinating, arresting, liberating inner places and uplifting experiences.
(Amsterdam, November 10, 2022)