Friday, September 4, 2009

Troc and Zao article from Best Magazine (thanks Steve Davis)

Who is going to translate these for us poor English speakers? :-)





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  4. Here we go again!

    Music in France – Troc and Zao – Now or when?

    Money, money… Money isn’t everything. What about feeling? Well, anyway, it finally happened, the UK press pays tribute to Magma: a full page in the Melody Maker last month. Christian Vander and Magma have been through years of efforts and shabby tours in youth clubs, and more than that… One day, we’ll really have to come down to it: there are no deep psychological reasons, no hidden defects or defective genes that justify the French musical doldrums.
    Rather, maybe a lack in self-confidence, as well as imagination.
    Here’s the issue, and it has been debated long: France lacks venues, halls, pubs, schools and organized tour circuits to provide bands with. Which means that there is no money to pay them either – sad news, there are no patrons anymore.
    Plus, the audience is poorly educated, which forces audiovisual media (radio and TV) to broadcast only mainstream music, or risk being totally ignored – not to mention raids on pharmacies to ease “difficult music”-induced headaches. Here are some of the obvious reasons. The others are a little more complicated.
    Lack of confidence: any band delivering lengthy sentences says that something is not quite right. Take the Beatles: no speeches and people dug them.
    Now back to where we started: Magma and Christian Vander are given much attention these days, and the same goes for two unknown bands: Troc and Zao.
    Born of the same longing (making things move in this hopeless country), both bands however couldn’t display a more different attitude and musical approach.
    TROC: Troc, first and foremost, is a “group of friends”, which means they are neither a band fabricated from A to Z to meet the requirements of business, nor a band of intellectual wankers. Just a group of friends, with André Ceccarelli on drums, Henry Giordano on electric piano, Jacky Girando on guitar, Francis Moze on bass, and Alex Ligertwood as singer-writer-composer.
    Chances are, you’ve heard of Ceccarelli. Or maybe you’ve just heard him playing for French stars, the likes of Bécaud and Dalida, as he is a demanded session-man. He recently played with Jean-Luc Ponty and Stéphane Grappelli (their record should be out shortly). Alex Ligertwood was formerly in Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, among others, one or two years ago. Francis Moze is from Magma. The two other guys are unknown and session musicians. Here’s for the introduction.
    A year ago, when André Ceccarelli and Alex Ligertwood decided to give flesh to their common project, they waved over to their fellow musicians. Rehearsed, looked for a producer, bought their equipment – PA, etc. And eventually ended up in Hérouville to make a record.

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  5. Zao’s music is violent, as is Troc’s. Even more, in some ways. It strikes heavier blows and is a trifle more diverse. This music is one of “climates”, from sweet violence to a storm, from something very furious to something peaceful. The basis of the band is provided by the piano-bass-drums triangle, upon which Jeff Seffer (bass clarinet, soprano sax) and Jean-Yves Rigaud on violin improvise. It is simple but intricate. And since this music is too ground, spread and thick to support any words or singing, the singer does not sing – she chants. The sound and atmosphere of Zao rely a lot on Mauricia Platon’s voice, often high-pitched, alternately frail and powerful, vibrant and cold, one more instrument in the band.
    What name can one give this music? Is it jazz-rock, pop, something else? It’s actually a bit of everything. It is mystical and ethereal, like Mac Laughlin’s – and yet nothing like it. Something obvious, however – especially on stage – is every musician’s unquestionable command of his instrument. Also obvious is the band’s maturity on stage: no awkward gestures, no emphasis. The drummer is in the middle, the violin and sax on the right and the piano and bass on the left, with Mauricia Platon up front. Zao’s concerts summon up the “spirit of the feast” – not in the way Slade does, of course, as feasting here implies joy and momentum. The band has only been playing together for a couple of months and musicians come from very different backgrounds: classical music, avant-garde, pop, etc., which is a key to what they do: Zao’s music contains the germs of something.
    Jean-Luc Ponty still works with Zappa; Vander and Magma are getting bigger abroad. Is this caused by very specific individuals or nothing less than a true French awakening? Troc can pride itself on a very good drummer and skilled musicians, and has the will it takes. Zao has the faith and a budding imagination – despite some very Magma-like moments. Whoever may win, we’ll sure be watching.

    Jacques Larnaudie

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  6. Moze was not yet a member of the band, and the bass player for these sessions was a fellow called Jannick Top… First, the idea was to “carry the day” – so let’s record stuff we’ve already worked on. Not too bad. Then someone – no one remembers who – got an idea: let’s make a cover of “Old Man River”… The producer’s all for it. Hence the Oscar Hammerstein-Jerome Kern piece on Troc’s record. If you’ve heard that record, you might want to know that there is no reason whatsoever why (almost) all numbers are written by Alex Ligertwood: all musicians within Troc are composers. Now, if you haven’t heard that record – which, I’m pretty sure, amounts to many of you – let me tell you what music we’re talking about: for those who like labeling things, Troc is a jazz-rock outfit, which will strike you as pretty normal, considering that most of its musicians come from that milieu. But you could as well label it as pop, because of the lyrics and singing. Alex Ligertwood sings a little like the early Soft Machine, à la Robert Wyatt-Matching Mole, very, very peculiar. You’ll either love it or hate it, and right away. The music itself is chiefly based on percussion and electric piano.
    Troc played live at the ORTF [former sole, government controlled, French radio and TV] last month. The sound was about the same as on record – except, obviously, with more soloing freedom.
    Nothing flashy; the music was sturdy, clear, it swung and was easy to understand, or, to put it better, easy to feel, as Ceccarelli does not address the mind, but the heart. Henry Giordano, the pianist, played his chords and long progressions. He’s not bad at all, the kind that gets high on Chick Corea. The bass was very loud; the guitar quite subdued – maybe too much. Ligertwood exerted himself and all drew unanimous applause from the sparse audience. Outside, I was pretty sure, however, to stumble on someone saying: “there are no musicians in France”.
    ZAO: Zao is a short name. It snaps, strikes – at least, it should. Take a look at their record cover: see them enjoying themselves: François Cahen is focused on the keyboard of his Fender piano, and Jean-My Truong on his sticks and drums. Jeff Seffer on the clarinet, and Jean-Yves Rigaud, the violinist, who looks like such a nice guy… and Joël Dugrenot, on bass, who actually is such a nice guy. On vocals, the marvelous Mauricia Platon… Mystical! Zao is a short name. In case you haven’t noticed, the Z is two 7 put together, one of which is upside down, a meaningful, mysterious symbol: Z=7; nothing=everything. Endless wisdom and endless ignorance. When all is over, you start all over again, the snake bites its tail and one comes full circle.

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