In 1971, the day after the death of Igor Stravinsky, Jef Gilson and his Unit (Pierre Moret and Jean-Claude Pourtier) made this curious homage to classical music. It is jazz, contemporary and electroacoustic music that the trio interrogate through a wild ‘noise’ session evoking as much John Cage as Pierre Henry, John Coltrane as the Percussions de Strasbourg, the Art Ensemble of Chicago as the Tacet by Jean Guérin.
Le Massacre du Printemps, (the Massacre of Spring) is a strange kind of homage to Igor Stravinsky, who had just died when, in 1971, Jef Gilson recorded this not-to-be-missed album of French experimental jazz. “Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end” the Russian composer was quoted as saying and here is Gilson offering us... six!
A funny bird (of fire) was Jef Gilson. Clarinetist who came up playing in the basement clubs with Claude Luter and Boris Vian, he turned to piano and multiplied his experiences in jazz: bebop, choral, modal, free, fusion... As a free spirit, Gilson welcomed many ‘up and coming’ French musicians in his bands (Jean-Luc Ponty, Bernard Lubat, Michel Portal, Henri Texier...) as well as being associated with Woody Shaw, Nathan Davis or Byard Lancaster. Later he would go on to create, Europamerica, a transatlantic formation in which Butch Morris, Frank Lowe, and Joe McPhee would play...
But for the time being it’s a massacre! With Pierre Moret on organ and Jean-Claude Pourtier on drums, Gilson improvises with style and gusto. On the eponymous title track of the album, he also plays tuba and invites Claude Jeanmaire to get involved on prepared piano. Spring, for the four musicians here, is windswept: billowing, rumbling, frantic, it sounds like Stravinsky played by the ‘Percussions de Strasbourg’ without a scoresheet!
After which, behind his electric piano, Gilson with Moret and Pourtier offers us five more “unpremeditated spontaneous expressions”, as he wrote on the back of the album sleeve. Five wily and electric expressions which are like the soundtrack to a film which could also have been played by the Art Ensemble or Jean Guérin. So, when, in the same text, Gilson expresses the hope that we will get “from this album the same pleasure that we had making it”, we can but reply: how could it be otherwise?