Recommended: Sylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon – “Perpetual Motion (A Celebration of Moondog)”


Sylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon - "Perpetual Motion"With Perpetual Motion, the saxophone duo of Sylvain Rifflet and Jon Irabagon offer up a brilliant re-imagining of the music of eccentric composer, musician, and poet Louis Thomas Hardin aka Moondog that is as intelligent as it deliriously enjoyable.  Embracing Moondog’s adventurous creativity and unconventional expressionism, it’s a performance that might be considered avant-garde if the music weren’t so massively approachable.

Recorded live at the 2013 Banlieues Bleues Festival, the ensemble incorporates the vastly disparate elements of Moondog’s original compositions… classical, jazz, blues, ambient, rock, folk and more… into a different sounding mix that is just as intoxicating as the originals.  It’s not always easy to pick out the Moondog composition the ensemble is performing, but the spirit is clear as day.

Opening track “Oasis” immediately sets the tone for the recording, switching from a mix of percussion, electronics and sampled voices to a moonlight swoon of poetry to a free-jazz firestorm

“Heat On The Heather” starts out in the same direction but ends up in an entirely different place.  It opens with the field sounds of a man spare-changing on a city street near a construction site.  The ensemble juxtaposes those sounds with percussion of their own to develop a nifty cadence, which becomes the launching point for Rifflet and Irabagon to fly into a bluesy New Orleans jazz passage that becomes increasingly boisterous and cheerful as the song proceeds.

“Bird’s Lament” is one of the more recognizable tunes.  Referencing the original’s hypnotic melody, the ensemble digs into a catchy groove, with saxes and electric guitar taking turns riding its shoulders and shifting its gears.  Electric harpsichord and drums work opposite ends of the groove, creating a delicious bit of tension between a lagging rhythm and one charging forward with a head full of steam.  Even with its abundance of free-spirited energy, the ensemble mirrors the heart of the Moondog original, which was expressed patiently and with a touch of melancholy.

“From One to Nine” circles like a caged animal looking for a way out, growing increasingly agitated by its confinement.  Piano is key to things.  On the other hand, the sparseness of “Black Hole,” with the occasional rattle and rush of percussion, ignites with a sudden fury.  Saxophones growl deeply to the crash of guitar chords and the relentless strike of drums.

The delightful “Aska Me” features a children’s chorus singing out an aggressive refrain, with percussion and woodwinds punctuating the cadence with strong blows.  No less fun is the abounding euphoria of “Maybe” and the comforting lullaby of “My Butterfly,” the other tunes the children’s chorus makes an appearance.

Flute, electric harpsichord and guitar on “Fleur De Lis” possesses an exotic melodicism.  The song has a huge presence and a light touch, pretty and substantive, both.  It pulses with an hypnotic cadence.

The ensemble take the charming ditty “From The Jazz Book No. 2” and ramp up its enthusiasm and playfulness by several degrees.  It leads into “From The Jazz Book Extended,” one of two original tunes utilized in the performance (in addition to the murmuring saxophone of “Round Paris”).  Melodic lines chase their own tail, with start and end bleeding into one another to where it becomes a whirling coalescence, beautiful and alluring and trembling wildly.

The peaceful, restrained tune “Santa Fé” ends the album on an inspired note, providing a calm sense of finality for a recording that displays nothing but boundless, volatile creativity.

A remarkable album.

Your album personnel:  Sylvain Rifflet (clarinet, tenor sax, electronics), Jon Irabagon (alto & tenor saxes), Joce Mienniel (flutes, synth), Eve Risser (piano, electric harpsichord), Philippe Gordiani (guitars), Benjamin Flament (percussion, treated metals) and guests:  children’s choir, consisting of students from Collège Jean Vilar in La Courneuve, Collège République, Collège Pierre Sémard and Jean Ziener Conservatory of Music in Bobigny.

Released on Jazz Village Music.

Jazz from the Paris (Rifflet) and Brooklyn (Irabagon) scenes.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3

You can also by the DVD & CD combo from the Harmonia Mundi store.