Ashley Kahn’s discussion of John Coltrane’s Impulse! label is aplty titled ‘The House That Trane Built’.
Now, saxophonist Thomas Champagne is building his own house – Random House – and is moving in together with Guillaume Vierset (guitar), Ruben Lamon (bass) and Alain Deval (drums). And while the four of them are currently busy with reconstruction and renovation works, the first blueprint of the final design is now ready. And it’s name is ‘Sweet Day’.
Listen closely and you’ll hear the influence of other great exemplars such as Lee Konitz and Wayne Shorter. But also a vision that goes beyond that of a traditional design. With clever nods to contemporary architects of the New York school such as Ralph Alessi, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Nasheet Waits, the four attempt to erect a more classical structure with modernist leanings and a few colourful yet unexpected twists.
Works are still under construction. And only time will tell in which direction things will go. As with Chris Ware’s graphic novel ‘Building Stories’, only the building blocks are present and every combination leads to a different outcome. ‘Sweet Day’ shares the same characteristics. Depending on your mood, where you listen and with whom, you’ll discover new elements and new possibilities every time you play it.
Random House has the potential to achieve the same notoriety as other famous addresses such as ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’, ‘Penny Lane’, the corner of Hollywood & Vine, ‘52nd Street’ and Avenue C, as once frequented by Count Basie.
Thomas Champagne is out to discover a new soundscape. With Guillaume Vierset (gtr), Ruben Lamon (db) and Alain Deval (dm), he is on the way to discovering a large part of it.
Very quickly, the new Random House quartet turns out to be kind of radical when it comes to its choices. The search for new sensations leads to an exploration of sound.
The bare playing better underlines the sharpness of the melodies. A tendency towards contemplation and intimacy lays the foundations for a contained, intense, post-Coltranian groove that is full of respirations but above all inspiration. The alto sax bounces off the lace-like arpeggios spun by the guitar. The rhythms are constantly bouncing, sometimes discreetly at other times red-hot and always perfectly in tune with the project.
The quartet takes a bold freedom in tone, an openness in the music’s development that leaves plenty of room for ideas and dialogue. This gives the melodies time to find their feet, and for the entwined tempos to take effect.
The mood veers between introspection and a spontaneous swing that is full of relief.
There are still zones to be discovered and explored in jazz. Random House is doing just that, without forgetting its roots, nor the swing, nor the groove.
Jacques Prouvost, Journalist