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1 April 2004
By Dan Warburton in The Wire #241 (UK), April 1, 2004

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On 14 December 2000 in Montréal, turntablist Martin Tétreault and percussionist Pierre Tanguay recorded an offbeat but affectionate homage to the history of jazz in the form of ten three-minute pieces, one for each decade of Uhe 20th century. Three days later Tétreault mailed a DAT of the session to French improvising clarinettist Xavier Charles, who added his own contributions on 29 December before mixing down and pressing the result in a ridiculously limited CD-R edition two days later. The trio can indeed claim to have made the last jazz record of the 20th century.

In today’s Improv, whose practitioners scowl joylessly at laptops and inputless mixing boards, it’s a pleasant surprise to come across the same sense of humour that once characterised Lol Coxhill’s and Steve Beresford’s work on the Nato label. Recorded in mono, the first four tracks are followed by a Pythonesque "and now - stereo!" flourish. Though conceptually rigorous, this is no mere exercise in cheap pastiche. Charles’s quotations of Sidney Bechet are as affectionate as they are accomplished, but he makes no attempt to ape the beboppers. Instead he sticks to sustained grainy multiphonics swinging between the left and right channels, leaving Tétreault’s mangled Hammond organ samples and Tanguay’s manic drumming to reference 50s hard bop.

Similarly, "1960-1970 Free Jazz Tony Williams Lifetime" finds the clarinettist emitting distinctly 21st century spits and rustles. The deliciously cheesy closing track, "1990-2000 Acid Jazz Electronique", leaves the listener in little doubt as to what the musicians think of the genre, especially Charles who spends the entire track noodling, Feldman-like, on three adjacent semitones. The inner sleeve of this vinyl reissue Iovingly reproduces Delphine Touzet’s delightful original artwork - «Sauvons le Jazz!» indeed. It has rarely taken such a hammering as this.

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