It is a great pleasure to welcome this Potlatch album which was released at the tail end of 2022. From 1998 until 2017 the independent French label released a steady stream of albums, averaging between two and three a year. Then, nothing was released in 2018, one album in 2019, nothing in 2020, two in 2021 and, now, one in 2022. Yes, four releases in five years. Given the dates, the slump was clearly not covid-related...
Nonetheless, the good news is that Potlatch is still alive and kicking. Even better, this album features the Geneva-born, Paris resident Bertrand Denzler; the tenor saxophonist has been a stalwart of Potlatch, here making his seventh appearance on the label, having featured on three of those last four releases. He is joined in a duo by the New York-born, Zurich resident Jason Kahn who is heard on electronics and is making his first Potlatch appearance. The two were recorded, in concert, at the Tiasci school of Indian music, in Paris, on December 10th, 2021. The recording, mixing and mastering were done by Kahn.
The album comprises one continuous track of just under thirty-five minutes. It begins with the unmistakable snap, crackle and pop sounds of electronics, soon joined by ambiguous noises which may originate from the saxophone. Gradually, these become more recognizable as the identifiable sounds of a blown reed ring out. While the saxophone and electronics never exactly blend together or complement one another, neither do they clash nor get in each other's way.
Overall, the electronic sounds occupy rather more of the soundscape than the saxophone, maybe because Kahn had control of the mixing. As a duo, the album is sure to please devotees of either player and to interest casual listeners also. Maybe most importantly, the end product is adventurous enough to be totally at home in the Potlatch catalog. Devotees of the label can welcome it with open arms.
John Eyles l All About Jazz l January 2023
Translations brings together two experimental improvisers, sound artists and scholars – Swiss-French tenor sax player Bertrand Denzler (who co-authored the book The Practice of Musical Improvisation – Dialogues with Contemporary Musical Improvisers, Bloomsbury, 202o, with French sax player Jean-Luc Guionnet) and American, Zürich-based electronics player, guitarist, vocalist and percussionist Jason Kahn (whose last book, Soundings, 2022, explores the sounds of Zürich).
Denzler and Kahn’s free improvised meeting was recorded live at Tiasci, Paris in December 2021. Khan, who focuses here only on electronics, was in charge of the recording, mixing and mastering. These experienced improvisers are well-versed in the art of the moment and with such kinds of intimate meetings. The 35-minute title piece searches for common ground between the subtle, extended breathing techniques of Denzler, including the fragile and fragmented multiphonics, and the raw electronics of Kahn. Slowly and patiently, the delicate variations of ethereal, acoustic sounds correspond with the white noise, and electronic sounds, commenting and expanding the other’s sonic spectrum, and this abstract dialog sketches more and more common threads, including fleeting and brief rhythmic patterns.
Translations demand a total command of the acoustic instrument and the electronic devices as well as a free sonic imagination and great focus. This abstract improvisation reminds us of the suchness and of sounds – air being blown through a metal tube and different usage of electric power and short circuits, as well as how these fascinating sounds interact and create an open and free language of their own. A sonic lesson for all of us.
Eyal Hareuveni l Salt peanuts l January 2023
A release with a duet of improvisation; somehow, it occurs to me that in recent years there haven't been many of those with the music of Jason Kahn. Over the years, he played with many musicians. Kahn used various instruments over the years, and in a duet with Bertrand Denzler, who plays tenor saxophone), Kahn takes credit for electronics. Whatever these are, we aren't told. I can imagine this to be an analogue synthesizer, used by him before, but also a modular set-up of some kind. They recorded their music on December 10, 2021, and there is a single piece on the CD, so perhaps the music is the entire thing recorded that day. Firmly located in the world of improvised, especially on the side of Denzler, the music also remains quite extreme. Kahn's electronics scratch and peep most of the time, mainly creating sharp piercing sounds, mild distortions and short-circuit feedback. Denzler keeps up with this and likes to keep his sounds short and to the point, only occasionally leaping into sustained tones. Yet, his saxophone remains recognizable, at least most of the time. The music is as radical as intense and not something one sticks to for 'fun'; at least, not me. The music requires quite some effort on the part of the listener, who is willing to concentrate and actively listen to the music; otherwise, I think the listener may have a hard time. But if the listener is ready to make an effort, then there is quite some beauty in this radical and, at times, noisy release.
Frans de Waard l Vital weekly l January 2023