Jacques Coursil | New Releases | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Jacques Coursil

Minimal Brass
Tzadik

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This is a release that, shamefully, could go without much notice. First of all, Coursil, whose name might be familiar to those with a few old ESP or BYG free-jazz LPs, hasn't recorded since 1969. However, during the '60s, he played with the likes of Marion Brown, Bill Dixon, Albert Ayler and Sun Ra. Second, not only did he quit recording, he dropped completely out of the scene, moving back to his native Martinique, where he taught linguistics before relocating to another teaching post at Cornell. And fortunately, now that he has arrived with a new record, it's not yet another squawky free-blowing date. Instead, Coursil has overdubbed his own trumpet 12 times, staying away from melodies strained from scales. Though the record has "minimal" in its title -- and the word is certainly fitting -- this isn't unfussiness in the sense of Henry Flint's Blue Sky, Highway and Thyme or Tony Conrad's work with members of Faust. Here, there's a one-man brass orchestra of sorts at work, albeit one with respect for simple harmonics and lots of breathing space. The result is perhaps some of the most stunning trumpet music ever recorded. The three fanfares that make up this album simultaneously whisper and taunt in the background while stretching themselves over and above all else to sensually command space. The trumpets call and respond to each other like living beings paying mutual respect before ultimately saying goodbye. And while this recording fills the room subtlely enough to seem to emanate from somewhere beyond the hi-fi, once it ends, the silence is excruciating.

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