A few words about Benoît's collaborators here, almost all of them long-time associates and friends. Jean-Jacques Avenel was of course Steve Lacy's preferred bassist for some 20 years (the brief "Flakes" on Circles is a Lacy tune, an unadorned tribute to one of Benoît's mentors). He performed in the Delbecq 5 (Pursuit, 2000); he is also a kora player, a passionate advocate of traditional Manding music, and for many years led his own West African group in Paris (Waraba, 2004, produced by Delbecq). Avenel and the Paris-based Congolese drummer Emile Biayenda, who Benoit first performed and recorded with on a tour to Central Africa in 1994, set up wonderfully unpredictable grooves, and continuously co-create the music with total involvement. The three of them mesh not just rhythmically but timbrally, as Benoît describes:
"Emile and Jean-Jacques both have a magnificent sound, they are masters, a source of inspiration. During the rehearsals I had the feeling of simply diving, as one would dive into a sea about which we'd heard and which turns out to be completely incredible, a water of particular density, particular temperature. Also what I love in the alchemy created by Emile and Jean-Jacques is their relation in the hierarchy of cycles, it is very free, very intuitive - they come to complete at an equal level my 'flexible rigor' so to speak. The timbres create other cycles, subterranean cycles, the effect obtained is mysterious." In this trio Biayenda uses two snare drums and two gourds, and an ankle shaker like the ones used by the drummers in his group Les Tambours de Brazza is attached to the bass drum.
Another notable feature of both records are the remixes, which present quite different sonic perspectives on the music making. Benoît and drummer/electronics wizard Steve Arguelles have been developing their artistic complicity for 20 years, in groups such as the Recyclers and Delbecq 5 - and for the last 13 years their duo Ambitronix, recently expanded into a new improvisational trio, Manasonics, with the addition of Nicolas Becker. Arguelles' remixes of material from the trio multi-tracks examine the three instruments individually, with a kind of improvisational spirit; Benoît calls them "rather cinema-like, these sorts of elliptical narrations." Becker is in fact a foley artist/sound supervisor/sound designer and composer for films - he and Benoît recently collaborated on the score of the Israeli-French co-production Lebanon, and Benoît calls his quietly spooky "Mille Nandie" remix "a trip of mental images that brings my music closer to film music. Every sound you hear comes from my piano itself, there is no other source added…it is a 'bio' remix so to speak."
And the record titles? The Sixth Jump refers to a "radical storm" in his personal life, at the end of the sixth cycle of seven years (i.e. around his 42nd birthday), when he also had to compose music for his newly formed trio - the tune "Le sixième saut" reflects this period of "emotional rape, which I needed to transform into a very quiet piece while remaining a little tragic - it is loaded with 7 years of my life." Circles and Calligrams are the visual patterns that Benoît sketches with pen and paper at a certain stage in the conception of a new piece ("I am still in a sound dream-state") - designs that help visualize ways of superimposing forms and building up 'fabrics' of various motifs. The solo record was in fact crafted as a performance set during a fellowship residency at the Civitella Ranieri Centre near Perugia. "These six weeks in Italy, alone in my studio at the top of a hill, were an important step in my life. About half the pieces are new. I couldn't possibly produce a whole new set of tunes - the time that's necessary to assimilate the concepts is very long, I'm very slow when it comes to learning new combinations even if they're mine. So I also spent a lot of time revisiting older compositions - the idea being to arrive at the recording studio and forget myself in the playing." Both records are beautifully engineered and mixed by Etienne Bultingaire, "whose ears delight me - he has a way of recording the piano which perfectly reveals the details, space and depth of the instrument."
Delbecq gilt (nicht nur) in Frankreich als einer der innovativsten Köpfe des zeitgenössischen Jazz. Erstaunlich, dass er erst jetzt eine erste Trio-CD aufgenommen hat. Aber selbst da sorgt er wieder für erstaunte Blicke: Avenel, Steve Lacy's herausragender Bassist, auf der einen Seite - auf der anderen Seite Emile Biayenda, Masterdrummer aus dem Kongo. Zusammen kreieren sie einen neuen, eigentümlichen Pianotrio-Sound jenseits ausgetretener Pfade.