Sylvie Courvoisier - Mark Feldman Quartet
To Fly to Steal. Intakt CD 168





In the hinterland in which improv can sound like contemporary classical music, spontaneity like composition and postbop like 21st-century Bach, the pairing of Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and her violinist husband Mark Feldman represent one of the most creative combinations. Feldman is a former Nashville country fiddler with a classical player's tone and precision, Courvoisier is an improvising pianist who has worked with guitarist Fred Frith, but whose classical training often surfaces. This quartet session is completed by the young bassist Thomas Morgan (recently heard in the UK with Craig Taborn) and drummer Gerry Hemingway. This absorbing session's free-improv associations are conspicuous in episodes of drifting violin figures against trickling piano musings, and abrasive chords over stabbed low-end notes and percussion furores, yet the overall impression is of audaciously reworked lyricism, and an accessible narrative shapeliness. The dancing melody of the opening Messianesque is typical of Courvoisier and Feldman's long-evolved empathy, and the suite-like Five Senses of Keen is a miniature masterpiece of solemn high-register violin figures and subtly harmonised chords, like distant Gregorian chants, interspersed with Courvoisier's punchier percussive departures. The pianist even sounds eerily like Thelonious Monk on the tramping Coastlines.
John Fordham, The Guardian Friday 5 March 2010


24 heures, 25 Janvier 2010, Lausanne


Im SYLVIE COURVOISIER - MARK FELDMAN QUARTET setzten die Mephista-Pianistin aus Lausanne und ihr Lebenspartner, der Masada-Geiger mit ECM-Sensibilität, ihre musikalische Partnerschaft vom Trio Abaton und von Lonelyville (Intakt, 2007) fort. An ihrer Seite bei "To Fly To Steal" (Intakt CD 168) spielen Thomas Morgan am Kontrabass und der erfahrene Gerry Hemingway an den Drums eine hybride Form von Chamber Jazz, bestehend aus Kompositionen von ihr (2) und ihm (2) und 3 Kollektivimprovisationen. Um dieser Musik nicht nur Anerkennung zu zollen, sondern sie zu mögen, muss man vor allem Geige mögen. Ist man dafür empfänglich, dann wird man überreich beschenkt von Feldmans reichhaltiger Virtuosität bei "The Good Life" und seinen Kadenzen bei "Coastline" und dem Titelstück. "The Good Life" ist typisch für den nichtlinearen Verlauf der Stücke, die einen fast collagenhaften Charakter zeigen wie hier, oder sich vegetativ verzweigen und verästeln. Tänzerische und wuselige Passagen, speziell das immer lebhaftere "Fire, Fist and Bestial Wail", wechseln mit impressionistischen wie bei dem zart gegeigten Morgenschimmer, Geflimmer und Käfergekrabbel bei "Whispering Glades" und atemberaubend bei "Five Senses of Keen", wo nur ganz allmählich der Tag aufblüht, mit schrillem Amsel-Tixen in spitzen Pianonoten. Courvoisier skizziert auch den kantigen Saum von "Coastline", das im Dunst versinkt. Morgan erweist sich durchwegs als ein Pointillist mit grünem Daumen, die stöbernde, tröpfelige, klickende und knisternde Feinarbeit von Hemingway ist prickelnd und pochend allgegenwärtig. War der Auftakt "Messiaenesque" messiaenesk gewesen, schließt das Titelstück den Reigen mit romantischem Schmelz. Es gibt Schlimmeres unter den Hinterlassenschaften des 19. Jahrhunderts.
Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy Magazin 65, Deutschland, Winter 2009/2010


Two on Two: Courvoisier & Feldman Are Both Jazz and Life Partners
Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman have had a long and creative partnership, performing onstage together since 1995 and collaborating on that life project called marriage since 2000. It's an interesting balancing act that some creative couples are never able to reconcile, but these two couldn't see it any other way.
"It would be trickier if one of us was the district attorney or a gym teacher or something," Feldman points out. "Both of us like to work a lot and go out on the road. I think if we both weren't musicians it would be harder for the other one to understand. So we never have these issues."
The two have taken very different paths to get to this point. Courvoisier grew up in Switzerland, the daughter of a jazz pianist. She studied composition, piano and conducting at Conservatoire de Lausanne, and jazz at Conservatoire de Montreux. She was already established on the European avant-garde scene (playing with people like trumpeter Enrico Rava and guitarist Marc Ducret) when she met Feldman in 1995; nonetheless, her move to New York in 1996 was an important next step in her career. "At first it was a little scary to play in New York, but the scene is great because there are so many great musicians and it's really challenging and inspiring," she points out. "I've met a lot of people who push me to do better."
Feldman grew up, studied and worked in Chicago before landing in Nashville, where he played violin in a variety of styles including classical, pop, and country. Something of a late bloomer in regards to jazz, his first paying gig playing avant-garde jazz came at age 31. "I couldn't take it anymore," Feldman says of the change. "I was becoming so unhappy and it was just nagging at me. So when I was around 30 years old, it seemed like a good last moment, at least it seemed like the last moment at the time, where I could make a big change. So I sold my house in Tennessee, quit my job with Loretta Lynn and moved to Brooklyn in 1986."
Feldman still has occasional sideman gigs with guitarist John Abercrombie and he's performed as a soloist for orchestras nationally and internationally. Courvoisier can be found playing various groups or leading her own – one highlight is 2003's 'Abaton,' which features Feldman and cellist Erik Friedlander. Both with several albums to their credit, Courvoisier and Feldman are active in New York City's downtown jazz scene, often playing in the ensembles John Zorn organizes – Feldman is a regular in Zorn's Masada String Trio, and both he and Courvoisier perform as a duo for the entirety of 2006's 'Malphas: Book of Angels, Vol. 3,' which featured Zorn's compositions.
Most recently, the pair have returned with an excellent pair of albums: an album titled 'Oblivia' (their fourth as a duo) and a quartet album called 'To Fly to Steal,' which is a newer group that also includes bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerry Hemingway. When asked about the difference between the two recordings, Courvoisier answers with a dry sense of understatement: "There are two other people," she says with a laugh.
Though her free-flowing playing ranges from muscular to angular, Courvoisier tends to hang back when she speaks. Feldman, on the other hand, is downright chatty. Picking up the question where Courvoisier left it, he adds, "In the quartet setting, it's not a negative thing, but we lose control. In the duo setting, we have 100 percent control over every aspect of where the music is going to go.
"The duo tends to happen naturally, but in the quartet we tend to try and take up less space," he adds. "Sometimes in the quartet, Sylvie and I will run tactics between us and the others don't even know it and then they are forced to respond. We have ways of playing and little signals. All the subtleties we developed as a duo over so many years still exist in the quartet, even if the others aren't aware of a strategy we are using between the two of us."
Take the Courvoisier composition 'Messiaenesque,' for instance. It appears on both albums. The quartet version is twice as long as the duo version. Arriving with a crash, it's messier, with the drums anchoring the tune to a polyrhythmic foundation. The duo version, on the other hand, floats in the air as shards of the piano melody slash and the violin soars over the top in counterpoint. The two compleiment each other's playing while at the same time finding different nuances as they move through the tune.
With improvised music, collaborations, by necessity, take on a conversational tone as players act and react. No doubt Courvoisier and Feldman's music is an extension of the two musicians' lives and their life together, but it almost didn't happen that way. Even though the two had began to play together, Courvoisier had a (some would say sensible) no-dating-musicians policy when they met, but Feldman wooed her with his sense of humor. "I said, 'You call me a musician? This s--- I'm doing?' And that kind of won her over. They aren't used to self-depreciating humor, being European."
Tad Hendrickson,, USA, Feb 18th 2010


Arild R. Andersen, Aftenposten, Norway, 22. februar 2010


Kreativt par
Sylvie Courvoisier og Mark Feldman praktiserer en spesiell form for husfred – de spiller sammen også.

Den sveitsiske pianisten Sylvie Courvoisier flytta til New York på slutten av 90-tallet. I New York fant hun raskt et spennende eksperimentelt miljø med hang til frijazz i diverse former. Ikke nok med det: Hun fant – eller hvem som fant hvem vet jeg forresten ikke – raskt sin tilkommende i det miljøet, den fremragende fiolinisten Mark Feldman.
Det er ikke bare på hjemmebane de samarbeider godt. Både i bandet Lonelyville og i denne kvartetten med trommeslageren Gerry Hemingway og bassisten Thomas Morgan, er det tydelig at empatien og forståelsen er av det meget gode slaget.
Alle fire er hver for seg sentrale musikanter på den internasjonale scena når det gjelder moderne improvisert musikk. Her har de samla seg rundt et repertoar skrevet av enten de to lederne eller skapt kollektivt. Innspillinga, som er gjort på én dag i fjor sommer, byr på et solid spekter med vakre melodiske utgangspunkt til det helt frie. Det som særpreger all musikken er de fires evne til å gi hverandre rom til «å utforske» det de enn måtte ønske. Både kollektivt og hver for seg tar de oss med på personlige og sterke ekskursjoner som til stadighet overrasker.
Sylvie Courvoisier – Mark Feldman Quartet viser oss modenhet og en kreativ virtuositet som bringer kvartetten svært langt opp på lista over band fra Sambandsstatene som man bør låne øre til.
Tor Hammerø,, Norway, 02.03.2010


Partners in both music and in life, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman share the marquee on their latest collaboration. Drummer Gerry Hemingway and bassist Thomas Morgan aren’t just along for the ride and receptive to a deep rapport, the four create music of superlative communication and cohesion. Their configuration invites immediate chamber associations and much of the interplay leans closer to classical than jazz in general cast, but extemporaneous expression remains an integral element with starched-collar propriety left at the door. The co-leaders contribute two compositions apiece and the remaining three tracks unfold as collective improvisations. As is common credo with Intakt, the fidelity of the recording is dazzlingly clear with everything audible down to the most minute gesture and inflection.
Courvoisier’s “Messiaenesque” finds Feldman in full-bloom virtuosic form, his bow play a blur of pitch-perfect swoops and glissandi complemented by the pianist’s close commentary. The name-checked composer comes to life in the violinist’s sweeping baroque scribbles that arc and angle against a tumbling pulse of bass and drums. Courvoisier and Morgan converse in minimalist increments on conclusion of “Whispering Glades” as Feldman and Hemingway bear silent witness. On Feldman’s “The Good Life”, Hemingway and Morgan converge on a wobbly snippet of jazz swing later annexing much of the piece for extended improvised dialogues punctuated by fleeting theme statements by violin and piano.
Feldman’s “Five Senses of Keen” if full of space and quiet. Courvoisier strums delicately at the interior her instrument, generating a delicate zither-like cascade at the edge of audibility. Hemingway again sits silent for much of the duration, adding muted accents on shakers and light-touch sticks in a canny less-is-more fashion. The collectively improvised “Fire, Fist and Bestial Wall” unfolds as an impish dance between the participants that becomes feverish in its final minutes but falters in an oddly reticent finish, one of the rare moments where the players don’t sound in accord. Courvoisier’s closing title piece takes wing on a dark-tinged Old World theme, winding down in a tinkling denouement of pattering sticks and keys. Fearlessly willing to explore practically every permutation of its instrumentation, Feldman and Courvoisier have found a vehicle with Hemingway and Morgan brimming with further possibility.
Derek Taylor,, USA, February 24, 2010


Violinist Mark Feldman and his wife, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier eloquently morph restraint, depth and a contemporary classical touch into the progressive-jazz idiom on this 2010 release. Respectively, the musicians are ceaselessly engaged within the new music style of jazz and improvisation, having recorded for several record labels, spanning several years. No doubt, the duo's venerable artistic propensities unravel in resplendent fashion on To Fly To Steal.
The quartet manifests a self-identity during these emotively imbued works, designed with asymmetrical pulses, and brisk unison lines to contrast improvisation-based call and response frameworks. It's an undulating program, kindled by Feldman's climactically executed staccato phrasings and synergistic interplay with Courvoisier. Coupled with emphatic tension-and-release statements, the band abides by a democratic outlook.
Drummer extraordinaire Gerry Hemingway is an accelerator via his loose groove, polyrhythmic rolls, snare hits and cymbal swashes while attaining a prolific partnership with up and coming bassist, Thomas Morgan. During these buoyant and multidirectional pieces, the quartet seamlessly combines austere structure and sprawling improv segments. They flourish as a unit capable of untangling an abundance of mood-evoking notions amid variable levels of intensity.
Feldman and Courvoisier profess their superior techniques with minimalistic and sometimes, playful exchanges. And they venture into ethereal vistas on "Fire, Fist And Bestial Wall," where Courvoisier gently plucks the piano strings to elicit a rhythmic hue, complementing Feldman's sonorous passages. Here and elsewhere, the band delves into abstract impressionism while injecting chamber influences within angular noise-shaping jaunts. In a sense, they seem to be realigning the cosmos by generating the requisite amalgamations of power, eloquence and boundless ingenuity.
Glenn Astarita,, USA, March 23, 2010


Si hay un violinista imprescindible en el jazz y la música improvisada durante las últimas décadas, ese es Mark Feldman. Por su parte, Sylvie Courvoisier es una pianista sumamente interesante, cuya carrera es posible que no llame demasiado la atención del gran público, a pesar de haber grabado a su nombre en sellos como Tzadik, Intakt o ECM. Ambos músicos están felizmente casados, y desde hace unos años es un hecho más que frecuente el escucharlos juntos tanto en conciertos como en grabaciones.
To Fly to Steal es un gran paso hacia adelante en su carrera y sirve para presentar su nuevo cuarteto que completan el batería Gerry Hemingway y el contrabajista Thomas Morgan. Publicado en el sello suizo Intakt, sus siete piezas ofrecen un abanico de composiciones muy variado, en las que aparecen influencias que van de la música clásica contemporánea ("Messianesque"), al be-bop y la improvisación libre (ambas en "The Good Life"), e incluso hasta recogen unos ciertos aires folklóricos ("Fire, Fist and Bestial Wail"). Estos elementos son etiquetas que simplemente intentan situar de algún modo la música allí contenida, ya que la grandeza de este trabajo va más allá de todas ellas. Ésta consiste en que los músicos tienen el arte para dejar unos amplios espacios en los que tanto la música como sus compañeros respiran y pueden expresarse con total libertad.
Feldman y Courvoisier son quienes aparecen en primera línea. Este hecho aparece acentuado por la propia naturaleza del sonido del contrabajo, y también porque aunque Gerry Hemingway no para en un sólo instante, trabaja a lo largo de la grabación con unos parches que presentan un sonido amortiguado. Sin embargo tanto Hemingway como Thomas Morgan resultan imprescindibles. Son el cemento que permite que las improvisaciones de los cuatro músicos mantengan su coherencia dentro de la estructura de los temas. Estos no podrían presentar una mayor variedad en cuanto a su autoría. Courvoisier y Feldman firman dos cada uno, mientras que los tres restantes son improvisaciones del cuarteto. Una agrupación en la que a pesar de que los cuatro músicos están inmensos, sobresale especialmente el violinista Mark Feldman. Sin embargo, no voy a dejar de citar las deliciosas cascadas de notas con las que Courvoisier acostumbra a acompañar a su compañero en el final de sus improvisaciones. Pero volviendo al trabajo del violinista, técnicamente su sonido presenta una nitidez increíble, incluso en los pasajes más rápidos. Más allá de la pura ejecución, se mueve con una soltura increíble en situaciones de lo más diverso. De esa manera, lo mismo es capaz de construir un solo lleno de swing con una lógica aplastante en "The Good Life" (quizás el momento cumbre del disco y posiblemente uno de los mejores solos de Feldman), moverse por terrenos cercanos a la clásica contemporánea, o componer instantáneamente unas melodías de una belleza desarmante.
Pachi Tapiz,, Spain, 22 de marzo de 2010


Het hechte topduo van pianiste Sylvie Courvoisier en violist Mark Feldman staat bekend voor vonken spattende herformuleringen uit het klassieke en andere idiomen op hoog niveau en binnen een avontuurlijke eigen lijn. Als zij met een oude impro-crack als drummer Gerry Hemingway en een opkomende youngster als Thomas Morgan een verbond aangaan, kunnen we iets van muzikaal belang verwachten. Door het viertal worden in eerste instantie niet lijnen dóór de ruimte getrokken. Eerder treffen lijnen uit de ruimte (op) elkaar. Bewegend langs een denkbeeldige route, af en toe uitgelicht met terugkerende leitmotieven. Morgan is een bassist die zijn tonen op ongewone manier plaatst en daardoor allerlei tussenruimten laat ontstaan. Mooi is zijn rapport met Feldman en de afstemming tussen hoge en lage snaren (zij kennen elkaar uit de groep van John Abercrombie). De groep verdicht in drie stukken hun collectieve improvisatie en laat in vier stukken composities van Feldman en Courvoisier improvisatorisch opstijgen. Buitengewoon fraai gebeurt dit in Feldman’s Five Senses of Keen. Op de rand van zwart en stilte ontvouwen zich ruimte, licht en klanken, doemen geesten uit de diepte op en verschijnen lichtstrepen aan de horizon. Een iriserend violistisch meesterstuk. Je treedt geen uitgewoonde, geen knusse en geen gestroomlijnde ruimte binnen maar een mysterieuze voortdurend verwondering brengende ruimte waar de klok anders slaat.
Henning Bolte, JAZZmagazine, Nederlande, Spring 2010


En cada relación la persona debe dejar espacio alrededor de sí mismo y de la otra persona. Debe haber un vacío entre dos (John Cage)
La improvisación siempre requiere un cabal entendimiento entre los músicos involucrados en ella que va mÁs allá de lo superficial, ya que el ejercicio de improvisar constituye una negociación artística y social que implica tolerancia y habilidad para adoptar decisiones dentro de un contexto colectivo.
La improvisación es un encadenamiento de acuerdos en los que el músico se obliga a intimar y colaborar con otros sin perder identidad para crear ese “espacio vacío entre dos” del que hablaba John Cage.
Concepto que no siempre está internalizado entre los músicos; de hecho, consulté sobre el particular a un par de músicos amigos (más amigos que músicos) y me dijeron que “el vacío entre dos” les encantaba sobre todo si era al horno y con papas.
Lo cierto es que el concepto enarbolado por Cage es la medula conceptual de To Fly to Steal, álbum debut del Sylvie Courvoisier / Mark Feldman Quartet.
Este ensamble colectivo expresa una nueva encarnación de la consolidada sociedad musical que integran el violinista Mark Feldman y la pianista Sylvie Courvoisier, a la que en esta ocasión se añaden el experimentado baterista e improvisador Gerry Hemingway y el joven y promisorio contrabajista Thomas Morgan (integrante del Tyshawn Sorey Trio y el Samuel Blaser Quartet, entre otros).
La música es el arte de la personificación, de la escenificación de las emociones, de la manifestación del ser. En la vida tenemos una tendencia a olvidar el espacio que hay entre las cosas, a negar el vacío latente que conecta nuestras vivencias y a creer que podemos pasar instantáneamente de un pensamiento al próximo, casi como si fuese posible la presencia de El Ser sin la coexistencia de La Nada.
La música no sólo representa de manera alegórica ese precepto debido a que resulta innegable la existencia de un vacío o una nada entre los sonidos que hace no solamente que no se obstruyan entre sí, sino que también actúa como una sutil metáfora de la convivencia y el ejercicio de la colaboración entre las personas.
El dilema básico de la colaboración ya sea en la libre improvisación, en la música en general o en la vida misma, es lograr intimar con otros sin perder identidad; mientras que la convivencia es la forma en que nos relacionamos con los demás. Sin embargo, el hecho de que exista una relación no involucra forzosamente que esa relación sea de convivencia o que acaezca colaboración, ya que así como hay personas con las que convivimos también hay personas con las que coexistimos. En definitiva, no es la coexistencia lo que define la convivencia sino la calidad implícita en esas relaciones.
Las dificultades que afronta el desarrollo colectivo o la convivencia en grupos humanos requiere de una fina indagación de procesos íntimos, cognitivos y emocionales cuya elaboración requiere del conocimiento, la identificación y la posterior liberación de los modelos arquetípicos que regulan la relación entre la tendencia natural a la colaboración y la ayuda mutua y la competitividad, odio, conflicto e intolerancia derivados de la codicia de poder y el control de los comportamientos humanos. Sopesados esos contrastes emanados de la convivencia, debemos pasar a construir los propios escenarios que propician el bienestar individual y también el de aquellos con los que coexistimos para así crear una entidad que, en su conjunto, supere a la suma de las partes. El ejercicio de la libertad en la convivencia es un bien supremo ya que nos permite ser libres, aunque algunos aseguran que somos libres para darle órdenes a los otros y le otorga a los otros la libertad de cumplir esas órdenes sin excusas. En cualquier caso, lo único que debemos cuidar es no quedar del lado de “los otros”.
Es cierto que a veces la sociedad nos provee mensajes contradictorios. Por ejemplo, tiempo atrás me anoté en un cursillo de verano sobre Desarrollo de la Libertad en las Relaciones de Convivencia pero no pude participar porque el director del curso, haciendo uso del derecho de admisión y permanencia, me prohibió el ingreso. Tras un fuerte reclamo en defensa de (¡oh, coincidencia!) “la libertad en las relaciones de convivencia” fui derivado por la fuerza a un curso sobre técnicas de ayuno. No era lo más apropiado para adquirir conocimientos sobre convivencia pero al menos el arancel del curso de ayuno incluía las comidas (que dicho sea de paso eran bastante abundantes). Esa frustrante experiencia no impidió que arribara a dos conclusiones irrebatibles: la primera es que hay que desconfiar de los cursillos de verano y la segunda es que el aprendizaje de técnicas de ayuno, engorda.
De regreso a To Fly to Steal corresponde decir que el álbum da inicio con la exquisita composición de Courvoisier titulada Messianesque. Una estructura de extrema complejidad rítmica fundada en el uso de simetrías de tiempo y un basamento melódico y armónico en modos de transposición limitada, permite exponer de manera incontrastable la técnica espléndida y cristalina del violín de Feldman, la enorme dinámica del tándem que integran la batería de Hemingway y el contrabajo de Morgan y la nítida pulsación y variedad de recursos de Courvoisier que asombra tanto por la fuerza física en las manos como por el virtuosismo de su vocabulario pianístico. En definitiva, el título de la pieza parece hacer honor a los tres criterios con los que según Olivier Messiaen se debe medir una composición musical: tener capacidad de llegar al oyente, resultar hermosa a la escucha y lucir acertada para ser interesante.
La abstracta quietud de Whispering Glades nos propone un análisis encubierto de las transformaciones contemporáneas de la idea de música, manifestado tanto en su vertiente experimental que emana de su condición inarmónica como en el cruce de disciplinas y discursos en los que se nutre su alegato estético. El cuarteto aquí, en lugar de seguir a un líder, parece responder a un llamado colectivo, mantiene un orden horizontal sin protagonismos excluyentes y consigue ofrecer una homogénea síntesis sonora dentro de un contexto de influencias y estilos heterogéneos.
En la pieza de Feldman, The Good Life, hallamos un fraseo melódico de notable transparencia tímbrica que recurre a la escala tónica completa alternado con cíclicos silencios y vagas sonoridades signadas por la indeterminación entre disonancia y consonancia. El equilibrado juego de contrastes propicia una falsa reexposición del motivo original en donde la línea melódica deja de ser la esencia para otorgar preeminencia a los acordes, logrando construir un plano sonoro en el que conviven el jazz, la libre improvisación y la música clásica contemporánea. Todo esto coronado por un efervescente solo de violín a cargo de Feldman, las ascéticas intervenciones del contrabajo de Morgan, la inagotable variedad de recursos percusivos de Hemingway y una desbordante intervención de Courvoisier plena de temperamento y colores.
La pausada construcción inicial de Five Senses of Keen antagoniza el formato sonata con destellos de improvisación orgánica más próximo a la interacción colectiva que en sentido aleatorio. Al promediar la pieza el violín de Feldman ornamenta con gusto sin caer en el puro efectismo y propulsa un atrevido clímax que, si bien se asocia al dramatismo de la música clásica, también deja amplios espacios a la improvisación. Luego toma la posta el piano de Courvoisier con una intervención vibrante e imaginativa, no exenta de ciertas brusquedades, para finalmente desvanecerse en una coda volátil y etérea que termina adjudicándole un sentido circular a la composición.
En Fire, Fist and Bestial Wail, desde de un azaroso pasaje preparatorio en el que interaccionan el violín, el contrabajo y la batería, germina un elaborado crescendo rubricado por el ingreso del piano. Luego, una intensa mutación dinámica impulsa un remate explosivo signado por una base a contratiempo y un feroz, y por momentos abrumador, dominio contrapuntístico. Coastlines es una composición temática colectiva en donde la percusión, el piano y el contrabajo crean el espacio para que se deslice con comodidad un solo de Feldman de innegable predicamento jazzístico.
El cierre se produce con la abrasiva profundidad de To Fly to Steal, tema de Courvoisier que da título al álbum. El dibujo armónico ingresa en un proceso de sofisticación estética que evidencia similitudes con las pretensiones de las artes plásticas ya que la música, al liberarse del dominio tonal, adquiere equivalencias con la liberación del cromatismo y la perspectiva en la pintura. La elaborada estructura liderada por el piano se desvanece finalmente en una delicada cadenza en violín.
La improvisación es siempre una experiencia sonora indeterminada, por lo tanto rehúye a definiciones exactas. El Sylvie Courvoisier / Mark Feldman Quartet revisa esos conceptos con la idea de establecer criterios que faciliten la convivencia entre las reglas de interacción improvisadora y el pleno ejercicio de la composición espontánea.
Y lo logran, no sólo por cualidades y virtudes sino también por trabajo y elaboración.
Las improvisaciones son mejores cuando se las prepara (William Shakespeare)
Calificación: Dame Dos
Sergio Piccirilli,, 20/3/2010


Frau Courvoisier, die Dynamische, hat sich für dieses Projekt wieder mit dem fantastischen Geiger Mark Feldman zusammengetan (nach der feinen Zusammenarbeit in der Quintett-Veröffentlichung 'Lonelyville‘ – Intakt 120). Unterstützt wird das Duo von Thomas Morgan (nicht der Zoologe und Genetiker) an der Bassgeige und Gerry Hemingway (den braucht man nicht extra vorzustellen) an den Fellen. Eine wunderbare Besetzung, um einen informellen Tonacker zu bearbeiten. Da können alle vom Blatt spielen, improvisieren, sind in der Lage, auf die Mitspieler zu hören: Musikerherz, was willst du mehr? Modern Music oder neuer Jazz oder Improvisationsmusik, ganz egal, wie man die Sache nennt (was sich eben gerade so ein ganz klein wenig in den Vordergrund drängt), es ist ein hochkonzentriertes Elaborat, wie ein geschliffener Bergkristall glitzernd (je nach Lichteinfall). Das Quartett ist eine kompakte Einheit, einander Raum verschaffend, einander respektierend und, um es in der Sprache der Fußballer zu sagen, sich halt nicht zu schade für den Assist zu sein (zu hören im Eröffnungsstück 'Messiaenesque‘ oder auch bei 'Five Senses Of Keen‘, wie da Mark Feldman in 'Schussposition‘ gebracht wird, will sagen, wie er zu seinem Violinsolo herangeführt wird: großartig!). Oder, wie es Rudolf Taschner einmal in einem anderen Zusammenhang so treffend formuliert hat: Ein konzises Heranführen an scheinbare Wahrheiten.
Ernst Mitter, freiStil #30, Österreich, April / Mai 2010


Philippe Carles, Jazz Magazine / Jazzman, France, Avril 2010


Reiner Kobe, Jazzpodium, Deutschland, April 2010


The husband-and-wife team of violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier are in the process of developing an unusual musical practice, an exploration of improvisation in which the musical language – materials and method – develop directly from the high modernism of Bartok, Prokofiev and Webern as practiced in the early decades of the 20th century. That might seem like a natural approach for a violinist and a pianist as technically accomplished as they are, but it’s daunting territory, an approach as distant from the raw vigor of free jazz as the randomized sound of much free improvisation, yet somehow further still from the through-composed works that this music superficially resembles.
Oblivia is a duo recording, with five compositions credited to Courvoisier, one to Feldman and five to both, presumably collective improvisations. Listening to it without following the program, one is repeatedly struck by unison passages that couldn’t be improvised even by players this gifted – the kind of unison lines that turn up, for instance, in Courvoisier’s “Messiaenesque.” But the riddle of improvisation and composition that the two weave has far more dimensions than this. Courvoisier’s “Bassorah” has the dramatic stillness of the most profound elegy, the piano punctuating and echoing and somehow enfolding and unfolding the violin lines in acts of empathy that suggest spontaneous crafting throughout. It ends with a sustained high note from the violin with micro-inflections of bow-grit and pitch, a sound so mournfully sustained that it is literally created by Feldman whether it refers somehow to a score or not. The playfully pointillist improvised piece that immediately succeeds it, “Yis a Yis,” has passages of upwardly scurrying chromatics from both piano and violin that are almost unison, if not quite, and there’s the suggestion throughout that processes of composition and improvisation have somehow blurred together. Now that’s a process that’s afoot in many areas of improvised music, but Feldman and Courvoisier practice a special kind of precision of detail. Another improvisation, “Fontanelle,” mixes piano interior and alternately bowed, plucked and scraped violin spinning off into high harmonics. It has the random dialogue more typical of improvised music, but even here the discipline of the other collaborations comes through—its ideas are brightly articulated and delivered with a concision that speaks of an intense economy.
Part of the specific emotional and formal character of this music must be traced to Feldman’s violin playing. It’s genuinely virtuosic, and though one will very occasionally hear a trace of bird calls that suggest a Chinese erhu or some idiomatic American fiddling (channelled through Aaron Copland), his sound is an acutely refined instrument, every touch of the bow, every whistling harmonic, every shift in vibrato, the gesture of a controlled technique. Piano sound is less variable, but Courvoisier, as well, is a master of the honed detail. The collaboration introduces an emotional range to improvised music that reaches back to the acute tensions and harmonic complexities of Bartok’s violin sonatas (though Feldman’s own “Purveyors” seems to reference the melody of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”). The music doesn’t usually invoke serialism, but rather a pan-chromaticism that makes for extraordinarily intense micro-gestures within broader tension curves. Courvoisier is acutely attuned to the possibilities of this language. A piece like her “Dunes” creates composed lines of tension between the piano and sudden violin declarations and then multiplies the tension with apparently improvised passages in which they seem to come both closer together in line and further apart. It’s a level of precision rarely approached in improvised music and it restores levels of formal relationship that can startle. These emotional states, unnameable yet profoundly resonant, are literally created in the spaces between the two instruments.
Turning to the Courvoisier-Feldman quartet, one begins to hear a kind of social contextualization as that special dialogue is extended into the group. Similar qualities were apparent in Courvoisier’s earlier project with Feldman in Lonelyville (Intakt CD 120), but that group seemed less focused on the Feldman-Courvoisier musical relationship with cellist Vincent Courtois a linear element close in prominence to Feldman, while Courvoisier’s role was closely intermingle with Ikue Mori’s electronics and Gerald Cleaver’s highly propulsive drumming. The quartet of To Fly to Steal is a more orthodox grouping, with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerry Hemingway literally replacing the silence that seemed to spotlight every gesture on Oblivia. In its place is a much looser group language, a warmer sonic environment that’s immediately apparent in the opening “Messiaenesque,” the only piece to appear on both CDs. Feldman contributes two composition to this disc, including a piece called “The Five Senses of Keen” that seems to create its own space, a warm tonal ground that resonates with pastoral countryside, invoking the special mood of American folkloric composers like Copland and Virgil Thomson. While Feldman’s violin flashes with much of the same brilliance and precision, it’s also freer here, alive to the denser fields of stimulus generated by the improvised language of the group. One of his most startling moments comes in a blistering solo on one of the collective improvisations, “Fire, Fist and Bestial Wail.” While Feldman’s tone will make him the center of attention almost anytime he is playing, there are some wonderful trio moments here as well. The dialogue between Courvoisier, Morgan and Hemingway in the improvised “Whispering Glades” suggests how the group is shaped by the history of jazz, an element largely unapparent on the duets of Oblivia. A similar moment occurs in the way Courvoisier comps on Feldman’s “The Good Life,” dismantling the composed figures to create tremendous rhythmic energy. As stunning as Oblivia is, the quartet music To Fly To Steal may be larger in its meanings, its dialogues and its very frame of reference.
Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure ( Issue 28), 6 April 2010


Eine unumstößliche Tatsache dialektischer Kontradiktion: Je genauer man etwas kennt, desto vorhersehbarer ist oft das Ergebnis. Ergo sollte in kreativen Kontexten das Prozesshafte und das sich selbst und das Publikum Überraschende eine gewichtige, wenn nicht die dominierende Rolle überhaupt einnehmen. Die aus Lausanne stammende und in New York lebende Pianistin Courvoisier, hochinspirierte wie messerscharf bewusste Grenzgängerin auf der Schneide von neuer Komposition und freier Improvisation, ist mit ihrem Lebensgefährten, dem Violinisten Mark Feldmann, auch musikalisch zutiefst verbunden. Dass man sich gleichzeitig Raum lässt und lässig Grenzen setzt kann und dabei noch zwei wunderbare weitere Freigänger, nämlich den großartigen Drummer Gerry Hemingway und den genialen Bassisten Thomas Morgan, für die Weltenwanderungen hinzuholen kann, zeugt von der unverhohlenen und sich selbst regenerierenden Kraft dieses dynamischen Gruppenprozesses. Die Linernotes von John Corbett tragen zum Verständnis dieser Prozesse einiges Erhellendes bei. Wie sich diesen grandios unsentimentalen, aber zutiefst gefühlvoll-visionären und einmal mehr kammermusikalisch anmutenden Schweifungen anschmiegen, wenn nicht ohne Poesie? Ausbrüche wie elektrisch kurzgeschlossene Klapperschlangen, Retardierungen wie zuckende Zündfunkenregen ... und alles doch bisweilen in einer oszillierenden Ruhe zitternd, die synästhetische Erfahrungen transzendent und transparent machen kann.
by HONKER, made my day, TERZ 04.10, Deutschland, 31.03.2010


Alfred Krondraf, Concerto, Österreich, April/Mai 2010


Between the membership of this quartet (Mark Feldman, Sylvie Courvoisier, Thomas Morgan, and Gerry Hemingway) embodies the twenty-first century improvising musician. All four members have recorded before and in a variety of situations of wide diversity. They bring all of the experience this implies to a program that stakes out its own territory, and from start to end, has set out a potent collective manifesto.
Drummer Gerry Hemingway has worked with Anthony Braxton's quartet in the past and it's clear that the experience has rubbed off. On pianist Courvoisier's "Messiaenesque" he's a master of sound and what it can imply. This perhaps wouldn't count for much if he wasn't keeping such empathetic musical company, whilst there's no reason to doubt that this is a group that thinks with one mind and plays accordingly.
Mark Feldman's "Five Senses of Keen" is another case in point, with the violinist working more in the contemporary music vein than that of the improvising musician as such. The division is of course marginal, some might even say arbitrary, but in the case of music so much a product of nuance as opposed to more overt gestures the distinction serves a purpose of its own, as does Feldman's innate romanticism as the piece progresses. Over the course of twelve minutes the mood—in a sense entirely at odds with the notion of mood music—runs from the lyrical to the ruminative and co-leader Courvoisier proves herself not to stand within Cecil Taylor's looming shadow. She regards the keyboard as a summation of extremes, her touch on the lowest and highest keys making for an effective summarizing.
"Fire, Fist and Bestial Wail" doesn't live up to the title, but in a good way. This is a group that knows all about subtle contrapuntal interplay and Courvoisier again proceeds by stealth, but shadowed by Morgan's bass in a stand-off in which bluster has no part but progress by stealth and feint does. Hemingway answers the call to arms in a flurry of deconstructed time and in summary the proceedings are an antithesis of slick, technically flawless but ultimately lifeless piano trio music.
The title track's brooding, apprehensive quality is thus atypical, the result of rare collective effort. The music's essentially fraught progress is undermined by all kinds of tangents as added by all four musicians. In light of this, it would hardly be surprising if the center didn't hold, but it does, resulting in a tribute to the group's deep listening abilities.
Nic Jones,, USA, May 3, 2010


Interview avec Sylvie Courrvoisier, Benjamin Ilschner, La Liberté, Suisse, 24 Avril 2010 (as PDF-File)


Gene Santoro, Chamber Music America Magazine, may/june 2010 (PDF-File)

An.Te, Musica Jazz, Italia, Maggio 2010


Guillaume Belhomme, Les Inrockuptibles, France, 12 mai 2010


Christoph Wagner, Jazzthetik, Deutschland, Mai/Juni 2010


John Ephland, Downbeat, USA, July 2010


En ouvrant grandes nos oreilles et en évitant le petit jeu des comparaisons (inutiles ?), on pourrait presque se dire qu’Oblivia (Tzadik / Orkhêstra) est l’exact opposé de To Fly to Steal. Duo pour l’un, quartet pour l’autre. Continuum résolu pour l’un, cassures franches et nettes pour l’autre. Ici, le jazz s’y retrouve parfois (The Good Life), s’entête et crépite en des chaos millimétrés (Fire, Fist & Bestial Wail). Ici, le violon serait presque soliste et le piano presque d’accompagnement. Presque car tout est bien plus compliqué et alléchant que cela.
Alléchantes sont ces collisions de timbres, cette liberté de croiser les fluides et d’assouvir des combinaisons inouïes. Alléchantes, cette batterie (Gerry Hemingway) et cette contrebasse, accouchant de lignes aux rebonds vifs et tranchants (on m’excusera, ici, d’épingler la trop grande discrétion et le jeu de peu d’ampleur de Thomas Morgan). Oui, un disque alléchant et sans la moindre froideur. Et à nouveau, je signe et persiste.
Luc Bouquet, Le son du grisli, France, May 2010


The composer Olivier Messiaen might seem an odd vista from which to triangulate upon the spousal and musical partnership of violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, but at least from the vantage of their recent releases it's a point suggested by the artists themselves. Courvoisier's piece "Messiaenesque," assumedly titled for the 20th Century French composer, is the one piece repeated on both the duo disc Oblivia and their quartet record To Fly to Steal, where they're joined by Thomas Morgan (bass) and Gerry Hemingway (drums).
Messiaen is no doubt best known for having composed "Quatuor pour la fin du temps" while being held in a concentration camp during World War II, but he was also a preeminent composer of sacred music during his time and gained much inspiration from listening to bird songs. It's perhaps the birds that are most heard in Courvoisier's dedication and in much of the music that she and Feldman make together. There is, throughout Oblivia a sort of persistent lightness, the firm insistence of a small creature—not weak by any stretch, but still delicate. The pizzicato and piano keys make small flurries; bowed violin against the occasionally strummed and muted piano strings make for unusually graceful passages. Both players are extraordinarily sensitive in going toward and away from their instruments' orthodox voices. With her background in European avant-garde composition and improvisation, Courvoisier tends to bring more abstraction to the picture, whereas Feldman—with his long history as an interpreter and session player—is more the melodicist. But what's important is how well they intuit meeting grounds across the 11 pieces here. With only one track breaking ten minutes and half of them at three or under, there is at once the feeling of pastiche and, at the same time, a coherent and beautiful whole.
That lovely balance becomes all the more precarious when arranged in four points instead of two. To Fly to Steal, recorded in July 2009—just two months prior to Oblivia—finds the pair with a rhythm section no less subtle and sensitive. The session includes two compositions each from Courvoisier and Feldman, as well as three group improvisations and at times has an unexpectedly jazzy feel, especially in the bright, tuneful outbursts couched in Feldman's pieces. The group improvisations unsurprisingly exhibit pullings from different directions, but even then with a wizened ease, abetted by the fact that there aren't horns to focus the listener's attention.
What's perhaps nicest about both discs, seen in light of Courvoisier and Feldman's individual catalogues, is the fact that they both seem fresh. Maybe not in a way that can easily be pinned down but one that is still rewarding—and which speaks strongly for two players who seem exhilarated by new discovery.
Kurt Gottschalk,, USA, June 12, 2010


Hans-Jürgen von Osterhausen, Jazzzeitung, Deutschland, Juni/Juli/August 2010


Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise, USA/Canada, Summer 2010


Henning Bolte, JAZZmagazine, Nederlands, Summer 2010


Christoph Wagner, Schwarzwälder Bote, Deutschland, 29. April 2010


"Mark Feldman: Taking an Eclectic Path", Interview by Sean Patrick Fitzells,, June 17, 2010


Jonathan Schreiner, Jüdische Illustrierte, Deutschland, Sommer 2010





Pianist and composer Sylvie Courvoisier is one of those rare musicians who can bridge any perceivable gaps between open improvisation and contemporary classical music. Though the audiences for both seem to overlap, the academy hasn’t taken much notice (still), and to a point that’s perfectly fine. Courvoisier’s music (and that of regular musical partner, violinist-improviser Mark Feldman, also her husband) dovetails with post-serial composition while retaining a sense of structural organization that hits upon both freedom and arch rigor. To Fly to Steal adds the rhythm section of drummer Gerry Hemingway and bassist Thomas Morgan to the Courvoisier-Feldman duo, and among its seven pieces are three group improvisations as well as two each by the co-leaders. There’s a telling sign in Courvoisier’s opening “Messiaenesque,” its orchestral crash buoyed by a frantically eliding piano-violin line, group improvisation hinging on pizzicato snaps and collective clang. Feldman’s “The Good Life” merges an Eastern European rondo form with a swinging tempo section and a pointillist pulse, combining Bartok with Braxton. As precise as Feldman’s choices of “classicism” might be, leading to a staggering level of technicality, there’s an underlying slink and warmth to certain lines that recalls Leroy Jenkins. Courvoisier follows with a merging of insistent upward trills, clunky post-bop interpretations and a few classic Cecil-like rhythm-clusters. Rather than being an aesthetic entwining, Courvoisier and Feldman complement one another along a path of poised, dynamic execution and the genuine motion of immediacy. Romance and glacial events intersect in “Five Senses of Keen,” delicate strum and micro-prettiness supported by cymbal tap and woody pluck in a pensive disappearing act, peppered with odd-interval spikes. Ultimately, this is an excellent set of music and, for those who appreciate clear lines of organization in their abstraction, a most accessible entry into the worlds of these Downtown improvising composers.
Clifford Allen, Ni Kantu Blog, USA, August 25, 2010


Pour qui vient de l'univers des musiques progressives, les noms de Sylvie Courvoisier (piano) et Mark Feldman (violon) sont irrémédiablement associés à l'univers de John Zorn et à la scène d'avant-garde new-yorkaise gravitant autour du stakhanoviste à lunettes. Pourtant, cette nouvelle formation qui réunit à leurs côtés le batteur Gerry Hemingway et le contrebassiste Thomas Morgan permet aux deux complices de longue date de prouver – en ont-ils encore besoin ? – leur capacité à proposer un univers musical fascinant et personnel.
Ce nouveau quartet frappe avant tout par la qualité de jeu des deux musiciens et l'entente incroyable qui les lie, au service d'un spectre musical considérablement élargi dans le style comme dans les timbres par rapport à leurs travaux précédents, comme l'excellent Malphas, troisième volume de la série des Book of Angels de Zorn. La technique de Mark Feldman est impressionnante, mais son propos, reconnaissable entre mille, la dépasse largement, et le violoniste n'hésite jamais à se mettre en danger lorsque cela peut servir la musique.
En contrepoint, Sylvie Courvoisier alterne un jeu très mélodique sur lequel planent les ombres bienveillantes de Claude Debussy ou d'Olivier Messiaen (auquel elle rend d'ailleurs hommage dans une composition opportunément baptisée « Messiaenesque »), et une approche plus viscérale, n'hésitant pas à remuer les entrailles de son instrument, en spécialiste du piano préparé qu'elle est également, notamment sur le projet Mephista qu'elle partage avec Ikue Mori et Susie Ibarra.
Tous deux viennent se poser sur le tapis ondoyant et subtil que tissent leurs deux comparses. Gerry Hemingway, tout en impressionnisme, balais, mailloches, mains et archet, semble soigneusement éviter de marquer un temps, et plus encore une carrure, et assure un véritable rôle mélodique, jouant notamment sur l'élasticité des peaux, tandis que Thomas Morgan surprend. Derrière son apparence juvénile et souvent gauche, son toucher faussement hésitant et fragile tombe juste et vient porter doucement une musique à peine amplifiée, respectant l'équilibre naturel des instruments et laissant – enfin – toute leur place aux nuances, dans un ensemble d'une grande finesse.
Car c'est bien ce qui frappe en premier lieu dans cette musique : tout y est doux, subtil et intimiste. Bien souvent les quatre musiciens ne font plus qu'un tant leurs sons se mêlent, tant le piano de Sylvie Courvoisier semble tous les envelopper de sa présence chaleureuse et rassurante. Le violon et le piano, dans un échange permanent, ne cessent de se chercher, de virevolter l'un autour de l'autre, sans hésiter à se pousser mutuellement jusque dans leurs retranchements, avant de concéder un recul en forme de nouvelle ouverture. Ainsi, la musique avance, mouvante, et l'auditeur voyage, ému.
Fanny Layani,, France, 20.12.2010


Si può essere troppo bravi? Sotto le spoglie di una domanda all'apparenza sciocca si nasconde un'annosa questione. Il virtuosismo come zavorra: da risorsa a limite, da mezzo a fine. Chitarristi che sfrecciano alla velocità della luce senza avere uno straccio di idea. Tastieristi da competizione per musica da circo. Non c'è peggior razza degli inutili virtuosi.
Che c'entra Mark Feldman con la stirpe dei logorroici? Purtroppo c'entra, eccome. È già da qualche anno che i conti non tornano con il violinista di Chicago. Le funamboliche doti del nostro, tecnicamente parlando uno dei musicisti più incredibili in circolazione, stanno prendendo il sopravvento, stanno fagocitando l'arte e l'artista. Intendiamoci: il processo è in fieri; Feldman non è ancora passato al lato oscuro. Ma sulla strada che porta all'onanismo del virtuoso siamo già a buon punto.
To Fly to Steal, uscito su Intakt, ne è l'ennesima conferma. Alla testa di un quartetto completato dall'ineffabile compagna, la pianista Sylvie Courvoisier, dal batterista Gerry Hemingway [mai meno che strepitoso] e dal contrabbassista Thomas Morgan, Feldman ribadisce i troppi limiti della propria visione. Non che manchino i momenti degni di nota in un disco tutt'altro che disprezzabile; e però è innegabile che la musica funzioni soprattutto quando riesce a circoscrivere il cannibalismo autoritario del violino e del violinista.
Come nell'iniziale "Messiaenesque," nella quale a prevalere sono le strutture, che imbrigliano la tendenza all'eccesso in un gioco riuscitissimo di incastri. Oppure in "The Good Life," composta dal violinista con mano ispirata e basata sull'alternanza giocosa fra un tema sbarazzino, squarci di pura astrazione e improvvise impennate ritmiche. Funziona anche "Fire, Fist and Bestial Wail," soprattutto quando il violino tace e il trio Courvoisier-Morgan-Hemingway regala lampi di assoluta classe, caracollando con leggerezza e fantasia.
Altrove, purtroppo, gli steccati non reggono. Estremamente stucchevoli, ad esempio, i dodici e passa minuti di "Five Senses of Keen": gli acuti cristallini, l'intonazione insopportabilmente impeccabile, i passaggi sovraccarichi di pathos, le estenuanti acrobazie. È come se a ogni nuovo concerto, a ogni nuovo disco, Feldman si sentisse in dovere di ricordarci tutto ciò di cui è capace [molto, moltissimo, forse troppo]. Manca l'aria anche in "To Fly, to Steal," rarefatta e seriosa, riscattata solo in parte da alcuni momenti preziosi cesellati dal pianoforte.
«Don't play everything (or every time); let some things go by». Il celebre consiglio di Monk al giovane Lacy è sempre valido. Valutazione: 2.5 stelle
Luca Canini,, Italy, 20-05-2011


Marek Romanski, Jazzforum, Poland, 12/2010



Guido Festinese, Il giornale della musica, Italia, Ott 2010




Chris Searle, Morning Star, March 28, 2017


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