Michel Wintsch

Autour de Bartók

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The Michel Wintsch Sextet have been responsible for some formidable music over the years, much of it beginning in the classical European tradition and ending up someplace else, and that somewhere is different on each recording. Here, Wintsch in his crazy wisdom decides on Bela Bartok as his starting point for an investigation of Eastern European folk music, chamber jazz, and the unmaking of Western tonalism in classical music, and extending to jazz's tenet of improvisation the notion of the dance. This is also the second part of a trilogy that began with his expressionistic study of Ernest Hemingway's work and milieu. Utilizing two trombones, a violin, bass, drums, and his own piano and accordion, Wintsch -- like a Geroge Russell or Franz Koglmann or Mikie Westbrook -- remakes the traditions of all these musics in his own ear's image. Creating a series of dances, sonata fragments, and exercises for all the instruments to play at once, Wintsch reinvents the ideology of Bartok by employing it strictly: a command, as Ezra Pound too, would say, to "make it new." Here the Bulgarian folk traditions are tranced over with a funky electric base, droning accordion, and sweeping violins as the trombones create effective and haunting contrapuntal narratives inside the harmonic line, not necessarily to invert it, but to unmake it altogether. The jazz element in the sextet is driven by a barely contained rhythm section that extrapolates on dance rhythms and intervallic considerations, making Wintsch's deeply arpeggiatic melodies swing with off minor figures of pure transcendence and guttersnipe greasiness simultaneously. Never has Bartok been treated with such vulgarity, humor, and good taste. Bravo.

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