Michel Portal

Splendid Yzlment

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Recorded in 1971, Splendid Yzlment is quite representative of its time. It is clearly the product of a unique era (the late '60s), when American musicians were converging toward Paris, which had temporarily become a haven for free jazz players -- both Howard Johnson and Barre Phillips make significant contributions to this session. Michel Portal definitely absorbed their influence, but in the process he did not forget his roots and his other musical interests. In fact, the end result shows what a fine job he did at incorporating them into a stew that remains one of the most successful attempts to bring together European and American sensibilities. The title track is a dirge that quickly evolves into a rambunctious tango featuring Portal on bandoneon, and "Aquellos del Otro Lado" is rooted in the folk music of the Basque country, the leader's birthplace. The music is bluntly uncompromising and features large segments of unbridled soloing and tumultuous ensemble playing. Its rebellious nature is inevitably a sign of the times, but it also induces a sense of hope that gives the music its uplifting power; Portal's music has seldom sounded so joyous. The CD reissue brings back to the catalog what arguably serves as the best introduction to Portal's work.