Julien Palomo om Abdelhaï Bennani

Julien Palomo om Abdelhaï Bennani

Publicerad: mån, 2015-08-31 12:53

Julien Palomo som driver franska skivbolaget Improvising Beings kände Bennani en lång tid och de har haft ett nära samarbete. Här ger han oss en bakgrund till Bennani, hans person, hans musik, tidsanda och skivbranschen. Texter är skriven 2014.

Av: Julien Palomo

About Bennani. Not that I know much about what happened before we met, the basics: he's 64, was born in Fès in Morocco, discovered Hendrix there in a period of civil unrest round 69-70 when it was all about Panarabism and the King of Morocco veered towards police dictature. Lots of kids had to go into exile especially when they sported Occidental values and music and art. That's what he wisely did and he ended up studying biology in France, which led him to work in hospitals (what position I don't know) all his life. Which explains that the man is a very caring and human person, always listening intently to others.

He took up sax in his thirties and the only interesting place to do it was Alan's IACP. His relationship with Alan [Silva] went further than regular students. He was kind of his assistant. Then Alan mistakenly moved to Germany with the FMP pseudo-wave, worked with AR Penck, got deeply stranded here, and it's Bennani who rescued him from this nightmare. It took lots of time to Alan to rebuild himself, and one of the reason he survived was his weekly rehearsal with Abdou for years and years. It's the part of the story that shouldn't be told, ever, of course, but "that's why".

In an old part of town Abdelhaï rented a flat/squat with a basement that became famous, "La Cave Abdou". Then, as now, there weren't many places to play the free outside Le Studio Des Islettes - good men but they had to make room for Murray, McPhee, all the black guys visiting, so the last chance to play was La Cave Abdou. God it was wonderful, the freedom in there. Mainstays were Abdou of course, and the bunch of exiled that were rejected by the french establishment: Itaru Oki, Alan, Camel Zekri, Makoto Sato...

I mean: virtually, from 1994 to 2006, when you went downtown to listen to free jazz in Paris, EVERY WEEK it was these guys. But they were not recording and not performing the silly tourist clubs in central Paris, so they were invisible. People like me gathered around them.

Abdou became fed up with this and in 1995 he took the first plane to NYC and looked for William Parker, his hero. And William brought him to the Vision, simple as that. While in NYC he went to the best studio he could find to record a solo album, "ENSOUNDED". Couldn't find a label, of course. Sunk without a trace.

Still, there was consideration for him in Paris and at the times the Sunside/Sunset reopened in the center, he did the opening with WP and Alan. That's the tape Jan has published recently. So all the guys of the establishment in Paris know who is the real deal in Paris, and now and then throw him a bone to keep some street cred. We got back to the Sunside in 2013 for the FFIE 2013 project and they recorded us at the best price on earth. Of course barely 40 people turned to the gig, and by the end of it we were 15. I guess our next gig is in 2026.

Adbou's building was tore down by promoters in 2000 or 2001 I don't remember. At the same time operations had moved to the infamous antic dealer/organic wine seller Marc Fèvre, who operated L'Atelier Tampon from 2002 to 2010. Of the 400 gigs he organized, 10% must have been Abdou, Oki, Alan, Sato - that's where "New Today, New Everyday" originated. They were
recorded by Benjamin Duboc who was also in his trio (they shifted regularly between the drummers, Edward Perraud and Didier Lasserre). This trio operated at the Seven Lezards (closed in 2008) and the Olympic Café (closed in 2008). It was almost a residency for them... I must have seen them 20 times. It was one of the first gig I organized back in 2004, so
you see!

Here you miss his first trio album that isn't listed on discogs: "ENTRELACS", Abdou, Alan (on bass!), Makoto. That's an important document for the Paris scene, what really happened during these years. (So is "New Today, New Everyday", that document typical nights at these places – so wild).


Abdou still has copies, you should ask him. He also has copies of "ENFANCES". Far as I know it's the only way to get copies!!!

You see: it was a close circle, and that was Paris' real free jazz. Not the artsy fartsy shit. I mean, the real, lowdown, dirty experiment where you drink and get mad, where you meet your buddies every week.

The Ayler trios were recorded at the tail end of this scene, it then slowly dissolved when Alan and Lasserre moved to the countryside, Duboc and Perraud became in demand. Still, Oki, Abdou, Sato reconvened at Bab Ilo (heavily featured on Jan's label), a nice joint run by morrocan guys, the Amara brothers, and new rejects entered the picture, Noah Rosen, Isao Yu (student of Sato), Chris Henderson (former Sun Ra drummer and expert in electronic percussion). We also invited my friend and Sensei Sabu Toyozumi for 2 crazy nights.

Anecdote: one of the last of Marc Fèvre's gigs was a double bill "FUNDAMENTALISTS" Bennani/Silva/perraud and SNUS. That evening, in true Stollman style, Stéphane Berland who had just bought Ayler went to the guys in SNUS and said "I'm starting a record company, would you like to record for me?" and I did the same with the Fundamentalists!

Abdou more or less keeps these units functionning, less often. Last I saw the trio was Bennani/Silva/Lasserre and then Bennani/Duboc/Henderson. He believes in tight groups that have played together forever, in collective, in shared experience. He hates the spotlight.

Why isn't he more famous? I told you the story of underground Paris, so now you may understand better - a moroccan - several moroccans - japanese - a crazy synth player, former free jazz godfather - more japanese - immigrants are the backbone of France, but don't get the recognition. (The ones in the bunch who succeeded, Edward and Duboc, of course, are the whites - I must say they remain so faithful to Abdou that they make me keep faith in human beings. If Abdou calls them, even if the gig COST them, they're here in the minute.) And if you don't get the recognition where you live, you have to focus on your basic needs, food, shelter, and cannot leave the country to make your music heard. You become a well-kept secret. And the good-will labels like me are so fucking powerless that all they can do is get a few copies here and there, unless people like Squidco or InstantJazz and the others tell them "who the fuck are these nonentities? It doesn't sell blahblahblah, we don't want their CDs, I got a Vandermak box set to sell". (True story.)

That's the long story, and I guess there are many, many a thing I don't know. But that gives you the circumstances that gave birth to the "Abdelhaï Bennani Trio" and why the blurry line-ups - it's a movement in itself.

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