Anyone remember Bloomdido Dad de Grass? I do. Otherwise cognomened 'Didier Malherbe', he was a stalwart of the acid-damage hippie anarchal band Gong and, according to legend, was located by original members Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth to be living in a cave in Dela, Majorca, after the founding pair fled the disintegration of the 1968 student rebellion in France. Gong holds a special place in progrockers' hearts despite the ensemble's highly uneven history and might best be described as the European version of a cosmic Incredible String Band (which had preceded Gong's incarnation by a year). Little was forbidden in the group, especially after guitarist Steve Hillage joined, as the ragtaggy hippies were engrossed in everything, especially if by 'everything' we mean drugs and art, but Malherbe's sax and flute work always were a mainstay of the ensemble's atypical sound (and, yo, please note that though the eternally errant Wikipedia names Malherbe several times as a Gong founder, that's not quite true: he joined the second incarnation; the first never recorded and so has been forgotten; the prog crit world doesn't house a whole lot of Diderots, in case ya hadn't noticed.
Now, many years and many sidetrips later, Didier joined together with fellow lovers of near-Eastern musics to create Hadouk, an instrumental quartet, formerly a trio, that's surprisingly original in its evocations of a meld of Sino-European musics featuring Malherbe's superb doudouk (duduk) playing in a captivating presence I hesitate to pigeonhole. The choice of axe may be one of love for its sound, but the instrument's history is as serendipitous as Gong's own. It's not Turkish, as many misunderstand, but actually the Armenian 'tsiranapogh'. For whatever reason, 'duduk' is a loanword adopted by Armenians themselves in the 1920s, and, to make matters even more confusing, there's also a Bulgarian 'Balkan duduk' (a blocked-end flute). Regardless, the timbre of the instrument is enchanting, and you heard it in The Last Temptation of Christ, The Last Airbender, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and many other movies.
On the down-lo, the doudouk takes on Chet Bakery scotch 'n soda wistfulness and, on the high end, is klezmeric in a sound as full as a saxophone's but richer, more lustrous. Malherbe does the axe proud, abetted by a trio of equally nimble sound artists with a loose, easy, familiar approach to things. Don't mistake that, though, as this is extremely authentic work in its own way, even though it has no single-point origins, and oft complex (take Danse Lutins as just one example). Loy Ehrlich plays hajouj, gumbass, and yayli tanbur while Eric Lohrer wields cavaquinho, guitar, lapsteel, and banjo. Both reel out engaging lines and melody harmonics and counterpoints while Jean-Luc di Fraya ceaselessly ensorcels the listener with what's more than once a torrent of flowing percussionistics…and even sings on a track in counter-tenorish melisma).
All songs here are original save for a lazy airy take on the classic Blueberry Hill and, to my mind, carry on the 'tradition' of such original work as was evidenced in Long Hello's debut (get used to that reference, FAME readers, as I intend to nail it in as a milestone), suffused with an intelligence and aesthetic approach that can't help but pull all elements a step or two further forward. In the largest sense, it's jazz but so immersed in multiple cultures that one rather quickly understands that 'jazz' is really just a chonocentric term abused by Westerners. Properly, it applies to the universal artistic norm of pure creation and existed long before the age of Western jazz genius (Miles, Monk, Kirk, etc.) in exactly the forms here charted: Balkan, gypsy, Carnatic, and other strains. To put it in the parlance of the French: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. We in the West only think we're cleverer than we are…and we should be much cleverer than that.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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