At times, the territory of Free Music seems to be well staked out and explored. Names and concepts sound familiar, there are hardly any white spots on the map.
Some musicians try to escape the stagnation by continuously presenting a variety of doomy projects, which, in the end, demonstrate rather than conceal the lack of ideas. Others, on the other hand, believe in being able to produce some exciting developments by continuously working on classic material.
And, finally, there is this bunch of dare-devils, who is still aware of the quest for "Improvisation" and who still dare to follow the way of tedious research away from the secure, well trodden paths
Michel Doneda, Paul Rogers and Lê Quan Ninh definitely belong in the latter category.
Lê Quan Ninh, the amazing percussionist from Toulouse, found his way from the "Neue Musik" to Improvisation in the middle of the eighties and, at some point, appeared on the FMP festivals.
There I experienced in amazement how he, having been trained in the works of Varese, Nono and Kagel, showed that an improvising drummer can get beyond the soundscapes created by masters like Han Bennink or Paul Lovens.
Lê Quan Ninh uses traditionel asian elements - gongs, wood blocks, antique drums - as well as western material - cymbals, metal, bits of junk.
The immense authority of his playing, as well as a seemingly unending creativity, have made him long since one of the most sought after percussionists on the scene.
Lê Quan Ninh has been working with Michel Doneda since the middle of the eighties.
Doneda, who comes from Toulouse, is considered one of the important co-inventors of the so-called "folklore imaginaire". This term has become rather indistinct and conceals the fact, that Doneda is actually a Jazz musician. His records include compositions of Albert Ayler and Lee Konitz and on a sampler on the "nato"-label, dedicated to the music of Sidney Bechet, he gets involved in a breath-taking duel with Elvin Jones.
Michel Doneda, as well, has long since developed his own language, he has discovered his own space. Comparisons with the demi-gods of the soprano saxophone - Coltrane, Lacy, Parker, Coxhill - are superfluous. Doneda belongs to this lineage.
Paul Rogers may be a new name to some people. One of the reasons might be, that this unsung hero of the bass had disappeared more or less for 10 years. There was a point when Rogers, enervated and unnerved, had pulled out of the frustrating, badly paid music circus in order to find peace and quiet on a farm, somewhere in France.
It was Doneda, who disturbed the rural idyll, in order to get Rogers into his band.
This way a group developed which, in April 1994, during the "Workshop Freie Musik" was still called "SOC", but has, in the meantime, decided on the collective name "Doneda, Rogers, Lê Quan".
The two Berlin concerts of the trio turned out to be an euphoric experience; the creativity and the musical power seemed boundless on those evenings (hardly anybody noticed the fact that Paul Rogers' bass-pickup was not working properly on the first gig, so powerful was his sound)
"Doneda, Rogers, Lê Quan" is not a project. You won't find any standards on this CD. This is a band that is improvising and, in so doing, shows that white spots still exist in the territory of Free Music, which have yet to be discovered and exlored.
Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton