In Extremis – Liner note

 

In Extremis is a kind of milestone to help me remember what has been and what will be. Each song is a very personal emotion, a “me-motion” if you will!
I wanted it to be a reflection on the surreal collages I love so much. An overlaying of eclectic matters and materials, deeply rooted in my musical tradition: a blend of jazz, improvised, classical and popular music, but one that is resolutely turned toward the future I am creating.
It is a mille-feuille, to be savored first one way, then another, like walking a tightrope, always unbalanced, never quite where one believes oneself to be.


Waltz for debby / La noyée
La noyée is an unreleased song by French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.
Although I can’t prove it, I like to believe that Serge Gainsbourg was inspired to write the lyrics by the legend of L’Inconnue de la Seine, an unidentified young woman who committed suicide in the Seine River, her enigmatic, sardonic smile etched forever on her face with defiance, and “which someone copied in the morgue because it was beautiful, because it was still smiling, because its smile was so deceptive – as if it knew. » R. M. Rilke
There is a bittersweet atmosphere in that song, a luminous melancholy, which immediately reminded me of Bill Evans (one of my favorite pianists), especially his Waltz for Debby, as if one song was the echo of the other.


African Sketches after Afro Blue
Afro Blue is one of the songs I’ve been singing since the very start. It’s one of those songs that grows with you, just like the marks on the wall your mum used to measure you.
In the course of my artistic journey I met Emmanuel Delattre, a very talented storyteller, with whom I’ve been working on an adaptation of this story of two young lovers fusing with each other to the sound of drums in the hot African night: “Shades of delight, cocoa hue, rich as the night Afro Blue.”
I wanted to recreate this atmosphere of rites of passage, of stories handed down from generation to generation, the freedom of oral transmission, where nothing is fixed and everything shifts according to who is telling and who is listening.


O canto de Ossanha / L’eau à la bouche
I love Brazilian music; I love its way of singing the saddest stories into a ray of light. Saudade…
O canto de Ossanha deals with the Orixas myth inherited from African slaves. It’s a kind of incantation to bewitch one’s beloved: “Don’t be afraid of suffering. For love there is no cure. Don’t be tempted to die of it, for joy is still to come. Come, I can. Come, I want. Come, I know. Come, loving. Come, suffering. Come, crying.”
Before I knew what this song was about, I thought of L’eau à la bouche by Serge Gainsbourg each time I heard it. That’s funny because this song, which is one of the French standards, is also a prayer, a love potion “a-la-française”.
Two cultures, two beliefs, two rituals for a single purpose: heartache.


This is it
This is a composition by pianist Olivier Hutman for which I wrote the words.
I asked him for a funky tune with the bass line carried by voice and trombone, since there is no bassist in the band. In the end, guitarist Dano Haider played also bass on the tune… The song was first entitled You’ve set me up, and when Olivier gave me the final version of it, he had renamed the song: This is it
Logically this led me to talk about one of these love stories we have all experienced, in which the two lovers seem to be just made for each other, in which you give yourself entirely to the other until you realize that your so-called better-half is not who they pretended to be…


La Bahiana
I wanted a lighter, sweeter song in the album, to allow it to breathe. So I asked Dano Haider for a fresh and bubbling song to perfectly fit Emmanuel Dellatre’s sparkling, swinging words.
It’s a song with a taste of Brazil, a homage to his seven-string guitar, which is a very common instrument over there. A song for two guitars and a voice, since I wanted to invite our friend the guitarist Hugo Lippi with whom I recorded my first album as a duo: Live au 7 Lézards.


Fragile
I don’t know why, but I always thought that this song should be played in 7/4.
I find that 7/4 is THE time signature of unbalance and fragility, but its “lame-duck” effect, as compared with our common western time signatures, gives it a light, dancy feel.
I liked the idea of exploring this song through this twin approach: unbalance and lightness.


Ugly Beauty
Thelonious Monk is definitely one of my favorite jazz pianists.
I admire his creativity, his humor, and the depth in his music.
I wanted to celebrate both him and the jazz tradition by covering this unusual song (one of his rare waltzes, if not the only one), a paradoxical, questioning, biting song: Ugly Beauty.


Oblivion / Deux cœurs perdus
In the south of Ireland, there is a county called Kerry. It’s an open land of rich green grass swept by the deep dark sea. At the end of one foreland stands a fragment of wall, lonesome proof that a castle once stood there. I love to dream that in that place two young people loved each other with a forbidden love, and although they were condemned in death to wander separately for all eternity, they are able to meet once a year just for a night.
What convinced me to draw a parallel between my song and breathtaking Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, is the day I attended the performance in Berlin of a play dedicated to Piazzolla, in which they say that the reason his music is so ageless and so moving is that it treads a fine line between death and orgasm.


The Walk after Pie Jesu from Maurice Duruflé
Pie Jesu is the fifth part of the requiem, the moment of healing and the search for eternal rest, although composers do not systematically use it.
The first time I heard Maurice Duruflé’s Pie Jesu sung by Cecilia Bartoli and conducted by Myung-Whun Chung I heard a walk, a walk to a peaceful hereafter, the muffled drums of a funeral march.
I then asked Emmanuel Delattre and Colin O’Doherty to listen to the song and write a poem in their respective languages. Although they live miles apart and we hadn’t even discussed our feelings about the song, they each gave me a poem talking about a walk, a walk to forget, a walk to transform, to go somewhere else, to a peaceful place.