Bertrand Denzler – tenor saxophone
Antonin Gerbal – percussion
Bertrand Denzler – tenor saxophone
Antonin Gerbal – percussion
Axel Dörner – trumpet
Both members of Zoor (trio with Jean-Sébastien Mariage) and Onceim (30-piece ensemble led by Frédéric Blondy), Bertrand Denzler and Antonin Gerbal started working together in 2011.
Since 2012, they play as a duo, sometimes with guests like Daichi Yoshikawa or Rhodri Davies, and since 2015 also as a trio with trumpet player Axel Dörner. The two projects are distinct but connected, the work as a duo influencing the trio and vice versa.
Festivals, Series and Venues (selection)
Eglise Saint-Merry (Paris), Moka (Poligny), WIM (Zurich), Insub (Geneva), Noise (Toulouse), Novo Lokal (Bordeaux), Pied Nu (Le Havre), Instants Chavirés (Montreuil), MaThilda (Berlin), WIM (Berne), Hessel (Orbe), Atelier Tampon (Paris), Muzzix (Lille), Umlaut Series (Paris), Fondation Suisse (Paris)
Together with Pierre-Antoine Badaroux, Bertrand Denzler and Antonin Gerbal also co-curate the netlabel Remote Resonator, the concert series Circuit Court Polonceau/Remote Resonator, as well as ephemeral ensembles for special projects (Ensemble ReRe, Horns+, etc.). They also sometimes play compositions by each other.
There’s generally less happening at once on Le Ring — one of the many new releases from Confront Recordings — than on albums I typically feature here, but between the various voicings of Axel Dörner on trumpet, the eerie counterpoint of Bertrand Denzler on saxophone, and the chthonic drumming of Antonin Gerbal, the album possesses an elemental appeal. Slow-moving processes collide — not so unlike the collisions I recently discussed on Give and Take, albeit at faster, conversational speeds in that case — and evoke a feeling of being outside of (human?) time, particularly as e.g. the beating of the drums slows down. In other words, there’s relatively little sense of melody or harmony, despite the rather straightforward linear approach of each musician, but the resulting interaction produces sensations of unstoppable force & change.
– Todd McComb, medieval.org
Sans filet ni soutien électronique ; là, à même le public : le ténor et la trompette déposent de longues notes dont les couleurs changent lorsqu’elles entrent en contact. A force de contorsions et de détournements, un ravinement fait son œuvre à l’intérieur des instruments à vent, dont Gerbal conduit les rigoles et, même, modifie les dessins. Décisives, ses interventions conseillent aux souffleurs le déplacement, voire la mutation. A force d’écoute, et puis de déductions et d’adaptations, les trois improvisateurs signent là une œuvre qui atteste l’entente de leur association, et même sa logique manifeste.
– Guillaume Belhomme, Le son du grisli
The Swiss tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler is among the subtlest musicians in improvised music, consistently producing work that is alive to the infinitesimal sonic event, locating and magnifying nuance in ways that expand our awareness of sound’s dynamic complexity while creating work of great emotional power, rooted in its attentiveness and fidelity to the smallest gradations of perception and meaning. A kind of minimalist, Denzler reduces his work to a purified sonic meaning, a set of relationships which are neither translatable nor transposable. Heretofore is a duet with drummer Antonin Gerbal, a reduction of their trio Zoor with guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage; it’s hard to imagine it much more reduced. If the combination of saxophone and drums suggests a plenum of sound – Coltrane’s great expositions with Elvin Jones or Rashied Ali, Jimmy Lyons’ lyric effusions with Andrew Cyrille – Denzler and Gerbal have a very different historical parallel: Face to Face, by the duo version of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble with Trevor Watts and John Stevens in which the two tried to mirror one another’s minimal musical gestures. Denzler and Gerbal’s music is similarly reduced to the gestural language of a late Beckett play or a Twombly painting, a fife and drum duo assembling to play the song of existence. Gerbal’s kit is reduced to a snare, a floor tom and a cymbal and his sounds include isolated metallic clicks. Denzler often uses long, stable tones, sometimes playing sharp blasts that rattle Gerbal’s snare for accompaniment. Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure
On the one thirty-four minute title track of Heretofore, studio-recorded in May 2014, Denzler and Gerbal are recognisably the players who collaborated in Zoor and, unsurprisingly given Denzler’s thirst for innovation, they create a new paradigm for saxophone-drums duos. As in the trio, Denzler avoids pyrotechnic displays, instead employing plenty of sustained notes which are held long enough to be savoured by the player, his playing partner and his listeners. Gerbal is just as restrained, providing a variety of support, commentary and coloration while keeping a steady pulse ticking over. Crucially, as in any successful duo, there is a balance between the two players, with the style of each being apparent but neither dominating the other or hogging the limelight. This is certainly a duo for the future, one to watch out for.
– John Eyles, Allaboutjazz
If you’re keeping track Denzler appears to be involved in smaller and smaller formations. A founding member of the Hubbub quintet, more recently he was part of the Zoor trio with Hubbub guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage and Gerbal, who is also part of the Peeping Tom quartet. Doing a sonic striptease down to fundamentals, like the equivalent actions from a dancer, can provide pleasurable exposure. That’s what Denzler and Gerbal do on Heretofore’s one, almost 34-minute, track. Perfectly attuned to each others’ strategies like dancers in a pas-de-deux, the two work through unique methods of expression. Expressing feathery yet abrasive altissimo timbres following his initial watery multiphonics, Denzler’s output is met by intermittent snare patterning which sounds like eggs frying on a skillet as well as constant rumble and pops.
By mid point the program hardens to become more rhythmic and rasping, with the saxophonist displaying torrents of tremolo tones. Eventually though Denzler’s timbres ripen like fruit brought to its seasonal height, as at the same time as these now distant reed puffs are enhanced with near-soundless percussion thuds. These final tom-tom-like and alphorn-like flutters confirm the originality of the program as well as its links to experimental Jazz.
– Ken Waxman, Jazzword