The founding of Delbecq 4 traces back to November 2003, a few years after New York pianist Ethan Iverson had introduced Benoît Delbecq’s work to saxophonist Mark Turner. Turner joined the Delbecq Unit – a quintet which also featured Oene Van Geel, Mark Helias and Emile Biayenda – for its premiere at the 2003 Strasbourg Jazz d’Or Festival. The ensemble recorded Phonetics for the Vancouver-based label Songlines. This release affirmed Delbecq’s prowess as a leader and garnered such wide-ranging acclaim as the Choc de l'Année 2004 Jazz'man and a sprawling piece by celebrated New York Times critic Ben Rattlif.
In 2008, the young in-demand bassist John Hébert – New Yorker by way of Louisiana, and a fan of Delbecq's work – proposed the formation of a new trio with Delbecq and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Both artists had worked together as the final rhythm section for legendary pianist Andrew Hill. The John Hébert trio released acclaimed albums Spiritual Lover (2010) and Floodstage (2014) for Cleanfeed Records, touring across France and the United States.
The Delbecq 4 unites Turner and Delbecq, spotlighting a musical relationship marked by a compelling empathy that blossomed within Hébert’s trio. In 2016, the quartet premiered at Cornelia Street Café in New York City’s West Village, later recording Spots on Stripes (Cleanfeed, 2019) at Trading8s studio in New Jersey. The release received peer acknowledgment and international praise.
Delbecq 4 toured France, Switzerland and Belgium in spring as well as fall of 2019. Following their concert at the Philharmonie de Paris at Jazz à la Villette Festival, the collaborators recorded Gentle Ghosts in a single day at MidiLive studio near Paris; director Igor Juget captured the session on film. As he always does for his own projects, Delbecq served as composer for the entire recording which includes two of his older tunes, one of which he wrote for Turner in 2002.
A delicate use of electronics refines Delbecq’s search for new musical vibrations. Sitting at the piano with a midi foot pedal on the ground, Delbecq uses a real-time recording program of each instrumentalist’s microphone – sometimes of the entire quartet mix – a process he calls “post-radiophonic.” Consequently, the musicians as well as the listener dive into the revisiting of micro-musical miniatures after having heard them a brief moment earlier. Such ear attitude creates a mutation feel, as these miniatures are re-injected into the quartet's playing and overall sound, a playful process that crafts new states of music. This signature approach serves and expands Delbecq’s role of real-time “remixer,” one he established on Plug and Pray with Jozef Dumoulin and Ambitronix with Steve Argüelles, who previously assumed the same role on Delbecq’s albums Pursuit (Songlines, 2000) and Poolplayers (Songlines, 2007) with Arve Henriksen.
Delbecq has received support throughout his long-term, evolving sonic arcs from such crucial musicians as Mal Waldron, Steve Lacy, Paul Bley, Steve Coleman, György Ligeti or Pascal Dusapin, as well as from venues and festivals that are particularly championing of his sound and approach, such as Jazz d’Or Strasbourg, Europa Jazz Le Mans, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Wroclaw Jazztopad and the Sud des Alpes in Geneva, among other international performance hubs. The Parisian pianist continues to work diligently toward his original musical visions. He is as curious about architecture as he is about the properties of imaginary numbers; he loves Thelonious Monk as much as the music of the Aka pygmies, Paul Bley as much as Domenico Scarlatti, Ornette Coleman as much as Claude Monet. He is a free and active musician who has traveled the international jazz scene since the early 90s.
Over the past three decades, Delbecq has built a fuss-free career, for he is unaffected by fashions and seductive strategies, his career being fostered by a vibrant momenta and the transmission of a musical language. His inspiration emerges from critical thinking and persistent research, and his expression praises collective, inventive forms and sounds in movement served by the exceptional voices of his fellow improvisers. All these elements invite his listeners into a kind of rhythmic and melodic mirage-like music – Gentle Ghosts – a music that questions our own history, our own memory. The sound of Benoît Delbecq is one that quietly influences the jazz of tomorrow.
1. Anamorphoses 06:11
2. Chemin sur le Crest 06:15
3. Gentle Ghosts 05:43
4. Strange Loop 09:10
5. Stereo Fields 05:38
6. Le même jour 07:00
7. Havn 02:59
All compositions are by Benoît Delbecq (Sacem).
Recorded by Samuel Navel on September 3, 2019 at MidiLive, Villetaneuse, Paris.
Piano technician : Philippe Bailleul.
Mastered by Klaus Sheuermann at studio 4ohm, Berlin.
Produced and mixed by Benoit Delbecq.
Executive producer: Philippe Ochem for Jazzdor Series.
Photo: John Rogers
Graphic design: Helmo