Boomkat Product Review:
“Do your own music!” was Albert Ayler’s advice, received loud and clear in France! Cohelmec Ensemble, Workshop de Lyon and the Dharma Quintet, three groups close in spirit, which would each illustrate in their own way a local principle: to get some distance from American free jazz.
"As far as Dharma is concerned, the community-based approach was put in place to escape (they stated) from any academism (the musicians lived together, rehearsed endlessly together, and collectively purchased the necessary material together). This may draw comparisons with the l’A.A.C.M. with whom the group felt a certain affinity, but they were also influenced by Gong, in spite of a deep admiration for Anthony Braxton who they met in Paris at the beginning of the 1970s! The events of May 68 were fresh, and protest was still in the air: no leadership structure was possible, and personnel could change with each recording (on Archipel, a new drummer makes an appearance; however, there is no recorded trace of the group with Jean Querlier and François Méchali).
Like its predecessor End Starting, Archipel is a constructed album, mixing free rock and European free jazz in a series of collective explosions based on abrupt and contrasting improvisations. For much of the time, piano, guitar and saxophone intertwine over intense rhythms, with everything and anything being electrified. Retrospectively, such remarkable timbral combinations, evoking sometimes the freer passages of Cinemascope by Joachim Kühn with Toto Blanke, make the demise of Dharma in 1974, even more regrettable. Their modernity has nothing to envy of the later advances of Paul Bley with guitar (Pat Metheny, John Scofield), or of Om on Rautionaha (for the alliance of Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran), Patricio Villarroel’s electric piano adding a nonetheless surprisingly singular touch to Dharma, inherited of course from Chick Corea’s work with Miles Davis. This is without mentioning a kind of incisive violence when things speeded up, which was unique to the Dharma Quintet, or a sound as dense as that of On The Corner by Miles Davis, or Stark Reality, John Abercrombie’s group from around the same period. Who else could seem approximately close to the Dharma Quintet at the same time? Emergency, a quintet which had played and recorded in France, including, among others, Glenn Spearman on saxophone, Boulou Ferré on guitar and Takashi Kako on electric piano. Masabumi Kikuchi in Japan also deserves a mention.
Along with the Cohelmec Ensemble, the Workshop de Lyon, the Full Moon Ensemble, Perception, Armonicord or the Michel Portal Unit, the Dharma Quintet stand out as one of the most important examples of free jazz as it was played in France at the beginning of the 1970s."