In France, we were still searching for the ambassadors of a future rejuvenation of the audience when Daïda brought it home for us with La légende de Daïdarabotchi. In this promising first EP, the quintet led by Vincent Tortiller doesn’t get bogged down with manners.
When it comes to jazz, during recent years, the French have had their ears tuned to the other side of the Atlantic, then the other side of the English Channel, where there were strong signs of a renewal of the genre and its audience. Robert Glasper and Christian Scott had taken a new direction in marketing, and Kamasi Washington took it to the next level by becoming a (minor) star with the general public, appearing on pop festival billboards. Why wouldn’t young people like jazz? Here, the discussion—a heated debate among enthusiasts—turns to the quality of what’s out there. With the confirmation of solidly established success, the mainstream media got caught up in it, in particular, relaying the fervor generated by a young generation of London musicians (Shabaka Hutchings, Ezra Collective, Ruby Rushton, Binker & Moses, etc.) determined to bring jazz back to the dancefloor and restore the feverish excitement it once generated.
In France, we were still searching for the ambassadors of a future rejuvenation of the audience when Daïda brought it home for us with La légende de Daïdarabotchi. In this promising first EP, the quintet led by Vincent Tortiller, drummer and “son” of French vibraphonist Frank, doesn’t get bogged down with manners. It’s the same story onstage, where you’ll find that the musicians display a conquering attitude, rather than timidly looking down at their feet. Goodbye, jazz-ache. You can sense the drummer’s guilty pleasure by the grin he can barely contain when you bring up the subject. Tortiller’s pleasure curls up in the foam rubber of your earplugs. “I love a big sound, as epic as possible—I hope that’s heard in my music.” He then goes on to reveal the origins of his musical saga: “I went to see Miyazaki’s anime film Princess Mononoke. In Japanese mythology, Daidarabotchi is a forest spirit,” he explains. Behind Tortiller’s assumed penchant for grandiloquence, there’s a flash of healthy musical intelligence: a total absence of bigotry in his admiration for large-scale pop undertakings. As long as the music’s good.
Two main influences are systematically named—and so assumed—in the common belief regarding Daïda: Christian Scott and Radiohead. The first of these is in evidence from the very first notes of the trumpet, even before the esthetic of the EP confirms that the American trumpet player, more than just a simple inspiration, is something of a spiritual father.
“Christian Scott inspired me in the esthetic, in the mixture of genres and in the production. The goal of jazz is to appropriate a variety of worlds. And he actually manages to do that. He takes everything possible, makes it groove and makes it play! I discovered him five years ago and he totally changed my way of thinking. In this EP, for example, the track Murmurration was inspired by a bit I lifted from Corey Fonville, his drummer, on the 1st track of Stretch Music. From that album on, Christian Scott produced a lot, and that’s what I aim to do.” The second influence comes into play in the architecture. “Radiohead inspires me in the composition style, in the trances, in the twists and turns, and in the vocal line, which is very melodious.”
Prevailing over all that is a natural tendency to gravitate toward current sounds—even if the electric guitar, in some odd way, evokes the seventies. As a debut album, La légende de Daïdarabotchi foreshadows Tortiller’s ambition, as its orchestrater, to surround himself with a group of producers stemming from the fertile electro-acoustic ground that nourishes his universe. “I’d love to work with people who listen to this music…” (he mentions Christian Scott, Taylor McFerrin, Theo Croker, etc.) “…and form a real working relationship with a sound engineer. I thought about Guillaume Perret for this first EP, but in the end, he was too busy. And I want to work with production guys like Monomix, who did it with Loubaski for French hip hop artists like Nekfeu, Jazzybazz, Myth Syzer, etc. That would make a lot of sense for the production.” Very attentive to sound, Tortiller already demonstrates the ability to think like a leader, steering the musicians of Daïda toward a precise register, worked out upstream via mock-ups in Ableton music sequencing software. “I give the musicians in the group some shit about the register of the sound, which anchors everything, but outside of that, they’re free to bring their own voice.”
His will has created a group sound, a collective energy that departs from the classic jazz formula of sequences of solos in favor of ensemble playing at all times, like Tortiller’s omnipresent rumbling in the background, which is highlighted by the absence of solos. “Themes that come from solos that have nothing to do with anything annoy me. It’s like the chart becomes nothing but an excuse to play solos. I like that, but it still annoys me and it’s not what I want to do. I want people to hear these solos more as the melodies of the piece.” This consistent disc with its well-defined imagery bodes well for a major ascent, and with reason: its creator possesses an ideal combination of taste, intuition and ambition.
Daïda, La Légende de Daïdarabotchi (Label MCO / Believe)
- 18th September, Les Trois Baudets, Paris, France