“A man’s sound is his total personality.” - Duke Ellington
Sound is everything. Not only are you dealing with acoustic properties, waves that resonate in a space, but a musician’s sound also tells a life’s story and grants a peek into a personal psychology. It’s all there, the coming to terms with an instrument, the experiences, struggles, setbacks, qualities and discoveries. The past and the present. A fine improviser holds their own in a dialogue with one or more inspired colleagues. An exceptional improviser can create an entire self-contained universe. Masters like Evan Parker, Steve Lacy, Keith Tippett, Joe McPhee and Carlos “Zingaro” (the latter two having appeared on Cipsela), to mention just a few, raised the bar for solo performances with an artistic flair that’s so much more than technical mastery.
Over the past few years, Valentin Ceccaldi has become one of the most inventive and fascinating cello players of the European scene. Whether it’s refined chamber music, clockwork-tight interaction or inflammable hardcore improvisation, Ceccaldi is a true free spirit, in touch with creative resources and an imagination that are at least as important as his considerable chops. I was once present during a soundcheck of Chamber 4, the French-Portuguese quartet he is a member of, and remember the moment when he started setting up and immediately turned heads. His sound filled the entire room in an instant. It had nothing to do with volume, but with the way he let that instrument speak and sing.
Don’t expect traditional virtuosity on Ossos (the title referring to a dish with a lot of bones in it). This is not that kind of record, even though his playing is obviously accomplished. As the titles of the three individual pieces already suggest (they are French for an anvil, a hammer and a stirrup), Ceccaldi is often dealing with raw material. You don’t get the dazzling speed and complexity, even though it has its moments of flash, but a descent into a highly personal world, in which long (over-)tones are allowed to breathe and stick around for a while before they dissolve. It’s as much about touching as it is about thinking, with the material at hand providing a gateway into drone-like ritualism or intricately layered storytelling.
The simplicity - or better still ‘purity’ - of Ceccaldi’s playing betrays a depth you can immerse yourself in. Just like Ellington could instantly hear what each musician’s capacities were and subsequently wrote to that, a master musician offers (a glimpse of) their essence with even a small gesture, a moment of clarity. That’s what you hear on Ossos. A lifetime condensed into mesmerising sounds of maximum expressiveness.
Guy Peters, Geraardsbergen, 13 June 2020
TOURDATES AND AVAILS
02.11.23 DE-Berlin - Jazzfestival
20.04.24 BE-Ghent - Handelsbeurs /Bonbon Flamme
26.04.24 DE-Dortmund - Domicil / Bonbon Flamme
27.04.24 DE-Cologne - King Georg / Bonbon Flamme
06.06.24 DE-Berlin - Jazz d'Or / Bonbon Flamme