Could the missing link between Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler be the Michel Portal of 1970? After having worked alongside François Tusques defending a free jazz “made in France”, we find him here, heading up an international quintet of which each member is on fire: John Surman, Barre Phillips, Stu Martin and Jean-Pierre Drouet. The quintet had full leeway to break out the free-form in long ambient tracks to compose this Alors!!! which leaves listeners with just one word to say: More!
Do we still need to present Michel Portal?... Clarinetist destined for the classical and contemporary world after his passage in the Paris Conservatory, he decided to try his hand at jazz, with an incendiary flamboyance! After his first experience with André Hodeir and Pierre Michelot, he would break all the codes with François Tusques (Free Jazz, in 1965) before starting the emblematic Michel Portal Unit. It is the Portal of those years that Alors!!! offers us the chance to listen to again.
“There are periods of insolence”, the musician declared and the year 1970 was one all on its own. Heading up an impetuous international troupe, a quintet consisting of John Surman (saxophones, bass clarinet), Barre Phillips (double-bass), Stu Martin (drums) and Jean-Pierre Drouet (percussion), Portal moves from alto sax to clarinet in the compositions shared with his partners.
From the off, the group sparks an explosion with the sound of “OO Bam Ba Deep” battered by the horns and percussion. Next up is the fabulous free jazz of “Yes, Oh Yes, You Wonderous Sun Kissed Maiden!” and the fantastic disjointed march of “Ça Boom?” which shakes up the musicians every which way. The quintet imagined that listeners would need to catch their breath, and thoughtfully added: “Billie the Kid” and “Undercurrent”, marvelous moments of ambient mystery.
Audacious from beginning to end, including the sleeve – the bird-man and his quintet brain designed by Avoine, –, the album is a fabulous object, to which the label Futura gave wings at the time. And as it is being reissued today there is just one word to use: the French translation of the title, So!!!