Pierre Courbois - Independence

Cybernetic drum jams from a Dutch free jazz legend

by DJML
  • Label: Timeless Records
  • Catalog Number: SJP 188
  • Year: 2019

Pierre Courbois is a venerable elder statesman of the European free jazz circuit, with a massive list of credits as both a drummer and bandleader that stretches back to the birth of the scene in the mid-1960s. Early sessions include dates with Gunter Hampel, Lol Coxhill, and Mal Waldron, and Pierre continues to keep it weird, recording albums with Peter Brotzmann and fellow Dutchman William Breuker as recently as 2010. 

Independence, recorded on Courbois' home turf in 1983, is an anomalous entry in his catalog: a rare solo outing with a bizarre twist. The 10-track LP is an exploration of Pierre's substantial post-bop chops, augmented by an arsenal of homemade electronic gadgetry.

Independence LP back cover

While the early-80s release date and drummer-goes-electric spec might recall new-age space jams ala Michael Shrieve, Courbois' approach is decidely weirder. A few tracks are sparse, ECM-style improvisations for gongs and pitched percussion, but the majority are funky, rolling grooves run through unstable effects chains to riotous effect. As Pierre swings his way through upbeat trap riffage, he trips flangers, oscillators, envelope followers, and ring modulators with wild abandon, mutating punchy drum solos into lurching cybernetic monstrosities that would make Gordon Mumma proud. 

Recorded live with no overdubs, the whole set is bursting with raw, wild energy, sounding in the end like Ed Blackwell's Mu sessions run through Chrome's pedal board. Flip this on your next beat tape and let the heads watch. 

Editor's note: As with almost every great jazz-adjacent record I happen to stumble across in the Bay, this one came sporting the great seal of the legendary Rick Ballard Imports. Respect to the man, still doing his thing at Groove Yard 30+ years later. If you find yourself in Oakland, don't sleep! 

The gold standard: The Rick Ballard Imports sticker

Not a trace of this one in the digital world, so grip the LP for cheap on the 'cogs or grab the whole rip here


Tracklist

  1. 1. Double Flanging - 3:41
  2. 2. Noise from Schacht-Audorf - 4:23
  3. 3. It Might as Well Be - 1:27
  4. 4. Sample and Hold - 4:35
  5. 5. Independence Blues - 5:08
  6. 6. Pedal Song - 4:08
  7. 7. Balade for Big Brother Harry - 4:00
  8. 8. Going South - 1:07
  9. 9. Free Electric Hi-Hat March - 6:03
  10. 10. Thank You Mr. Roach - 4:03