The head of the New York-based label Relative Pitch Records Kevin Reilly likes to introduce to the greater audience of free music female musicians from the other side of the Atlantic that are unjustly underrated. French sax player Alexandra Grimal is one of these gifted musicians. She leads her own bands, collaborated with double bass master Joëlle Léandre, was a member of the Orchestre National de Jazz under the leadership of guitarist-composer Olivier Benoit, composes for the Paris Mozart Orchestra, about to release a singer-songwriter album and is a professor at the Bern University of the Arts in Switzerland.
«refuge» is Grimal’s second solo soprano sax album. She explored her own personal improvised language in resonance with the unique acoustic qualities of the castle of Chambord (Château de Chambord), known for its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The album was recorded in the double revolution staircase in the 15th-century castle (that was never completed) for three days in September 2020.
Grimal offers eight, contemplative and intimate meditations on sound in time and space, that highlights her multifaceted musical personality. She sketches instant, gentle melodies and dances («salamandre», «Susumu» and «berceuse»), investigates pure sounds and the timbral characteristics of the soprano sax (the 16-minute of «château»), or employs extended yet refined breathing techniques. Silence – the quiet solitude of a lone player as well as actual silences – is a key element in these patient improvisations, as well as Grima’s focus on how short phrases of sound float, swirl and reverberate in the unique architecture of the castle.
Alexandra Grimal (ss)