On the cover there is a gold sticker indicating this record won "grand prix audiovisuel de l'europe," and I agree it deserves the prize, whatever the heck it is.
In progressive circles Noco Music is famed for their "Evasions" album, which is not at all their best.
Briefly, the duo consists of Philippe Geiss and Emmanuel Sejourne which the liner notes indicate were both born in 1961 (making them only 22 in the recording of this). The notes continue to indicate the duo decided to undertake a reinterpretation of neglected classical pieces (obviously, from French composers) from the early 20th century, of which the only really recognizable is Debussy's pieces, which I slaved over myself as a teen piano conservatory student many years ago and have trouble listening to without some nausea for this very reason.
The only instruments employed are saxes (Geiss) and vibes and marimbas (Sejourne) with the help of Jean-Louis Harlequin on more vibes and marimbas. In fact I'm not sure why the assistance of another percussionist was required, since it's clear many of the pieces were dubbed, witness the sax chords Geiss plays in layers on the Aria piece. (He is the only musician playing on this track, amazingly.) There is no need for more instruments because the range and depth of emotion we get from these two fills all the gaps to give you a full and dynamic repertoire. Notice the exquisite use of the sopranino sax on the first track which sounds like an oboe, and the aforementioned sax chords on the "Aria" track. In other tracks Geiss uses a bass sax (who'ld have thought?) for the bottom notes for an incredibly dramatic, sustained effect.
It's no secret if you've been following this blog that I love european chamber music and the progressive spirit of 30 years ago that took that tradition and melded it with rock and jazz. That's exactly what this record is all about, taking compositions from a lifetime ago and using jazz instruments and new interpretations to create something unarguably and ineluctably gorgeous. I've listened to this record dozens of times since I got it and I know I will listen many times more. And stay tuned, soon to come: the last ST album from Noco Music for a completion of this band.
I understand that those who don't have a taste for pure classical will be disappointed with this: there is no drumset or guitar. But I know in the field of prog, there are those who prefer more composed elements (or RIO), some prefer more rock or electric guitar, some more jazz or fusion. We try here to keep every one of those groups happy with the utmost variety.
I honestly believe this record to be a genuine treasure that does not deserve to be buried and forgotten, in the uniqueness of its effort and the beauty of its result it should stand as a representative of the highest order of what human creativity and imagination can accomplish in beauty.
I've used as sample my favourite track, the Sonatine by Sauguet. On this track Geiss plays 5 different saxes, and both vibes players are featured performing together.