|With his faithful accomplices, and on the heals of his Chansons de Douve (AM054CD), Pierre Cartier presents, a double cd, «Dis, Blaise…» chanson du Transsibérien, who he sings from start to finish the very epic and very famous poem by Blaise Cendrars.
A composer, doublebass player and singer, Pierre Cartier is involved in many different musics: gregorian chant and medieval music, baroque musique on period instruments, symphonic and contemporary musics, jazz (notably Thelonious Monk) and improvised new musics.
All of these practices merge into his music upon the fortunate meeting of poetry and song. Following the majestuous ceremonial of Chansons de Douve,with poems by Yves Bonnefoy, Cartier now borrows the passionnate voice of Blaise Cendrars for his new project.
“I was not yet acquainted with the works of Blaise Cendrars when, flipping one day through the pages of an anthology of French poetry, I first fell upon the Prose du Transsibérien. I think I must have been deeply moved by this style of writing that resembled nothing I had encountered before, and which actually seemed quite alien to me then (I was working on poems by Yves Bonnefoy at the time); and yet, it touched me to the extent that I immediately felt the urge to sing this text. I also knew nothing of the almost mythical character—the traveller and adventurer—Cendrars had become, nor even of the man himself, whose voice resounded within me, pure and true. Vision, desire, violence, gentleness: this poem simply spoke the essence of suffering. […]” —Pierre Cartier
by François Couture
in All-Music Guide (USA), August 1, 2002
It takes so long for Pierre Cartier to complete a project, but it is so much worth the wait. After a song cycle on poems by Yves Bonnefoy, he surpassed himself with Dis, Blaise… Chanson du Transsibérien. This work is a setting of Blaise Cendrars’ 1913 poem Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite jehanne de France (“The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France”). Written in a very advanced form of free verse, it depicts the journey by train of a teenager from Moscow to Siberia. Dark and desperate, the poem seems to have foretold the first World War and the impact it would have on a whole European generation. Cartier, a bassist trained in plainchant, wrote Gregorian-like melodies and avant-garde jazz arrangements to accompany the words. The tension between medieval melodies and avant-garde music is held beautifully. The clash between eras and styles (classical, jazz, rock) produces something very different from Third Stream’s easy answers. Cartier is accompanied by alumni from the Ambiances Magnétiques stables: saxophonist Jean Derome, viola player Jean René, guitarist Bernard Falaise, trombonist Tom Walsh, and drummer Pierre Tanguay. The irregularity of Cendrars’ metric forces a few strange twists in the vocal parts, but in general Dis, Blaise… pleases the ear despite the audacious arrangements and occasional free jazz outbreaks. There are a few overlong passages near the end, but otherwise the work is uplifting and very touching at times. Highlights include the voice, double bass and viola trio in Mon berceau and the heart-breaking Dis, Blaise…, where desperation becomes palpable as the delicate melody is overturned by a growing jazz-rock vamp (like a locomotive approaching dangerously). French-deaf listeners are strongly encouraged to locate a translation of Cendrars’ poem (easy to find) to fully experience this marvelous album, Cartier’s most ambitious to this day.