Jacques Coursil

Jazz trumpet player, born 1938, Paris, France. He died June 25, 2020. Plombieres (Liege), Belgium. Coursil, a discogs Coursil, was born in Montmartre, Paris on 31 March 1938. He grew up in Paris’s suburbs. His parents came from Fort-de-France in Martinique, France. The musical environment of the family was made up of creole songs and biguine as well as clarinettist Alexandre Stellio’s music and the Gregorian chants from churches. Coursil’s mother sang, and literature was a central part of the family. His father, an ex-sailor, was a French Communist Party member and syndicalist. Coursil began playing the violin when he was nine years old. He then took up the cornet in his teens. Sidney Bechet of New Orleans and Albert Nicholas were among his early jazz influences. Don Byas, a saxophonist, left a lasting impression. Other early passions were contemporary classical music, such as Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg. Pierre Schaeffer’s experiments were also strong. In 1958, during decolonisation, Coursil left for Africa. Coursil travelled three years to Mauritania, Senegal and joined the entourage Leopold Sedar Senghor who was a negritude writer, and the first president of independent Senegal. Coursil returned to France and studied mathematics and literature. While attending the Montelimar conservatory, he worked as a teacher in Dieulefit, south France. Coursil sold his vast library and moved to New York, 1965, with no contacts, but with a good knowledge of jazz avant garde. The Dom, an East Village jazz club, offered him bartending work. Coursil stated that he had a firm intention to disassemble the entire apparatus of rhythm when he arrived at the free jazz scene. “I wanted also to ‘destroy the beat and harmony… I wanted to be atonal without any rhythmic framework. To get rid of melody, I wanted to stop playing scales. “I was clear on this.” Coursil joined Sunny Murray’s band as drummer, which led to his first recording session with Murray’s self-titled ESPDisk’ in January 1966. “Everybody plays legato now. I hate it. Coursil wrote in Actuel magazine 1968 that this is why I play in an articulate manner. A melodic line, or sonic sentence, must be organized rhythmically. It requires spirit, swing, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in a regular rhythm. A rhythmic and atonal phrase must contain some swing to avoid it appearing escaped from John Cage’s Zoo.” Coursil left Murray’s band to join Frank Wright’s first quintet with drummer Muhammad Ali, bassist Henry Grimes, and tenor saxophonist Frank Wright. Arthur Jones, alto saxophonist, was also a member of the group and their partnership would last several years. In May 1967, the unit recorded Your Prayer for ESP. Coursil studied piano with Jaki Byard, and composition with Noel DaCosta. He now focuses more on composition and recorded his own leader date with ESP, along with Marion Brown, a saxophonist. It has not been released. The Black Suite, a 40-minute serialist for orchestra and choir, was also written by him. He wrote that the work in Actuel might not be appreciated by the Pope, an old racist who had banned jazz and the music of black people from churches. Coursil lived a dual life. He taught French at the United Nations International School, and wrote for Actuel. New York’s 1960s associates included Rashied Ali and Alan Silva, Bill Dixon (Perry Robinson), Clarence ‘C Sharpe, Mark Whitecage. Burton Greene and Paul Bley. Coursil practiced briefly with The Sun Ra Arkestra. He visited France in 1969 with Arthur Jones and taped the first Actuel records. Coursil released two albums under his own name, Way Ahead and a realization of his Black Suite. He also played on Burton Greene’s Aquariana. Jones, Beb Guerin, and drummer Claude Delcloo were the core members of the sessions’ core group. Coursil’s group shared the American Center and Lucernaire Theatre stages with pianist Francois Tusques, Art Ensemble Of Chicago recently arrived and Anthony Braxton who plays on Black Suite. New York activity declined, leaving Coursil to pursue academic pursuits. The trumpeter, shortly before he left New York in 1975, added a new technique. “I met Jimmy Owens while walking along Park Avenue. I asked him if he could teach me circular breathing. As he was walking towards his house, he grabbed straws from the cafeteria to show me the trick. “And then I… stopped all the cliches that were being used… And then dropped all the ones I had invented… And it’s only been one note since then,” Coursil explained to All About Jazz New York in 2005. Coursil quit public performance and received two doctorates at the Universite de Caen, Northwestern France. He taught there for over 20 years. A 1977 linguistics dissertation was entitled Recherches linguistiques sur la parole (Linguistic Researches On Speech). A 1992 applied science dissertation was entitled Grammaire analytique du francais contemporain: Essai d’intelligence artificielle et de linguistique generale (Analytical Grammar Of Contemporary French: Essay In Artificial Intelligence And General Linguistics). Coursil was a teacher of literature and theoretical Linguistics. He worked in the Universite Des Antilles et De la Guyane, Cornell University in Ithaca and the University of California at Irvine after Caen. He published numerous papers and La fonction muette de langage: Essai de linguistique generale contemporaine in 2000 (The Silent Function Of Language: Essay in General Contemporary Linguistics) and Valeurs pures Le paradigme semiotique de Ferdinand de Saussure in 2015 (Pure Values, The Semiotic Paradigm Of Ferdinand De Saussure). Coursil released Minimal Brass in 2005 after more than 30 years without any records. However, it was not without performing, as he did so with Francois Tusques in 1982. John Zorn (saxophonist) initiated the project for his Tzadik label. The album was a solo album consisting of fanfares that were overdubbed using circular breathing. Clameurs followed in 2007 and 2010, respectively (both Universal Music France). The first recording was made in Martinique and featured pieces for trumpet and spoken words, drawing from the work of Frantz Fanon or Edouard Glissant. It was recorded against a background of synthesizer pads and percussion. The second was an extended piece that dealt with the devastating forced relocation of Native Americans in 1830s by the US government. This album featured a reunion of his former colleagues from free jazz. Coursil’s last album was FreeJazzArt Sessions for Bill Dixon. It was a duet recorded with Alan Silva and released by RogueArt in 2014. “This is my final free jazz record,” he stated. From www.thewire.co.uk

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