ORIOL ROCA TRIO & LYNN CASSIERS
Catalan drummer and composer Oriol Roca has been leading his own trio –Oriol Roca Trio– since 2017 with pianist Giovanni Di Domenico and double bassist Manolo Cabras, two important figures in the jazz and European improvisation scene with whom Oriol Roca has been collaborating for more than twenty years.
The album Mar released by the Belgian label El Negocito Records in 2017, praised by critics and awarded in Catalonia with the Enderrock Award for Best Jazz Album 2018, marked the debut of Oriol Roca as leader and composer with a record of high emotional intensity, leading him to participate on many occasions in northern Europe and to strengthen ties with the scene of the Belgian musical avant-garde.
In 2022 and after the stoppage imposed by the pandemic, Oriol Roca Trio returns and does so with Lynn Cassiers, singer and soundscaper based in Brussels considered one of the most remarkable voices in the European improvisation scene, capable to use any genre of music without prejudice to create her own label-free music universe, as evidenced by her acclaimed latest album YUN released with the prestigious label Clean Feed.
Lynn Cassiers’ collaboration with Oriol Roca Trio further strengthens the desire to put the melody at the center of the trio’s sound, establishing a natural communication between the four musicians based on complicity, risk and friendship built throughout over 20 years of making music together.
The premiere of the project Oriol Roca Trio & Lynn Cassiers took place during the Alhamabra Vic Jazz Festival on May 2022 in an exclusive concert, a co-production between Alhambra Vic Jazz Festival and the catalan record label Underpool. The concert was recorded live at the Jazz Cava de Vic and was released by Underpool on February 11th 2023 in vinyl format:
Lynn Cassiers: voice, electronics
Giovanni Di Domenico: piano
Manolo Cabras: double bass
Oriol Roca: drums, compositions
“Opening with a song title like “What’s The Point?” testifies the vision and attitude that characterizes this foursome. They put the world into perspective and constantly question themselves. The contrast of freedom versus connectedness also emerges. Musically, that is a fact that fits this group like a glove. They know each other through and through, as a result of which both concepts are continuously magnified by each other. The freedom is guaranteed to improvise to your heart’s content, but this is done within the limit of mutual uniformity.”
Album review by Candido Querol on B!ritmos
“Oriol Roca, Barcelona 1979 is a composer and drummer of what we can consider European free jazz. And I say European because his formations have musicians of different nationalities. While he maintains his trio Tàlveg, together with Marcel·li Bayer (sax) and Ferran Fages (guitar) or MUT trio with Miguel Fernández (sax) and Albert Juan (guitar), all Catalan and interested in improvisation like him. In this case, he returns to his “European” trio with the Italians Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Giovanni Di Domenico (piano) with whom he had already recorded MAR (El Negocito records, 2017). And with whom he has other duet recordings. In fact, he already met Di Domenico at the Conservatory in The Hague twenty years ago and immediately began to play together united by that fondness for improvisation that they still practice. In this Live at Jazz Cava (UnderPool 2023) the trio is joined by the singer soundscaper Lynn Cassiers, for some the most unique vocalist in Belgian jazz and improvisation. On first listening to the album (I’ve had a few) it reminded me of the work of Rebekka Bakken (vocals) and Wolfgang Muthspiel (guitar) on the wonderful Daily Mirror Material records, 2000. But let’s go with the compositions of this Live at Jazz Cava, recorded by UnderPool live at the Jazz Cava in Vic. The first theme is “What’s the Point?”. Drums entrance, original start showing arms. And the voice and the double bass twinned in a line of work. Cabras rises above the rest and the first electronic dalliances mix fluidly with Cassiers’ voice and the soundscape takes shape in my head. The music is signed by Roca and the lyrics by Cassiers, but immediately improvisation prevails and everyone works on that sound layer that we like so much. “I should be going”. Now it is Di Domenico’s piano who introduces the theme, close to the old spirituals, the first two minutes are for him. Cassiers joins in, what a beautiful voice! But Cabras takes the bow (I suppose) and the “irreverent” sounds take over the situation. Suddenly a world of “antichrist” appears to cover up the old spiritual sounds and that change makes the song turn 180 degrees, leaving the last two minutes for Di Doménico to reintroduce them all back to the church. “Low”, now it’s time for Cabras to start, a hurtful pulsation, perfectly combined with the rest who aren’t looking for melodies either, all creating tense environments that force us / allow us to imagine where we are going. Another formation in which Roca collaborates comes to mind, the Piccola Orchestra Gagarin with the Sardinian Paolo Angeli (guitar) and the Russian Sahsa Agranov (cello) and specifically a concert in which they accompanied Mariola Membrives, stuffed in those astronauts (because of Gagarin). But let’s get on with the record. “The Mutilated” is an adaptation of the poem El Mutilat by Gabriel Ferrater (Reus, 1922). It is interesting to read the poem to see how Roca’s composition has managed to enter into that state of mind of the words that Ferrater left us. The instruments know how to respect the rhythm of the singer and Cassiers knows (very well accompanied by the piano) rise and fall in waves of emotions. Interchangeably using song and narration as required by the text. “No time”, suggests a traditional song to me. With that piano accompanying the narration, that voice that rises like the one telling a story. “No hard feelings” is a beautiful ballad, improvisation and free for a moment have left a space for the jazz trio and a beautiful voice to let us get excited from the most “classical” jazz. A bit like those paintings by abstract painters, in which people exclaim, see how they also know how to paint! As the hand strikes, then gives a flower… to finish “Carousel,” which once again bets on the freedom of execution, Roca sets a rhythm of “whoever wants to follow me” and the whole group launches into playing freely. As said, an album to listen to many times and enjoy more and more.”
Concert review by Martí Farré on Núvol
“One of the most remarkable merits of this encounter was the style of the proposal itself, difficult to categorize, which is no small thing: straddling pop, contemporary jazz, song, electronica… The other was the convergence between two aesthetic universes, that of Roca and that of Cassiers, with a long, fruitful and experienced trajectory separately. And what at first could seem like a superimposition of sound layers – the trio of Oriol Roca and the spectral voice of Lynn Cassiers, supported by tricks and electronic effects – immediately became an extraordinary complement to two bands: Cassiers said and the others pointed out, even embellished – above all the pianist Di Domenico – and all together with a route that sometimes progressed by palpitations or, even, by leaps and bounds. Surprising was, in fact, the combination of fragments of high energy voltage with others of almost balladic calmness, of studied slowness. Songs, in the long run, dressed in a different aesthetic, with a very similar climatic tone – there was almost no counterpoint, no sudden turn of the script – but with a thousand and one details of excellence, with moments of brilliance individual, by everyone, and solos and accompaniments that were taught like who doesn’t want the thing.”
Concert review by Xavier Castillón, El Punt Avui
“On Sunday evening, the Sala Galà in Cassà de la Selva became, thanks to the Jazzà concert series, a small refuge of peace and beauty, of music not forcedly friendly or built to please the masses or the algorithms, but made with passion and respect by musicians used to traveling and conquering the hearts of listeners step by step, without rushing. Precisely, the respect was what the Barcelona drummer and composer Oriol Roca (1979) thanked the audience present in the hall, at the end of the concert, on behalf of his colleagues: the Roman pianist Giovanni Di Domenico (1977) and the Sardinian double bassist Manolo Cabras (1971), who complete his stable trio between Brussels and Barcelona, and the Belgian singer and sonic landscaper Lyn Cassiers (1984), brilliant vocalist who truly creates unique sound spaces with her voice, the microphone that he moves closer or further away from his mouth and the machines that help him sculpt the syllables he emits like just another instrument. As Roca explained after the concert to the spectators who wanted to share an informal chat with the musicians, the album they presented in Cassà, Live at Jazz Cava, is the result of a co-production between the Vic Jazz Festival and the active label Underpool, which makes possible an old desire of Roca: to add the musicality of his trio to a vocalist, preferably Cassiers, with which had already coincided with the jazz scenes of the Belgian capital, where Cabras and Di Domenico are also installed. During the rehearsals prior to the recording of the disc in Vic, last May 7 – in fact, the first public performance of the quartet–, Roca was taking to Brussels the compositions to which Cassiers incorporated the lyrics, with the only exception is The Mutilated, which adapts and translates into English a poem by Gabriel Ferrater, which talks about emotional mutilations. Since May, the four musicians have not been on stage again until the series of concerts in Catalonia that ended on Sunday in Cassà, but their good work and their great understanding became evident during the hour in concert: a superb demonstration of contemporary jazz at this Jazzà, which thanks to the collaboration between the Culture department of Cassà City Council and Underpool is becoming an essential jazz oasis.”
Album review on New Music Jason
“Oriol Roca is a drummer and bandleader from Spain. He has been recording and performing with his Trio for over twenty years. Their latest album, Live At Jazz Cava, pairs them with Belgian vocalist Lynn Cassiers, for a seven-song set at Barcelona’s Jazz Cava de Vic. It’s dark and moody, with Cassiers’ beautiful and altered voice projecting an air of mystery. The album closes with Carousel, giving all involved a chance to show off their improvisational prowess. Go cats, go!”
Album review on Warmth Highest
“Belgian jazz vocalist, and master of electronics, Lynn Cassiers, makes avant garde singing emotionally relatable on this exceptional album. It’s ethereal, dreamy, and romantic. And very human and comforting as well. The band is so incredibly outstanding. Even Cassier’s electronic accompaniment with her own voice is stellar and compliments the vibe. On all counts, it feels like she’s leading the band and boy oh boy are they quick on their toes putting forth unbelievable accompaniment. Sometimes bassist, Manolo Cabras, puts forth some initial landscape but Cassiers explores it at her own pace and pleasure and with extraordinary and pleasing confidence. Giovanni Di Domenico’s piano playing is heavily showcased on I Should Be Going but then the song takes a wild left turn into the avant garde and he comes out of it sounding something like Keith Jarrett. But he also plays in an impressionistic manner that channels Debussy. This is especially true when he’s quick on the draw to find the perfect accompaniment to Cassiers. And obviously the percussion is huge since Oriol Roca is the band leader. He and Cabras have a very intuitive relationship but he’s also impressionistic like Giovanni Di Domenico. It’s kind of odd to think of a percussionist like that but he drives the band with a dreaminess through his peculiar pace and rhythm. It’s also big. His percussion adds layers of texture in the same way electronics do in other music. Enjoy this great album.”
Oriol Roca Trio & Lynn Cassiers – I Should Be Going
Oriol Roca Trio & Lynn Cassiers – The Mutilated