Carnival, creole and birds: the French jazz artist who's made a sonic document of the Caribbean

Carnival, creole and birds: the French jazz artist who's made a sonic document of the Caribbean

Chassol releases his new LP Big Sun — French musician Christophe Chassol fuses the ambient sounds of his documentary footage with experimental jazz harmonies.

The Parisian pianist, composer and musical director Christophe Chassol recently released his fourth album Big Sun – the crowning LP to a unique trilogy of what he calls ‘ultrascores’; a fusion of video footage and rhythmic audio into a hypnotic experience.

Chassol’s first attempt to harmonise the ambient sounds of cities resulted in Nola Cherie, a sonic eulogy to New Orleans. In 2012, he travelled to North India to record the sounds and images of local life, which he remixed, sampled and looped into his Indiamore video album.

The albums vary in sound and style according to their subject matter, journeying through Chassol’s vast and eclectic musical influences. “The music that we play is based on the sound of the image that we capture,” Chassol says, “And I use different motifs and patterns from classical music, minimalism, jazz, neo soul and some electronic shit.”

With Big Sun, a documentary and album, Chassol returns to his Martinique roots with a 27-track musical travelogue, imbued with the tropical sounds of the local music, people and nature. “I had three things I really wanted to film,” Chassol explains, “The carnival, I had never seen it before, the creole language, I really wanted to harmonise the language, and also the birds.”

Talking about his efforts to represent the West Indies in a true light, he says, “I wanted to show something else because they are mainly known for tourism, parties, etc. and I wanted to show that there are a lot of different musical traditions and that that there is another side.”

Chassol’s work is typified by audiovisual experimentation, and he and his drummer improvise live over a film of his recordings, turning them into liquid-funk grooves. “I play face to face with my drummer and the image is behind us,” he says, “We are in the images. It’s a dialogue between us and the images and the people in the film.”

A true sensory experience, Chassol’s experimental sounds have led him to collaborate with Frank Ocean on his new album, and he is touring throughout the summer.

Big Sun is out now on Tricatel.