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Concert Triton 2013 by Offering

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In 1969, Christian Vander started the band Magma, which crafted a new form of progressive jazz-rock called "Zeuhl" (which basically emphasized intensity). While continuing to record with Magma, Vander initiated a band entitled Offering in 1983 devoted to celebrating a fusion of gospel music with the stylings of jazz great John Coltrane.

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OFFERING: Concert Triton 2013 (double CD on Seventh Records)

This release from 2014 offers 119 minutes of powerful progressive jazz music recorded live in Triton on July 4 through 6, 2013.

Offering's line-up for this release is: Christian Vander (on drums and vocals), Stella Vander (on vocals, percussion, and flute), Herve Aknin and Isabelle Fevillebois (on vocals and percussion), Frederic D'Oeisnitz and Tony Paeleman (on piano, Fender Rhodes, keyboards, and percussion), Pierre Marcault (on percussion), Phillippe Gleizes (on drums) and Jean-Marc Jafet (on bass and percussion).

One might expect this music to be dominated by drums (and there are rhythms aplenty), but delicate piano and vocal chorales play integral roles here, often equaling the puissance of the numerous tempos.

With so many percussives, it goes without saying that the tuneage is rhythmic in the extreme, yet those beats start soft, almost hushed, and gradually swell with strength and volume. Additional layers slide into play, bongos overlapping slushy cymbals, forceful drums barging through threads of slithering tempos. Sometimes, when the other instruments are expressing the melodies, a backdrop of hyperactive percussion frolics softly, almost unheard.

The piano generates lush chords whose unhurried nature gets caught up in the music's enthusiasm and quickens into a surging wave cascading through the mix. Other keyboards introduce peppy attitudes by unleashing fanciful riffs into the always mounting tension. Nimble fingers trigger lavish keyboard sweeps that establish dreamy melodies.

If anything can be called the lead instrument, it's the vocals. Subjecting a foreign language to jazz scat produces an alluring chant whose staccato cadence bounces all over the place. And on one occasion, the scat becomes feverishly and delightfully crazed. But the vocal stylings change from song to song, adopting English lyrics for a jazz ballad or a Zeuhl gospel extravaganza.

While the flute only appears periodically, its exuberant presence acts like a mirthful modifier, softening the furrowed-brow seriousness of these songs.

Offering has evolved over the years, adding a touch of Zeuhl to the jazz saturated gospel music, resulting in a curious gestalt that injects a cerebral level of animation to the overall reverence. These compositions are fluid and shimmering structures that frequently display vibrant passages of unbridled passion. There's a sense of tension lurking in these songs, tickling the psyche with edgy expectations. While most of the songs are short (spanning between 2 and 13 minutes), on two occasions the tracks endure for almost half-an-hour each, affording the melodies the opportunity to slowbuild into towers of throbbing complexity.

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