Big band Quoi de neuf docteur
A l'envers - doc 004 - press


Jazz Magazine - March 1995


Jazz Man - April 1995


Supply yourself with a mirror (or this copy of Jazz Magazine) to read the titles, the personnel and the recording dates because all of that is written backwards on the cover. However, they don’t reverse the syllables, which could restore a certain balance; and does the music follow suit, you might think? Good question: here’s the story that goes through the midst of big band arrangers. It could have been a starting point for this recording. We’ll soon see that’s not the case.
Appointed to lead a big band and asked to make new material sound like old, a young musical director asks an old expert for advice, who whispers in his ear a sure-fire trick, referring to Don Redman: “Take any decent published arrangement and rewrite it backwards”. A little surprised, our convert takes an excellent French score and goes at it all night long, writing patiently - but backwards - each part for his hot players. The next morning after distributing the parts, he turns on the machine and hears to his great amazement, In the Mood in its original version. Nothing like that here, since this big band is not used in this way, but rather as an occasion to live and let live various encounters in small groups. Only the trumpets are regularly asked to play in unison, which they do with great finesse. The body of the machine is cut in several parts, which gives rise to lavish and resonant trinkets, drawings, fragments and sound studies. A discrete palette, music that is more of an arrival than a result. Backwards maybe, up-stream definitely, and it’s good. Philippe Méziat

Big band musicians are often underemployed, so Serge Adam had the great idea to let them improvise freely by twos, threes and fours and then use those elements like writing matter. “Usually the written material leads the way to improvisation, but here it’s just the opposite”, he explains. This is where the title comes from. This reversing of roles works like going back to the basics of musical language, importance is given to vocal inflections and sound combinations. We discover each section from the inside, the trumpets being particularly emphasized (thanks to the use of multiple mutes). The writing doesn’t seek to shape the freedom it proposes (it also works by making a collage of recorded sections), but rather to put the shared imagination into perspective. The sharp contrastes that the small ensembles bring forth are put back in a dramatic length that leads to meditation. A twilight turn of the century that daily brings together longing and leaping. Intensity full of laughs. Thierry Lepin
Musiques ordinateurs summer 1995
The reflexion in a mirror of a reversed world constitutes the artistic approach of Serge Adam in the direction of this big band. Improvisation is used as the principal tool, as the material to write with. In groups of twos and threes, jumping brass, laughing clarinets and angry cymbals construct this work. Always a step ahead, we’re waiting for their latest creation in the fall. Sensitive ears watch out!
Thierry Demougin
Le Monde April 29, 1995 Improjazz may 1995

In this fourth recording (in 10 years) of the big band What’s Up Doc, the trumpet player Serge Adam reverses the role of the soloist while composing for the band. Instead of the band directing the improvisations, he first recorded different soloists’ improvisations and constructed the music from there, associating the horn and rhythm sections in two, three or four players to create a small or medium sized assembly. A tuba solo with four trombones, a trumpet and bass with saxophones, drums and tenor sax with horns and reeds, the combinations are many and Serge Adam doesn’t exhaust the possibilities. The big band reveals its internal movements here, the different sections their specific timbres. This procedure could have just been a mind game with parts. In a few places there are a couple seconds of boredom, but in general the exercise bypasses that to reveal scheming sonorities and harmonic blending full of imagery, temporarily leaving the shiny and spectacular aspect of the big band to profit a chamber orchestra whose titles - Andante cantabile legerissimo, Transmodulation, Sanza performative... - show a mischievous spirit. Sylvain Siclier

Everything is backwards here: the cover notes that one must reflect from the disc itself; but you might say that it’s impossible to listen and read at the same time? It’s true that the management should have included a mirror in each cover.... Seriously, QDND mixes humor and exoticism, sophisticated arrangements Ellington style with Germanic precision. “Backwards” is in fact a patchwork of compositions that associates Mediterranean, African and European influences. It’s interesting to note the presence of Jean-Louis Chautemps, coming perhaps to refill himself next to musicians with no complexes other than youth, therefore entirely free (what’s more he appears very little as a soloist). However, these other musicians don’t hesitate to intervene briefly but in perpetual movement, be it Guillaume Orti on the saxophone or Denis Leloup and Daniel Casimir on the trombone. In fact, this is really a collective work that permits everyone to express themself, even if often the entire band doesn’t work together fully. This is one of the interests of this CD that gives a complete vision of a French scene that lives and exists with a new and original concept. Very important. Philippe Renaud
Le Progrès April 4, 1995 Jazz Notes March 1995
After returning from Africa, Serge Adam recorded “Jazz MicMac”, a highly colorful album disguised as a travel journal. Never short of ideas, the trumpet player regained the command of his big band “Quoi de Neuf Docteur” with whom he just published their fourth recorded document “A l’envers” (Backwards), a circumstancial title. The recording of this CD took place in fact in the opposite direction as usual : the musicians first improvised freely in twos, threes and fours and then Serge Adam pulled off a superb performance of analysis and composition. This gives an unusual richness of timbre, melodies played without boredom and with the most convincing natural assurance. F. Bruckert Serge Adam leads the big band of twenty musicians that proposes a backwards edition. In fact, he explains that the musicians of big bands are underemployed - especially the soloists - he then proposes to form duos, trios or quartets that improvise, and to superimpose them, because usually the written material leads the way to improvisation and here it’s the other way around. The big band sounds different and it’s a lot richer in timbres; there is no rhythm section, except on one theme. In short, be warned that it’s a real removal that somebody just needed to think of. A real discovery. Jean-Louis Bigot