Monster Melodies Records releases Hamsa (2018)
Monster Melodies presents an unreleased live recording of Hamsa. This french band with Richard Raux (ex Magma) at his best in 1976, play an incredible and unique music, groovy, powerful, between funk and spiritual jazz, drawing his roots in African and Indian rhythms.
Richard RAUX SAXE TENOR, FLUTE, CHANT, PIANO
Patrice RAUX GUITARE
Sigfried KESSLER PIANO
Jano PADOVANI DRUMS
Michael STERLING CHANT
Sylvin MARC BASS
Bruce GRANT SAXE, ALTO, FLUTE
Aiyb DIENG PERCUSSIONS
BIOGRAPHY: Hamsa, Richard Raux
Richard Raux was born in Périgueux in 1945, but would never forget his Creole origins (his family having come from Madagascar). At the age of two he moved to Madagascar with his family, returning to France when he was 19 years old. With no access to television or radio during this time, it was through a school friend (who brought records back from France) that Richard was introduced to ethnic music, Django Reinhard, Brassens and most importantly the jazz of Coltrane, Dolphy and Monk. Later he would say that his ears had been protected from the commercial pap broadcast on the continent.
Richard was fascinated by his grandfather who was a conductor in Périgueux, and started to play piano at age 6, later moving on to saxophone and flute. At the age of 12 he was performing at local dances as a member of a jazz band led by Jeannot Rabeson ("Madagascar's Sydney Bechet"), joined by his brother Patrice on guitar. After returning to France, Richard studied flute at Paris' Ecole Normale, saxophone with Daniel Defayet and Nathan Davis, improvisation with Phil Woods, and composition with George Russell. In addition he taught himself to play piano and sing. After spending two years studying poetry and English literature at the Sorbonne, he left before graduating to devote himself solely to music.
At this point he was playing mainly rhythm and blues, notably with the Royal Show, an eight-piece that toured with the singer Vigon. His first recording session was on the legendary album, "La devanture des ivresses" by Melmoth, the group led by Daniel Théron (aka Dashiell Hedayat aka Jack-Alain Léger). He frequently played at the Chat Qui Pèche in order to measure himself against other horn players. It was there that he met the bassist Jean François Catoire, who played in two groups with the distinction of having Christian Vander as drummer.
When Vander formed Magma in 1969, Richard was staggered by the energy of the new group. As he shared Vander's fascination for Coltrane, he was hired to replace departing saxophonist René Garber. After 12 months of intense work, Richard took part in the recording of Magma's first album for Philips, before leaving the band. While Magma had taught him a lot about composition, he was exhausted by having to play note-perfect renditions of un-notated music on stage, with no room for improvisation. Another deciding factor was the very strict atmosphere imposed by some group members. Richard was eager to find a more jazz-based music that gave him freedom for self-expression through soloing, and played bebop in René Utreger's quintet (Utreger had played with Miles Davis and Lester Young) at Aux Trois Maillets for a year.
He remained on good terms with Christian Vander, and together with bassist Bernard Paganotti, and guitarist Claude Angel they formed the ephemeral group, Stuff, which ran in parallel with Magma. Unfortunately none of their recordings have been preserved. As a session musician Richard played with T Rex at Hérouville on their 1972 album 'The Slider', with Higelin on his album 'Irradié', and with the composer Michel Magne.
Richard also worked alongside Pierre Fanen and Bernard Lubat on Eddy Mitchell's 1974 album 'Ketchup électrique'. He continued to back the French rocker on stage for a year. Other variété singers also used his services (jazz musicians were in great demand at this time to improve the musical quality of these stars' recordings). He improvised at the club La Clef while Pierre Clémenti recited the Egyptian Book of the Dead. He also played, uncredited, on the music for Clémenti's experimental short films, always performed live (with the support of drummer Jano Padovani and other musicians) while watching the hallucinogenic images Clémenti had filmed between 1967 and 1969.
It was then that Richard formed his own group, Hamsa ("Wild Goose"), featuring his brother Patrice on guitar and Jano Padovani (ex-Delired Cameleon Family) on drums. The name alludes to the beliefs of the Hindus and Buddhists that the soul is condemned to reincarnate indefinitely, passing from one body to another like a migrating bird. It also derived from an Indian mantra, repeated while breathing in and out: "I am he".
In a promising beginning the group landed an engagement of several months at the River Bop club in St Germain. On one of these nights Richard invited the Magma leader to jam, and watched him arrive along with violinist Didier Lockwood, both carrying huge amps. The two members of Magma proceeded to play as hard and loud as possible; the extreme volume resulting in the club receiving no less than fifty complaints within an hour. The next day an administrative closure was invoked that lasted for twelve months. In the madness of that evening, Richard, playing to be heard over Vander and Lockwood, managed to break his saxophone.
The first Hamsa record was released in 1975 on Fiesta, a small Belgian label that specialised in African music. It was produced by Laurent Thibault, and was the first album recorded at Château d'Hérouville. The record suffered from some underproduction, with the sound quality undermining the band's potential musical exploration. Richard Raux composed all of the tracks (including a tribute to Coltrane) and was accompanied by Patrice Raux and John Faure on guitar, Jano Padovani and Jean Louis Besson on drums, Albi Cullaz on bass, and Alain Pistre on percussion. On his return from a trip to India, Padovani gave up music (before being admitted to a psychiatric hospital) and was replaced. Many musicians participated in different versions of the group: Lionel Benamou (guitar), Alain Lecointe (vocals), Hervé Bourde (alto sax), Mohitar Samba (drums), Raymond Betsi (percussion), Michel Graillier (piano), Clément Bailly (drums), Milan Aguetant (vocals), Georges Edouard Nunez (piano), Véronique Lortal (vocals), François Chassaemitte (trumpet), Patrick Arturo (trumpet), Harold Kognasco (electric bass), Alain Darbley (trumpet), Daniel Goyonne (piano) Sangonna Everett (drums), Therry Arpino (drums), Jacky Gregg (double bass), Chris Henderson (drums), Winston Berkeley (electric bass), Gaye Dieng (electric bass), Glenn Ferris (trombone), Sonny Gry (trumpet), Roy Burrowes (trumpet), Marc Stectar (tuba, trombone), George Brown (drums), Thierry Arpino (drums), Michel Alibo (electric bass, ex-Sixun), Bruce Grant (alto sax, flute), Siegfried Kessler (piano, electric piano), Donnie Donable (drums, ex-Lafayette), Didier Hauck (drums, ex-Triode), Sylvain Marc (guitar), among others.
Following that, Hamsa was snapped up by singer Jacques Higelin as his backing group, but the relationship ended in conflict when Higelin prohibited the musicians from playing any solos at all.
Richard had discovered free jazz through Frank Wright, and collaborated with the Celestial Communication Orchestra directed by Alan Silva, but left mid-concert, exasperated by being forced to "play the same segment twenty times before playing the music backwards".
In the 70s and 80s Richard also toured as a soloist, playing at the Angoulême, Nancy, and Tabarka festivals (either alone or with dual bassists). He shared the stage with Charlie Haden at the Lisbon Jazz
Richard Raux & Hamsa label Fiesta (Decca 360068)
Richard Raux Hamsa music (Mercury 6313 142)