Cult Classic: Rupture-Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

Over the last fifty years, bands and artists have penned ambitious concept albums about all manner of subjects. No subject matter it seems is off-limits when it comes to the concept album. There’s been concept albums about bureaucracy and censorship, death and dreams, evolution and revolution, heaven and hell, hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, power and politics and even wizards and warlocks. However, one of the most ambitious and powerful concept albums ever written and recorded was Rupture’s 1973 album Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. 

It was a very different to most concept albums, and set out to document the history of the Israel. Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was released as a private press, in 1973. Very few copies of the album were released, which nowadays, is a spiritual jazz classic. However, it’s also one of the rarest European jazz records of the past fifty years. Copies hardly ever come up for sale, and when they do, they’re beyond the budget of most record buyers. The story behind Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu began in 1973.

That was when the French songwriter Boris Bergman decided to write and record a concept album that documented the history of Israel. This was very different to previous projects that Boris Bergman had been involved with.

By 1973, Boris Bergman was an experienced and well known songwriter. He was also a prolific songwriter, who from 1967 onwards, had been writing songs for some of the biggest names in French music. However, as the seventies dawned, Boris Bergman  was penning songs for Aphrodite’s Child, Nana Mouskouri, Sophia Loren, Demis Roussos, the New Seekers, Charles Aznavour, Nicoletta and Patrick Juvet. Already, Boris Bergman had written well over 200 songs. They had been recorded by an eclectic selection of artists. However, these songs were very different to the concept album twenty-eight year old Boris Bergman was about to write and record. 

Having made the decision to write and record a concept album based around the history of Israel, Boris Bergman decided to approach one of France’s top musicians, drummer, percussionist  and singer Sylvain Krief.

Just like Boris Bergman, Sylvain Krief already had a wealth of musical experience. He had played alongside many artists, including Michel Fugain, Charles Aznavour, Clark Terry and Bud Powell. Now Sylvain Krief was about to join Boris Bergman in his new project.

Having secured the services of Sylvain Krief, who would play drums, percussion and add vocals, soon, many other top musicians were joining the band that eventually, became Rapture. This included J.-F. Jenny-Clark who played contrabass, and previously, had worked with Don Cherry, Steve Lacy and Karlheinz Stockhausen. The next recruit was Total Issue guitarist Georges Locatelli, who played acoustic, electric and 12-string guitar. Multi-instrumentalist and future soundtrack composer Jean-Pierre Mas joined Rupture, and played electric piano, guitar, organ, percussion, piano and added vocals. Jean-Louis Chautemps was drafted in to play soprano saxophone on Israel Suite and flute on Entre Ses Cils. He became part of what was essentially a European jazz supergroup. They were joined by Le Big Bazar choir, and vocalists Michel Fugain and Nicole Croisille. They would spend the next three months recording Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu at Studio Davout, in Paris.

That was where Rupture recorded the six compositions that became Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. They were arranged by Sylvain Krief and Jean-Pierre Mas. This included Mes Histoires Bleues, Voyage Sous La Mer and Autrefois which were written by Jean-Pierre Kernoa and Jean-Pierre Mas. Jean-Pierre Kernoa wrote Alice Aux Miroirs and Entre Ses Cils with Sylvain Krief. He composed the music to Israel Suite while Boris Bergman wrote the lyrics. Israel Suite would feature on side one of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu when the album was released in 1973.

Once Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was completed, it was decided to release the album as a private pressing. This Rupture were able to do with the help of the Futura label. Only a small number of albums were pressed, and when Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was released, this genre-melting album has only heard by a small number of people. That was great shame, given then quality of music on Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

Israel Suite opens Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu and took up the entire first side of the original album. There’s an element of drama, as sounds emerge from the distance. Gradually, the grow in power, as the rhythm section combine with a wah-wah guitar. Suddenly, drum pounds and dialogue enters ominously. It’s akin to a newsflash, which adds to the drama. Meanwhile, the vortex  of sound is omnipresent until a piano enters. It’s played quickly and accompanies the dialogue. The tempo slows and quickens, highlighting and nuancing the dialogue subtly. By then, Rupture hove switched between and combined jazz, funk, rock and avant-garde. Soon, though, it’s all change.

When the choir enter, they combine pop and soul, as the all-star jazz group provide a flowing accompaniment. That’s until they reprise an earlier part of the suite, before heading in a direction marked jazz. The piano plays a leading role, while the contrabass joins with the drums in powering the hopeful and uplifting arrangement along. It breezes along, picking up speed before dialogue interjects, and an impassioned, wailing soprano saxophone plays a leading role as the track heads in the direction of fusion. Seamlessly, Rupture cope with the changes, before dialogue interjects adding another newsflash.

After the dialogue drops out,  much more understated and subdued jazz track emerges, while the soprano saxophone heads towards free jazz. It’s as if it’s reacting to the news and is pained and troubled by it. Later, the choir return and sing tenderly, before a gospel influence emerges. So does an impassioned solo, as the piano and rhythm section combine and drive the arrangement along. When the vocal drops out, Rupture enjoy another chance to showcase their skills and versatility as the tempo rises. The when it drops all that remains is a poignant piano, which accompanies dialogue. Soon, the track rebuilds with soulful vocals joining the dreamy arrangement as this eighteen minute Magnus Opus heads towards its conclusion.

Mes Histoires Bleues  bursts joyously into life, with the rhythm section, guitar and piano powering the jazzy arrangement along. They accompany Jean-Pierre Mas’  heartfelt and emotive vocal, while he adds a breathtaking, fleet fingered piano solo. It plays a starring role. Meanwhile, the rhythm section anchor the arrangement, and with the piano, add pregnant pauses, which add an element of drama. Soon, Rupture rebuild, and continue to combine jazz with elements of funk and fusion over two memorable and melodic minutes.

The tempo drops on Voyage Sous La Mer  which has a slow, spacious arrangement. Less is more, with just the contrabass and guitar accompanying an ethereal,  cooing backing vocal. This signals the arrival of, Jean-Pierre Mas’ tender, but wistful vocal. By then, an electric piano has been added, and is soon, joined by and replaced by a piano. It’s played quickly and confidently, and replaces the vocal. Still, though, the rest of Rupture play slowly adding a dreamy, ruminative backdrop. When the rueful vocal returns, the piano fills in the gaps it leaves, and in the process,proves the perfect foil and accompaniment during this beautiful, melancholy ballad.

As Alice Aux Miroirs unfolds, a bass plays and is joined by keyboards which are panned quickly and ghostly harmonies. They’re replaced by Sylvain Krief’s impassioned vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section and electric piano combine with harmonies as the arrangement builds. Soon, it changes and heads in the direction of fusion and rock. This allows Rupture to stretch their legs, and jam. Guitarist Georges Locatelli and keyboardist Jean-Pierre Mas play starring roles, with drummer also enjoying his moment in the sun as Rupture showcase their skills and versatility.

A shimmering electric piano opens Autrefois. It’s played slowly, before the baton passes to the drums. They’re joined by Jean-Pierre Mas’ vocal, as he reminisces about “the old days,” while the Choir add soulful harmonies. They prove to be the perfect  accompaniment to the vocal, as the vocal and harmonies take centre-stage. Later, when they drop out, Rupture jam, with the electric piano, bass and guitar enjoying their moment in the sun. Then when Jean-Pierre Mas and the Choir return, the rest of Rupture play a supporting role. That’s apart from the electric piano and bass which augment the impassioned vocal and soulful harmonies. They play their part in the sound and success of this beautiful, soulful ballad about “the old days.”

Closing Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu is Entre Ses Cils, which is another ballad. Just a piano plays as the rhythm section enter and a flute flutters above the arrangement. They accompany Sylvain Krief’s slow, emotive vocal. Meanwhile, the piano is at the front of the mix, while the bass meanders and the subtle flute adds a wistful sound. Later, as the tempo rises, the vocal drops out and the drums play a more important role. Still, though, the piano plays a leading role, while the flute augments it. That’s the case when Sylvain’s impassioned vocal returns, before the song reaches a dramatic and poignant crescendo, and in the process, closes one of the rarest concept albums ever recorded.

Very few copies of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu were pressed when the album was released. As a result, for many years, Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu remained one of music’s best kept secrets. Only a few connoisseurs of European jazz were aware of this genre-melting album’s existence.

Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu which featured Rupture switching between and fusing jazz, funk, fusion, free jazz, pop, psychedelia and rock. There’s even elements of avant-garde, gospel, progressive and soul on Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. It features Rupture, who were essentially a French jazz supergroup. They put their considerable talents to good use on Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu, which for far too long, was one of was one of music’s best kept secrets. Many jazz aficionados were even aware of the album’s existence. However, eventually, record buyers became aware of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

Just like many rare albums, it was like a gold rush as record buyers went in search of a copy of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. Despite searching record shops, dusty warehouses, second hand shops and thrift stores, very few crate diggers discovered that elusive copy of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. Those that had a copy weren’t for selling their copy. That was no surprise, given the quality of the album.

With each passing year, more record buyers discovered the delights of Rupture’s one and only album, Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. By then, the album was the Holy Grail for many record collectors. They couldn’t pass a record store or junk shop without searching the racks of records. It was all in vain, and for the majority of people searching for a copy of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu it’s unlikely that they’ll find what’s become their own personal Holy Grail.

Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was a landmark album that finds Rupture documenting the history of Israel,  and is, without doubt, one of the most ambitious and powerful concept albums ever written and recorded. One listen to Rupture’s cult classic Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu and that will become apparent.

Cult Classic: Rupture-Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

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