The Dors are a UK-France collaboration uniting four musicians at the forefront of contemporary improvisation, composition and performance: de Bezenac and Sharkey are best known as two thirds of the critically-acclaimed, cutting edge trioVD, the band who took “a sledgehammer to preconceived limitations of jazz”; Eve and Yuko are Donkey Monkey, a duo which “draws an ink moustache on the face of international creative music” – Yuko, from the vibrant Japanese rock scene, and Eve, with her virtuosic command of the piano and deep insight into C20th repertoire. We sent Ben Powling along to ATA Studio, Headingley, Leeds to meet them to find out more. They were ready for a break having spent four intense days of composing and rehearsing for their upcoming dates at mjf and the EFG London Jazz Festival.
Chris Sharkey: This is something we’ve wanted to do for a really long time. Christophe, Eve and Yuko were at college together.
Eve Risser: We met in Strasbourg ten years ago, where we were all studying except Sharkey, and then much later we got to play at the same festival in Norway. Not in the same group, but in the same week and we missed each other! But then we got to play again in a selection [of groups] from the festival and we went on tour with another person, who was performing solo voice. So we were touring Europe with her solo, our duo and their [Chris and Christophe’s] trio.
Christophe De Bezenac: We were talking about doing something together at this time, but this was two years ago. So we’ve been talking about it ever since and then this Jazz Shuttle programme came up and it seemed like the right opportunity. They contacted Eve.
Eve Risser: Yes, and they said ‘So do you have a project?’ and I said ‘Yes, I have this idea that we can collaborate with these English guys as we already have something we want to do.’ And of course they said ‘Yes!’
Jazz North: So the plans for this project had come well in advance, but how about the music? Did any of you write the music in advance, or was it all composed in this room?
Yuko Oshima: Both, we did both.
Christophe De Bezenac: We all brought small ideas that weren’t completely developed and that we could continue to develop here, together. It’s just been a few days, but it’s gone very well and we quite quickly put a programme together.
Eve Risser: I like that it has been very much a group thing and that we have not written down any of the music. That is how they [Chris and Christophe] work, but it is not how we normally work. It means we rely on each other, because if I forget something they have to remind me!
Christophe De Bezenac: That’s something that’s great about any form of collaboration. It’s the fact that you bring methods. It’s not just music, you also bring ways of working and you feed off each other. With Trio VD it was purely aural, and we thought we would see what happened when we all worked in that way.
Eve Risser: I can definitely say that in France this music is always more written out. When we were on tour with Trio VD I couldn’t understand how they could write their music, but now I know that it is very aural. I like the French way too, but this was some fresh air. Because we don’t use a metronome or paper it means the music is closer to us as people. When we play, we play with our failures.
CDB: But there are things you can get from using written material as a starting point that you would never be able to get any other way
Yuko Oshima: Yes, it has to be a choice.
JN: So did you deliberately try to make this project sound different to Trio VD or Donkey Monkey? Did you make an effort to make them separate?
Eve Risser: No, we just played! We didn’t think about doing it or not doing it.
Chris Sharkey: I don’t think it was deliberate, it will naturally be different. We haven’t put those kinds of constraints on anything. There might be some similar ideas, but there’s also something new happening. I’m doing things I wouldn’t think of doing in Trio VD.
Christophe De Bezenac: Instrumentation makes it quite different, but even just the ideas are very different.
Eve Risser: With Donkey Monkey we were just two [people] for years, so now to have four is like having an orchestra!
Christophe De Bezenac: VD was a trio of one-man-bands, but with this group we can relax, breathe and listen to what’s going on.
Chris Sharkey: We had an idea right at the start, of using clichés but being really sincere about them. It’s about taking something you’ve heard a million times and that always gets the piss taken out of it, but then doing something really heart-felt with it. I think that’s quite a nice thing to do.
Christophe De Bezenac: We’re going to start the set with a typical 6/8 ballad with a really traditional chord progression, the most obvious 60s pop thing, and then we’re playing a really unexpected melody over the top. We’re putting these things is opposition. There’s this bizarreness and mundaneness together.
ER: A link between our two bands is that we play music that is cerebral music and music for the body. We shouldn’t lose one or the other.
JN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Chris Sharkey: Just that it’s been really good fun! You never know what it’s going to be like working with new people and it’s been brilliant. We’ve been laughing all week and coming up with loads of great ideas. This is just the start of something that is going to be really great.