For the first half the lights were dimmed and all eyes were on a large screen showing the Jean-Louis Bertucelli film Remparts d?Argile (Ramparts of Clay). Bassist Henri Texier, his saxophonist/clarinettist son Sebastien and drummer Christophe Marguet sat to the side and improvised on the bassist?s composed themes.
The film is a striking, near wordless evocation of the harsh life of a Berber village in the Sahara, and the music struck the perfect balance ? never overshadowing, always enhancing the drama unfolding on screen.
For the second half another three musicians ? guitarist Manu Codjia, baritone saxophonist Francois Courneloup and trombonist Gueorgui Kornazov ? joined the trio and the focus was solely on the music.
And what music! This is a band with manifold strengths and, hard as I have looked for them, no apparent weaknesses. Courneloup?s unaccompanied baritone solo in Sacrifice, starting as a small, upper register melody interpolated with bass notes and building in harmonic complexity to a storm, was the exhilarating highlight for me.
Kornazov?s playing was as deeply emotional as it was exquisitely toned, Codjia could do Hendrix as easily as he could do Frisell, and the young Texier managed to maintain a strong melodic sense even while testing his alto saxophone to its limits.
Marguet played a continuous thunder roll of a solo that built in excitement and never came close to the boredom factor that afflicts 99 per cent of all other drum solos.
And what can one say about Henri Texier? His sound has bear-hug warmth, his rhythmic drive is extraordinary and his expansion of the sonic scope of the double bass appears boundless.
Lady Bertrand showed his ensemble writing at its gentle best, while New Delhi was the triumphant ending to a glorious evening.