Didier Malherbe

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Didier Malherbe
Also known as Bloomdido Bad de Grasse
Born (1943-01-22) January 22, 1943 (age 72)
Paris, France
Genres Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock, Jazz, Jazz fusion
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, duduk
Years active 1966–present
Associated acts Gong, Hadouk Trio, Nico

Didier Malherbe,[1] born in Paris in 1943, is a jazz, rock and world music musician, best known as a member of the band Gong, as well as a poet.

His first instrument was saxophone, but he also plays flutes, alto clarinet, ocarina, Laotian khen and many other wind instruments. Since 1995, duduk has been his preferred instrument.

Before Gong (1960-69)[edit]

Didier Malherbe began playing saxophone at age 13 after hearing Charlie Parker's "Bloomdido", a title he later would adopt as his nickname. After two years of formal training on the instrument with Jacques Desloges, he began to participate in jam sessions at various Paris jazz clubs (in particular Le Chat qui Pêche and Le Caveau de la Montagne) alongside the likes of Aldo Romano, Alby Cullaz, Eddy Louiss, Jacques Thollot or Jean-François Jenny-Clark. He then moved away from jazz. "I had grown tired of bebop because I thought there were too many rules. Then free jazz arrived, which got rid of all the rules... I decided I'd rather look elsewhere".[2]

In 1961, having heard the first Ravi Shankar album, he headed for Asia, spending three months in India. There he learned to play bansuri, a South Indian bamboo flute.[3] Back in Paris, he took classical flute lessons with René Le Roy, while studying ancient languages at the Sorbonne university. Then in 1964-65, he lived in a community of "freaks" in Marrakesh, which notably included guitarist Davey Graham.[4]

In 1966, he appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Chappaqua, credited to Ravi Shankar, and dabbled with rock music for the first time, electrifying his sax when he appeared, as part of a band called Les Rollsticks, in Marc'O's successful comedy-rock Les Idoles. This was such a hit that it was made into a feature film in 1968.

In the summer of 1968, Malherbe left for Majorca, in the Balearic Islands, where he found shelter in the property of writer Robert Graves. There he worked on improving his flute playing, and spent time with Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen, two former members of Soft Machine, whose performance at the Fenêtre Rose festival in late 1967 he later called "a triggering event."[5]

In 1969, back in Paris, he joined a raga-blues-folk trio, Morning Calm, and played free jazz with American pianist Burton Greene, appearing on his album recorded for the BYG label. The same label released Magick Brother (1969), the first Gong album, on which Malherbe appeared alongside musicians of various backgrounds, whether pop or jazz.

The Gong Years (1969-77)[edit]

Gong became a real band for an appearance at the Amougies festival in October 1969. Malherbe received the stage name Bloomdido Bad De Grasse from Daevid Allen, a combination of the title of the Charlie Parker standard and a rough English translation of his surname.

The albums Camembert Electrique (1971) and Continental Circus (1972, soundtrack for Jérôme Laperrousaz's movie of the same name) made Gong, along with Magma and others, a key player on the French underground scene of the early 1970s, pioneering the MJC (youth clubs) circuit. Allen faithful right-hand man, Bloomdido stoically survived the band's countless line-up changes, even staying on after Allen himself quit in 1975 following the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, released by the then-fledgling Virgin label : Flying Teapot and Angel's Egg (1973), then You (1974). Malherbe achieved a unique sound by electrifying his instrument, and brought to the band many melodic ideas, "which I freely gave away, in a communal spirit. That's one of the features of my character and my music : I am a spontaneous guy, an improviser."[6]

Following the departures in 1975 of Allen then Steve Hillage, Gong moved to a more jazz-fusion style, influenced by Weather Report, with Malherbe adding a world-music flavour, as exemplified by "Bambooji" on the Shamal (1976) album, an early pointer to his later work as a solo artist. A final line-up with a percussion section and Allan Holdsworth on guitar recorded Gazeuse! (1977), with Malherbe's influence waning in favour of drummer Pierre Moerlen's increasing leadership.

"He has always been, and remains, the best musician Gong ever had. He is a true virtuoso - but to the point that he never shows it" - Daevid Allen (1977)[7]


Bloom (1977-81) and Faton Bloom (1982-87)[edit]

In 1977, Didier Malherbe formed an improvising trio with percussionist Sam Gopal and pianist Patrice Lemoine, with whom he performed a set at Gong's reunion concert in Paris, then Trinidad Steel Gong, in a "world-funk-salsa" vein for a summer tour with Magma, Léo Ferré and Bernard Lavilliers. Then, with Yan Emeric Vagh (guitars), Mico Nissim (keyboards), Jano Padovani (drums) and Peter Kimberley (ex-Bachdenkel) (bass, voice), he formed Bloom, playing "jazz-rock, but performed in a personal way, with odd time signatures, some funky ideas and crazy lyrics,"[8] which he unveiled in November 1977 at a festival in support of the French socialist party.

In early 1978, Bloom, joined by bassist Winston Berkeley, recorded their only album at Studio Miraval, but following the bankruptcy of the Tapioca label, it would only come out in 1980 (on Sonopresse). A second line-up toured between 1979 and 1981, consisting of Malherbe, Berkeley, keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel and African drummer Aggyamang, but split having failed to secure a new recording contract. It was replaced by smaller line-ups, like Duo du Bas with Yan Emeric Vagh, and Duo Ad lib with Rykiel.

In 1982, Malherbe began a partnership with Faton Cahen, former pianist with Magma and Zao, which they logically called Faton Bloom. The band was completed by Rémy Sarrazin (bass) and Pierre Moerlen then Éric Bedoucha (drums), and Roger Raspail (percussion). An eponymous album appeared in 1986, accompanied by copious touring.

During that period he also worked with singer Jacques Higelin, appearing on the live album Casino de Paris (1984) then the studio album Ai (1985). He also played on the first album by Equip'Out, a band led by ex-Gong drummer Pip Pyle, and joined Daevid Allen in a new line-up of Gong, which resulted in the album Shapeshifter (1992).

Solo (1989-98)[edit]

In 1990, Didier Malherbe released his first true solo album, Fetish, surrounded by a cast of thousands. He later called the album "very scattered."[8] He notably experimented with the wind synthesizer Yamaha WX7.

He then signed with the Tangram label, releasing Zeff in late 1992, which was a major critical and commercial success. The unique sound of the Zeff, a harmonic bent PVC pipe invented by Denis Sapin, also graced Vangelis' soundtrack for Ridley Scott's movie 1492: Christopher Columbus, and public TV channel France 3.

This was followed by Fluvius (1994), by a quartet including Loy Ehrlich, Henri Agniel and Shyamal Maïtra, the album's cyclic structure meant to evoke the course of a river, then a duo album with Loy Ehrlich, Hadouk (1996), so named in reference to their respective instruments of choice, hajouj (bass of the Gnawas of Morocco) and duduk (double-reed Armenian flute).

Also during the 1990s, Malherbe kept touring with Classic Gong, in both Europe and the USA. He finally left the band in 1999, but continued to appear occasionally as a guest-star, both on stage (the Subterranea DVD) and on record (the albums Zero To Infinity and 2032). He also toured as a duo with acoustic guitarist Pierre Bensusan (the Live at the New Morning CD in 1997).

Hadouk Trio (1999-2012)[edit]

In 1999, the Malherbe/Ehrlich duo was joined by American percussionist Steve Shehan and released the album Shamanimal as Hadouk Trio. Helped by excellent critical reception, the trio appeared at major festivals such as Nancy Jazz Pulsations. In 2001 his mastery of the duduk also led for an invitation by Djivan Gasparyan to appear at the international doudouk festival in Armenia, then in Moscow and St Petersburg.

That same year, Malherbe published a book of sonnets on reeds, L'Anche des Métamorphoses, which he later turned into a solo show, mixing poetry reading and musical interludes. Malherbe also performed with a second trio, so far undocumented on record, with guitarist Patrice Meyer and percussionist Philippe Foch.

In 2003 the second Hadouk Trio CD, Now, finally saw the light of day. The trio appeared at the San Sebastián festival, at Jazz Sous Les Pommiers, and released two live documents, the double CD Live à FIP (2004) and the DVD Live au Satellit Café (2005), which began a long-term partnership with the Naïve label.

The release of the trio's third studio CD Utopies (2006) coincided with an appearance at the Gong Unconvention in Amsterdam, a festival which peaked with the reunion of Gong's 1970s line-up. Two concerts at Paris' Cabaret Sauvage in May 2007 were documented on the live CD/DVD Baldamore. A few days later, Hadouk Trio received the "year's best band" award at the Victoires du Jazz ceremony.

The trio's final release, Air Hadouk, came out in 2010. It was followed by tours in Great Britain and India, and an appearance at the Paris Jazz Festival. In 2013, Naive reissued the first 4 Hadouk Trio CDs as a box set, which coincided with a concert at the legendary Salle Gaveau on February 2nd.

In 2010, Malherbe formed a duo with guitarist Éric Löhrer, releasing the double-CD Nuit d'Ombrelle the following year, which mixed jazz standards (by Thelonious Monk or Duke Ellington) and improvisations, arranged as a continuous suite.

Hadouk Quartet (2013-present)[edit]

In May 2013, Malherbe and Loy Ehrlich opened a new chapter in the Hadouk saga on the occasion of a residency at the club Le Triton, this time in quartet with Éric Löhrer on guitar and Jean-Luc Di Fraya on percussion and vocals. The quartet released their début CD, Hadoukly Yours, in late 2013, again on the Naïve label.


With Gong[edit]

Solo and duo albums[edit]

  • 1980 : Bloom (EMI-Sonopresse, reissued by Voiceprint)
  • 1986 : Faton Bloom (with Faton Cahen) (Cryonic, reissued by Mantra)
  • 1987 : Saxo Folies (with Armand Frydman) (Koka Media)
  • 1990 : Fetish (Mantra)
  • 1992 : Zeff (Tangram)
  • 1994 : Fluvius (Tangram)
  • 1996 : Hadouk (with Loy Ehrlich) (Tangram)
  • 1997 : Live at New Morning (with Pierre Bensusan) (Acoustic Music)
  • 2003 : Windprints / L'Empreinte du Vent (Cezame)
  • 2008 : Carnets d'Asie et d'Ailleurs (with Loy Ehrlich) (Vox Terrae)
  • 2011 : Nuit d'Ombrelle (with Éric Löhrer) (Naïve)

With Hadouk Trio (Didier Malherbe / Loy Ehrlich / Steve Shehan)[edit]

  • 1999 : Shamanimal (Mélodie rééd. Naïve)
  • 2002 : Now (Mélodie, rééd. Naïve)
  • 2004 : Hadouk Trio Live à FIP (Mélodie/Abeille Musique)
  • 2006 : Utopies (Naïve)
  • 2007 : Baldamore (CD+DVD Live au Cabaret Sauvage) (Naïve)
  • 2010 : Air Hadouk (Naïve)
  • 2013 : Coffret Intégrale Hadouk Trio (Naïve)

With Hadouk Quartet (Didier Malherbe / Loy Ehrlich / Eric Löhrer / Jean-Luc Di Faya)[edit]

  • 2013 : Hadoukly Yours (Naïve)

Other appearances[edit]



  1. ^ Also known as "Bloomdido" or "Bloomdido bad de Grasse".
  2. ^ Allan Jones, “The Gong method of sax life in rock”, Melody Maker (25 September 1976), p. 33.
  3. ^ Interview with Stéphane Fougère, Tangentes n°3, March 1995 & Michel Bourre, “Le Souffleur”, Rock & Folk (April 1976), p.86-9 & 139-42.
  4. ^ Michel Bourre, “Le Souffleur”, Rock & Folk (April 1976), p.86-9 & 139-42.
  5. ^ B. Filip, “Clonage en cours”, Blah-Blah, 1992)
  6. ^ Michel Lousquet, “Pour qui sonne le Gong ?”, Best, December 1977, p.60-63.
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference Lousquet_p.60 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ a b Entretien avec Stéphane Fougère, Tangentes n°3, March 1995.

External links[edit]