by Ric Schaffer (Kansas City, USA)
born 22nd January, Paris, France
Widely acclaimed as one of the great masters of wind instruments, Parisian Didier Malherbe started on saxophone when he was 13, after hearing Charlie Parker's 'Bloomdido', from the Bird and Dizz album. 12 years later, Bloomdido Bad de Grass became his nickname within Gong, incorporating the literal translation of Malherbe into franglais.
Between ages 13 and 20, he studied alto, then tenor saxophone with a classical teacher as well as jamming with jazzmen at 'Le Chat Qui Peche' club in Paris. During this time he also attended the Sorbonne, studying Sanskrit amongst other languages.
A trip to India and Afghanistan in the early sixties introduced him to ragas, modal music and the bamboo flute. Back in France, he studied classical flute with Rène Leroy (the first musician to give a public performance of Dubussy's 'L'apres Midi D'une Faune'). His rock education started in 1967, when he performed with his group The Rollsticks in 'Les Idoles' (arguably the first full 'rock opera'), a 'comédie musicale' influenced by the Living Theatre. Listening to a Soft Machine concert turned him on to a fusion approach of music.
In the ambience of the freaky revolution in Paris in May 1968, he met Australian singer, guitarist and poet, ex Soft Machine member Daevid Allen, with whom he was to create Gong along with Gilli Smyth.
This international community band incubated in Deya, Mallorca, and toured France and Europe before it was taken on to the British scene starting at Glastonbury Festival in June 1971. Virgin Records signed them, and their album 'Camembert Electrique' hit the charts. Gong toured extensively around the U.K. and Europe, while producing the albums of their legendary Radio Gnome trilogy: 'Flying Teapot', 'Angel's Egg' and 'You'.
During this time Didier also played sessions for the soundtrack to 'Chappaqua' with Ravi Shankar, free jazz with austere vegetarian and yogi, Burton Greene - Aquariana (BYG vol 8529308) '69, contributed to Kevin Ayers' 'Whatevershebringswesing' (Harvest SHVL 800?) '72 and 'Comus To Keep From Crying' (Virgin V2018) '74.
In 1975, when Daevid Allen split from Gong, Didier formed other line-ups with Steve Hillage, Mike Howlett, Pierre Moerlen recording 'Shamal' (Virgin), then with Alan Holdsworth, Mino Cinelou for the album 'Gazeuse' (Virgin).
Didier's turn to leave Gong came in 1978. Back in France, he put together his 5-piece Bloom band, releasing an eponymous jazz-rock style album on EMI - a single was also released 'Dansecorla/Bong' (Sonopresse 2660872127) '80. Throughout the early 1980's, he was touring and recording with numerous artists, including:
Yan Vagh Weinmann, guitar Jean-Philippe Rykiel, synthesizer Pierre Bensusan, guitar - Spices (CBS), Solilai (Rounder), Compilations (Chant du Monde LDX 74808?) Jean-Yves Liveaux Ivan Lantos Patrice Meyer - Dromedaire Viennois (FMR 0986?) '86 Yan Emeric - Melodic Destiny Olivier Kowalski - 'Lillidrops' Jacques Higelin - guested on Aïe (EMI France) Brigitte Fontaine Pip Pyle, drums - Equipe Out (52 Rue Est RE 004?) '86 From 1985 to 1988, he was part of Faton Bloom, along with Faton Cahen, the original pianist for Magma. This group played big jazz festivals and released a CD Faton Bloom (Cyronic MAD 3029?). In the later 80's, he toured the U.S. with Pierre Bensusan, and Japan with Brigitte Fontaine.
In 1989 he added the WX 7? Yamaha wind synthesizer to his set-up. He met Daevid Allen again and joined the Gong fold once more as a member of Gongmaison. 1990 saw the release of 'Fetish', his second solo album, even though it involved the participation of 15 musicians. This album explores passion and other aspects of Fire through a great diversity of moods, including folky, jazzy, French Rap, and electronic jungles...
In 1991 and 1992, he was a member of 'Shapeshifter' Gong, appearing on the album of the same name, and joined Shortwave, with Hugh Hopper, Pip Pyle, and Phil Miller.
His third album, 'Zeff', was released in October 1992, for the Tangram in France. The title of the album is derived from Zephyr, and is also the name he gave to a plastic, circular bass flute which he played for Vangelis on the soundtrack of Ridley Scott's movie '1492 Conquest of Paradise', as well as on the daily jingles for France Television 3. The album was a huge hit in France.
1994 saw the release of his fourth solo album 'Fluvius', which featured Loy Ehrlich on keyboards and ethnic string instruments like hajouj and bolong, Henri Agnel on guitar, mandolin and sarod, Shamal Maïtra on tablas and percussions, Didier played sopranino and soprano saxophones, classical, piccolo and bamboo flutes. This record completed a series on the elements: Bloom-earth, Fetish-fire, Zeff-air, Fluvius-water.
Having spent many years absorbing musical and rhythmic influences from around the world, Didier developed an avid interest in collecting new and exotic instruments, each of which offers the opportunity to explore and embrace new styles of playing and approaches to composing. With each solo album, Didier surprises the listener with newly discovered or mastered instruments and sounds, making every record unique to itself, filled with a fresh excitement and spirit of adventure.
1995's solo album, 'Hadouk', is really a duet with Loy Ehrlich from the Fluvius band. Didier plays Armenian doudouk, Ukrainian double-flute, bamboo-clarinet, ocarinas, while Loy accompanies on hajouj, kora, boolong, sanza, djembe, and others. The result is yet another adventurous musical journey, quietly couched in beautiful melodies and structures.
In 1996/97 Didier toured with 'Hadouk', with a 'classic' Gong line-upand and with guitarist-singer Pierre Bensusan, with whom he released the duet album 'Live au New Morning'.
When he's not busy playing, recording and rehearsing, Didier spends his time working on an extensive collection of sonnets which he has composed over the years. 128 of these were published in 2002 as 'L'Anche des Métamorphoses', which Didier also performs as a one-man show.
With a passion for always forging ahead into uncharted territory, Didier desires to liberate the spirit of each wind instrument he encounters. The act of liberating the spirit of the instrument is what, in turn, liberates the spirit of the listener. Because of the mastery of myriad instruments and his ability to blend styles seamlessly, he has remained one of the most-demanded studio session musicians in France, and is admired the world over.