Composer Michel Portal also plays the clarinet, the saxophone and the small accordion or bandonion. A musician whom it is difficult to classify because he offers so much across arange of categories, Michel Portal is one of those extraordinary characterswho is just as at home with classical works Mozart, Brahms, Schumann,Berg as he is with contemporary music where he has performed for Boulez,Stockhausen, Berio, Kagel and Globokar among others.
When the Free movement in France began, Portal became a founder member of the New Phonic Art group, along with the trombone player Bernard Vitet, pianist François Tusques and the drummer Sunny Murray, which based its ideas on collective improvisation, the quest for particular sounds and instant output. He still, however continued to play the dance tunes which inspired him from his youth, popular airs (Benny Bennet, Perez Prado), music from his native Basque country and jazz from his adopted home.
In 1971 Portal set up a loose structure called the Michel Portal Unit, which was a forum for European and American musicians to come together for free improvisation. Since 1975 he has composed many scores for cinema and televisions films. He has been awarded 3 Césars (French Oscars) and one Sept d’Or (French television awards).
In the field of European jazz, Portal has a profound influence. Whether he is playing as a duet with Bernard Lubat or Martial Solal ; invited to accompany groups (Humair-Jeanneau-Texier; Kühn-Humair-Jenny Clark) or playing as temporary partner with Jack deJohnette, Dave Liebman, Howard Johnson, John Surman, or Mino Cinelu for instance, his effect is notable. The settingcan be structured or spontaneous but Portal manages to be both an activist and a reactionary.