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Monday, May 31, 2010

Daniel Humair, Tony Malaby, Bruno Chevillon - Pas De Dense (Zig Zag Territoires, 2010) ****½

Two years ago, Swiss drummer Daniel Humair released "Full Contact" with Tony Malaby on sax and Joachim Kühn on piano for a whirling series of intense improvisations. Now, two years later, the piano is replaced by French bassist Bruno Chevillon.

The playing is no less intense, and spread over 12 "séquences", that move quite organically one into the other. Although fully improvised, the pieces are quite boppish and Malaby's natural lyricism make this a quite accessible album.  Humair's drumming is like on the previous album : powerful and subtle at the same time, a fine quality which also defines the overall nature of the music. Malaby is never less than sensitive, whether in the weak squeals of "Séquence HCM 4", or in his full-voiced Latin phrasing of "Séquence HCM 3". Fans of Malaby will recognize some of his signature phrasings on several pieces, yet that does not really bother, quite to the contrary, since there is again such a wealth of ideas that there is no risk of repetition from previous albums.

Whether swinging or abstract avant-gardism, the three musicians feel equally at ease in every environment, and have sufficient stories to tell, playing with tone, timbre, silence, phrasing, rhythm, interaction, density, volume, pulse in a way that can only be admired from beginning to end. The relative shortness of the pieces forces the musicians to create with a rare immediacy: you have to listen and be in the improvisation on the moment to make it work : there is no time to listen and absorb the other's ideas. And that's possibly the unusual power of this album: even if the improvisation is only two minutes long, or even one minute, the trio moves the initial notes or rhythm into a tiny story, with its own characteristics, development and ending, an improvised capsule of intimate conversation. So there is no real soloing, the trio creates the sound together, as one dense mass, yet full of shifting flavors. The last piece, because of its length, shows a different, more expansive side of the trio's possibilities, with room for soloing, and it is a great ending for the album.

Even if the music is less expressive than on "Tamarindo" or "Voladores", possibly because of the compactness of the pieces which does not allow for long developments, the end result is an absolute joy.

Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth - Deluxe (Clean Feed, 2010) ***

Fans of Malaby can also find him on this recent album by bassist Chris Lightcap. The rest of the band is of equal level : Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby play tenor saxophone, Craig Taborn plays piano and Wurlitzer electric piano, and Gerald Cleaver is on drums. Andrew D'Angelo on alto joins on three tracks. The music is nice and cruising, yet despite its great band of musicians it is a little lacking in tension. Cool and relaxed. A matter of personal taste.

Listen from iTunes, and buy from Instantjazz.

© stef