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Friday, January 4, 2019

Cécile Cappozzo Trio – Sub Rosa (Ayler, 2018) ****

By Nick Ostrum

The liner notes to this album highlight a quote from the early 20 thcentury Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca. The “duende,” he says, blows “insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.” This image of death and youth, of familiarity and discovery, of “the endless baptism of freshly created things” stuck with me as I listened to this album. And, I think it is key to understanding not just the recording’s conceptual foundation, but its meandering coherence and expressionistic beauty.

To the first point: this album seems a self-consciously Dionysian creation. Duende can mean a musical inebriation, something particularly fitting given the pianist and leader’s, Cécile Cappozzo, training as a flamenco dancer as well as a musician. Without projecting too much of a life-cycle onto this album, the music does reflect the spirit of playful creation, of construction and destruction, and of birth, death, and rebirth that one might expect from an album as mysterious – as the title implies – and exploratory as this.

To the second point: the first four tracks of Sub Rosaare fragments of a greater piece titled “Chaos.” In the context of duende, this seems more a reference to Greek cosmology than the colloquial meaning of chaos as absolute disorder. This album is cacophonous, but out of this discord arises (and then subsides) harmonic order. That is, just as the chaos of the ancient Greeks was a necessary precondition to order, if not also its parent.

Fittingly, this album creates order out of sheer intensity and rhythms out of disparate noise. The musicians, Cappozzo (piano), Patrice Grente (bass), and Etienne Ziemniak (drums) fill the air with sound first, then pull those sounds together into recognizable, abstract melodies, then entropically diverge. The fifth track, “Sub Rosa,” is similar, though Cappozzo’s father, the accomplished Jean-Luc Cappozzo, lends his trumpet to amplify the piece and maybe even provide the wind that blows the duende even further forward. Minus the specifics of the duende, song titles, and personnel, this description could apply to many releases reviewed on FJB. However, it applies particularly well to this one. Grente, Ziemniak, and Cappozzo the senior doubtlessly contribute their unique rhythmic sensibilities and improvisational structures to this album. Nevertheless, it is Cécile Cappozzo who provides the uniquely ludic and energetic piano that drives this album through 45 minutes of non-stop (that means absolutely no silence and maybe no chaotic void after all) creation and re-creation. She plays with a playfulness and spiritedness that evokes the build-up and release, the movement, and the emotionality of flamenco, the vessel of the duende. (That is, without sounding stylistically flamenco.) Though solidly rooted in free jazz above anything else, the music simply dances in a way that similar releases do not.