Sax player Michaël Attias is often described as one of the most questing and keenly collaborative figures on the New York jazz scene, His first solo album, échos la nuit (Echo by Night) finds him collaborating with himself, playing simultaneously “left-hand alto (sax)/right-hand piano/right foot sustain pedal”. This album was "twelve years in gestation and recorded in a little over an hour ". No overdubs, just "melodies in free fall… The reverberation is from the room and the sympathetic resonance of the piano strings set into vibration by the sound of the saxophone."
The 12 short pieces were improvised, recorded at La Maison en Bois in Abéville-La-Rivière, France, in December 2017. Still, all highlight his highly personal concept of sensual lyricism, “a kind of musical synesthesia, but where music is the only subject and the only object”, as his friend and close collaborator Anthony Coleman calls it (Attias guested on many of Coleman’s albums, beginning on Selfhaters, Tzadik’s Radical Jewish Culture, 1996).
These instant, supposedly simple, compositions allude to Attias' nuanced and imaginative language as well as his unique sense of space. The mysterious “Trinité” plays with angular-serpentine Monk-ish lines and brings to mind Steve Lacy interpretation of Thelonious Monk work. The whispering, seductive alto sax on “Grass” adapts North African scales. “Fenix III” borrows a chord from the late Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, with whom he performed and later was inspired by him to compose “Nerve & Limbo” (Nerve Dance, Clean Feed, 2017). “Circles” is a deep meditation on extended breathing techniques where every touch of the sax key and every blow is a decisive one. “Rue Oberkampf” goes back to Attias’ early twenties in Paris studying Schillinger Technique of Musical Composition. “Song for the Middle Pedal” charms with its quiet innocence. “Sea in the Dark” and the last “Echoes II: Night” offers dark, film-noir narratives, still, surprises with their suggestive, poetic tone on both the sax and the piano.
And back to Anthony Coleman that reminds us the wise words of Morton Feldman: “Now that everything’s so simple, there’s so much to do.” You should listen to the many, enchanting things that Michaël Attias does.