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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Cécile Cappozzo Quintet - Hymne d'automne (Ayler Records, 2022)

By Stuart Broomer

This invocation of autumn moods often attends to the explosive rather than the pastoral, though both are in evidence. It marks a debut for both pianist Cécile Cappozzo’s quintet and for her compositions, though it shares much with her two preceding recordings. In 2018 she debuted her trio with bassist Patrice Grente and drummer Etienne Ziemniak in an all-improvised program on Sub Rosa (also on Ayler Records). In 2016 she recorded Soul Eyes, a beautiful duo exploration of Charles Mingus and Mal Waldron compositions called Soul Eyes (on Fou Records) with her father, distinguished trumpeter Luc Cappozzo, also present in the quintet here, along with tenor saxophonist Guillaume Belanger.

Traditions arise here in various ways. Once is in the form of an epigram, here a poetic quotation on the subject of nature and art from the anarchist ex-urbanite Henry David Thoreau: “Man’s progress through nature should have an accompaniment of music. It relieves the scenery, which is seen through it as a subtler element, like a very clear morning air in autumn.” Henry David Thoreau (in Autumn: Journal - January 8, 1842)

The second tradition is in the instrumentation, the quintessentially urban configuration of the hard- to post-bop quintet of the 1950s and ‘60s – trumpet, tenor, piano, bass, drums – not just in the trend-setting forms of the Jazz Messengers and the Max Roach and Miles Davis bands but in a remarkable number of the Blue Note, Riverside and Prestige recordings, the three big New York independents.

Quotation and instrumentation alike speak to a certain kind of turbulence, and it arrives in multiple degrees. “Exposition” begins with a scattering of piano notes, attacks and rhythmic values as random as leaves whipped by the wind. The intensity builds with each successive entry, sparse trumpet joined by a flurry of drums, a sudden bass and then the vigorous assault of the tenor saxophone. There follows the first appearance of “Hymne d’automne”, a wistful homage to the season that begins with Jean-Luc’s exposition of the theme, his phrases echoed by Bellanger, the mood maintained through a series of solos.

“Dance Dance”, the central event, unleashes Ziemniak and Belanger, both forceful, propulsive players, and Cécile Cappozzo as well, who has constructed a seemingly conventional quintet that ultimately mirrors her own wide-ranging impulses from moody abstraction to expressionist fury, further reflected in the contrast between the melancholic “Carla” and “Orage”, the latter a brief (3:11, to be exact) trio explosion in which the first two minutes are given to a Ziemniak drum solo, the remaining 70 seconds to an off-the-rails roller-coaster theme statement by Cécile Cappozzo and Belanger.

The program concludes with a reprise of “Hymne d’automne”, but it's a rearrangement, almost a deconstruction, beginning with a free-bop pairing of Belanger and Cécile Cappozzo with Jean-Luc’s entry signalling a gradual diminuendo to a reflective (but also choppy, there’s a certain kind of “Paul-Bley-out-of-Monk” disjunctive edginess in the younger Cappozzo’s make-up) improvised passage between her and Grente, then a balladic theme statement that some might hear as verging on the mawkish, then a moody piano interlude then concluding with a brief and evanescent bass solo to conclude the piece and the CD.

Cécile Cappozzo works with traditional elements stretching from hard bop to free jazz, but there’s nothing predictable about the way she and the quintet order the material, skewing mood signals and continuities with sudden, almost arbitrary, impulse. The result is as engaging as it is distinctive.