Music that stifles has its place, but it’s not here. We often forget what it’s like to breathe along with music, since a lot of it out there is about filling space and not savoring it. But this: ah, music to breathe to.
(Plus Loin Music, released January 2010)
Music that stifles has its place, but it’s not here. We often forget what it’s like to breathe along with music, since a lot of it out there is about filling space and not savoring it. But this: ah, music to breathe to. It’s not just the instrumentation of the group (trio sans chordal instrument like piano or guitar) that does it; it’s the way these three musicians seem to breathe and exist together.
This is jazz through a Parisian lense, which is by no means a new concept. Jazz has flourished in Paris for almost as long as it has in the states, and through all art disciplines, the French have never had trouble expressing themselves. For bass clarinetist and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Savy it seems to be through a melding of jazz, chamber music, and 20th century influences that he best expresses himself. His experience with contemporary music of the past century and his knowledge of jazz’s deep history, along with the thoughtful counterpoint and interactions that constantly characterize the music on the album, confirm this marriage of styles.
At the top of the French Suite, the rubato ballad “Ouverture” provides an Ayler-esque relationship between bassist Scott Colley and Savy, while drummer Bill Stewart’s malleted cymbals, metals, and skins are cosmic. Savy’s own bass clarinet is the opposite of brash; he bellows a rich and often throaty bass clarinet sound. The seven movements of the suite almost resemble 20th century miniatures with improvisation, at times reminding the listener of something Debussy or Ravel would have created.
“Atlantique Nord” beckons an image of a deep sea diver, Stewart playful with brushes around the melody low as the ocean floor. Don’t get too caught up in Savy’s dynamic and interesting solo; below the surface bustles with activity, as Scott Colley all at once supports the soloist Savy with edgy counterpoint and eggs on Stewart’s syncopations.
Listen to “Atlantique Nord”:[audio:
http://rvanews.net/sounds/Jazz/03%20Atlantique%20Nord.mp3|titles=Part III – Atlantique Nord|artists=Thomas Savy, Scott Colley, Bill Stewart]
Even nodding to downtown Manhattan jazz in “My Big Apple,” Savy rips and squeals, and Stewart provides his most interestingly paced solo. His signature licks are there, but everything is true to the tune’s nature. “E & L” is contemporary music with blues at the heart. When one drops out and three musicians become two, the sound is even more lovely.
Each musician straightens the most jagged lines into smooth collective phrases in the suite’s closer, “Ballade de Stephen Edward.” It’s mostly restless and uneasy (but not necessarily dissonant), very much unlike the suite’s opener. Whereas “Ouverture” was rubato with plenty of motion, “Ballade” is stop and go: trio improvisation interspersed with trio silence.
The CD’s sharp packaging is worth noting. Slipped into an oversized cardboard digipack is a black CD that imitates the look of a 45rpm record, and the other side contains an insert with drawings of Savy and his bandmates. Little notes written in French say things like, “One does not think when one plays. When one plays, one plays,” and “I do not write for a bassist and a drummer. I write for him and for him.”
Stewart and Colley have been playing together since the late 1980s when Colley first moved to New York City and have recorded under such leaders as saxophonist Chris Potter and guitarist Adam Rogers. Having never met or played with either of them, Savy enlisted their services for this work. A credit to Stewart’s and Colley’s adaptive abilities as well as Savy’s leadership, the new team seems to be a trans-Atlantique match made in heaven.
Track list: Part I – Ouverture; Part II – Ignition; Part III – Atlantique Nord; Part IVa – E & L; Part V – My Big Apple; Part VI – Stones; Part VII – Ballade de Stephen Edward; Come Sunday; Part IVb – L & E; Lonnie’s Lament.
Personnel: Thomas Savy, bass clarinet; Scott Colley, bass; Bill Stewart, drums.