No time for doubt when it gets critical as former trio turn heavy without changing a format but changing their tack.
In today’s climate, the goal of inviting a famous artist into one’s band is to draw attention rather than elicit an inspired performance, but guitarist Michel Delville and drummer Tony Bianco are old-school enough to know better. When they came up with "As Real As Thinking" back in 2011, it felt playful, albeit thought-out, which is not the case now, as a reedsman replacement signaled a tilt in the balance – so strong as to make them shorten the group’s name – and a free-fall dynamics. A little surprise, given the newcomer’s pedigree, because Dave Liebman’s sax has long become part of jazz history, and now there’s rootsiness of different kind in action, that doesn’t need a “Trio” word. And if this album’s title suggests close contact, it’s palpable, even though the music borne from such a touch might be challenging to the listener.
Which can’t be said about the musicians who laid down all of it during a single afternoon, some post-production edits taking away none of the nine pieces’ spontaneity. Those who expected Bianco and Delville’s next adventure to go down the path of DoUBT’s "Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love" will be in for a treat despite the fact that this four-word formula can also be applied here, from the breathy, jittery fusion of the title track on, via the marvelous, mesmeric reading of “In A Silent Way” where Liebman’s flute points Delville’s strum away from Wayne Shorter’s prototype into the raga direction shot through with Bianco’s delicate thunder. More so, it took the jazz veteran to bring the most fierce rocker out of the guitarist, as he lets rip on “A Sight” sprightly shifting from shredding into riffage. Yet the dark star of the show is Bianco: beside providing percussive grit to the melodic mill, first of all on “Elisabeth” with its cosmic sprawl, the drummer cooks up supple bass lines that constantly move to help the motion, as well as loops – not the short-wave ones, but those which run for some 100 bars and, thus, hide in full view to add an almost subliminal rhythmic layer to it all.
This approach creates a speedy swing in “Centipede” that seems to be stumbling upon its own electronica-stricken groove yet skips along the jive and the splinters of wild solos passed from the brass to the six-string and back again, whereas the highly logical “Lloyd” oozes electric cha-cha-charm out of its tight interplay. The same do the multiple strata of “Utoma” in which sax and drums float over spacey synthetic undercurrent and slowly melt into it, leaving snare and cymbals for a ground control, while guitar makes a gentle return on “The Secret Place” before Saba Tewelde steps in with sultry, melismatic in the right measure, soulful vocals to open another dimension to the trio’s treatment of a tune. Its abrupt end feels harsh, but the arrangement of closer “Voice” links it to the beginning like a looped foreplay to lead to an orgasmic climax. It’s that exciting – in an intimate way.