STEFANO BATTAGLIA/PIERRE FAVRE/MICHAEL GASSMAN

When We Were
Splasc(h) Records CDH 690.2

STEFANO BATTAGLIA/PIERRE FAVRE
Omen
Splasc(h) Records CDH 691.2

Never has the expression "three into two doesn't go" had more resonance than with these two CD.

Recorded for Swiss radio on the same day in 1997, probably hours apart, the OMEN session is an accomplished example of what can be achieved in the moment by two skillful improvisers. In contrast the trio session resembles background music.

Unlike pop, which can revolve around endless injected patches of sound and rhythm goosing up a product at a later date, true jazz records depend on inspiration. And it can vary from hour to hour and even from minute to minute. Inspiration is in the studio on the duo CD where the two instrumentalists intertwine, despite the nearly 30 year age difference between them. Then again even at his age, Battaglia, the Italian pianist who wrote all the music, has already recorded 30 CDs, while Swiss drummer Favre's 45 year playing career has allowed him to rise to any challenge.

"Crossing", for instance is prodded along with the constant forward motion of Favre's percussion accents, spurring rapid-fire keyboard stabs, which almost launch into avant garde territory. "Danse", on the other hand, is more subtle, a lightly swirling recitation that calls on Battaglia's background in Bach and baroque music, with the drummer barely there until the entire tune resolves itself into a Middle Eastern-style dance.

WHEN WE WERE is a different matter. What was exploratory with two becomes almost rote with three, even through all the music was freely improvised in the studio. Perhaps it's the input from Swiss trumpeter Gassmann, whose muted Chet Baker meets Miles Davis influences seem a little too close to his lips on most of the disc. Only on tunes like "The Stage Is Ours" and "I Said What?" does he exhibit enough grit and strength to put flesh on those ethereal bones.

If subdued sounds are your preference, you may find something in the trio session. But the Battaglia/Favre partnership is the real treasure from a Swiss vault.

— Ken Waxman

Were: Track Listing: 1. Story 2. Code And Disorder 3. When We Were 4. Mater 5. New Horizon 6. For You 7. The Stage Is Ours 8. Like Tears In The Rain 9. I Said What? 10. The Beauty Inside 11. Processione 12. Sooner, Later 13. Final Hour

Personnel: Michael Gassmann (trumpet); Stefano Battaglia (piano); Pierre Favre (percussion)

Omen: Track Listing: 1. Landing 2. Omen 3. Marionette 4. Danse 5. Moth In the Amber 6. Cry 7. Gestural 8. Crossing 9. Ashokh

Personnel: Stefano Battaglia (piano); Pierre Favre (percussion)