MICHAËL ATTIAS

Credo
Clean Feed CF051

Recorded more than seven year ago, the only puzzling aspect of this exciting CD is why it had to wait so long to be released.

Perhaps it’s because 1999 was a half-generation ago in the jazz-improv world, with the musicians here even less known than today and unable to interest local record companies in the product. The later handicap was overcome by going offshore – Clean Feed is Portuguese – although the excellent improvisers featured here still have undeservedly low profiles.

Perhaps the best know now is powerful bassist Chris Lightcap, who works with, among others, multi-reedman Anthony Braxton. Violinist Sam Bardfeld and French hornist Mark Taylor – who are featured on half of CREDO’s eight tracks – have played with percussionist Kevin Norton and Cuban percussionist Roberto Juan Rodriguez (Bardfeld); and as part of altoist Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus and George Schuller’s Orange Then Blue big band (Taylor). Drummer Igal Foni has recorded with reedist Avram Fefer and trombonist Steve Swell among others; while trombonist Reut Regev has been part of saxophonist Assif Tsahar’ New York Underground Orchestra and saxophonist Ras Moshe’s Music Now Society band.

Israeli-born, like Foni and Regev, leader Attias was brought up in the Midwest and now lives in New York. His list of credits includes membership in Walter Thompson’s Orchestra, Ramon Rodriguez’s Latin Ensemble and various groups led by Braxton. An accomplished composer – all the tunes are his – the tracks reference Latin hymns, popular standards, bebop and Sephardic liturgy. Cognizant of how best to voice three different horns, fiddle, bass and drums, nearly every tune is bursting with unbridled energy. If there are any shortcomings it’s that most of them adhere to the conventional head-solo-solo-head formula.

Still the level of inspiration makes the solos worth hearing. Regev, who is now also a New Yorker playing everything from salsa and funk to Caribbean and contemporary music, is in particularly fine fettle. Her clear articulation polishes notes to a fine luster on a slow-burning piece like “Orange”, while the title tune is characterized by bluesy, tremolo variations on her part.

“Darn that Darn”, which may or may not be a contrafact of “Darn that Dream”, unfolds from unison polyphony to double- and triple-tonguing from the trombonist, as Attias’ alto saxophone timbres wind their way around her with whinnying pitch modulations.

Lightcap offers up a few example of powerful rasgueado-like pummeling, but is usually content to maintain the beat with Foni. Staying true to his rhythmic function, the traps man introduces beat variations from pseudo conga-like drumming on “Hot Mountain Song” to explosive cymbal, bass drum and nerve-beat stick play on “Credo”.

Similar fast-paced compositions, “Hot Mountain Song” with its echoes of Israeli music, and “Mes Petites Amoureuses”, show off Taylor and Bardfeld’s talents. On the former the violinist turns out a twisting, double-stopping rubato solo on top of woody, bass splaying from Lightcap; while the later not only showcases the ripe mellowness of Taylor’ horn, but also concludes with double counterpoint among pinpoint turns from the fiddler and flutter-tongued pulses from Taylor.

That piece is another highlighting Attias’ trilled and slide-slipping obbligato and other reed invention. His grainy tone on the liturgical “Berechit” connects to the melody’s Sephardic and thus African roots, with grainy punctuation before the band’s shout chorus.

Still, the restrictedly-named “I’s” is the stand-out composition, with the polyrhythmic performance encompassing forefront metallic nerve beats from Foni, cat-gut shrills from Bardfeld and a slip-sliding reed line with bite from Attias. After the brass transforms a rubato counterline into an interlude of lip-buzzy growling, the returning theme is layered with the other instruments’ contributions. Climax is reaches as the final note is held by all for 10 seconds, until the players collectively run out of breath.

CREDO suggests that someone should get Attias, his band and original compositions back in a record studio pronto – if not sooner.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1.Credo* 2. I’s* 3. Orange 4. Dream That Darn 5. Hot Mountain Song* 6. Mes Petites Amoureuses* 7. Labat 8. Berechit

Personnel: Reut Regev (trombone[except for 7] ); Mark Taylor (French horn)*; Michaël Attias (alto and baritone saxophones); Sam Bardfeld (violin)*; Chris Lightcap (bass); Igal Foni (drums)