July 29, 2009
Michel Edelin Trio
Naming his CD for a Bantu word that describes the relationship among life elements, veteran French flautist Michel Edelin tweaks his lungfuls of air and embouchure so that the prissiness associated with his legit transverse instruments isn’t even imagined
Edelin, who over the years has led his own band and worked with advanced mainstream players ranging from drummer Daniel Humair to alto saxophonist Steve Potts, exhibits absolute control of the flute, alto flute and bass flute he manipulates on this CD. Plus he’s partnered by one of the most confident and experienced rhythm sections in Europe: bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, both of whom backed soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy until his death in 2004.
Added on three tracks is young American alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. A former student of Anthony Braxton, Lehman has taught improvisation at New York’s Columbia University and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. Luckily the alto man, who has recorded frequently over the past few years, doesn’t bring the weight of academe along with him. More notably, when he and Edelin improvise in double counterpoint on tunes such as “Les Hirondelles”, it’s as if twin Eric Dolphys playing each of the late reedist’s three instruments are being featured. With Betsch’s rumbles and pops plus Avenel’s walking behind them, the saxophonist pumps out harsh downward runs while the flautist’s sweeter obbligatos include extended and propelled whispering as well as warm air currents.
Lively, “Lesson Choir” is another exercise in broken octave interface with strident alto saxophone trills, moderato flute passages and sul tasto bass runs. Expanding for Lehman’s rubato glottal repercussions and tongue percussion purrs after a pause, the piece takes on a gospelish tinge with strong reed accents and expressive sonic tinctures from the flautist.
Performances are just as strong in trio formations. “Daolo’ and “Deca Ut” – which appropriately follow one another – make a perfect twofer. On the former, Avenel’s multi-string explorations contrast with Edelin’s differing mouth strategies which run from semi-classical intonation to blunt piping à la Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The air-borne sound dabs which Edelin expels on this track are matched by the guttural bass flute intonation he finesses on “Deca Ut”. Buoyantly shaping themselves into concentric patterns, the instrumental tone is thickened as the flautist hums at the same time as he plays.
Exhibiting flutter tonguing with tremolo rhythms elsewhere, Edelin’s serpentine licks can apparently stand up to anything sonic, including rough double-stopping or carefully measured portamento plucks from the bassist, as well as clinking rim shots and ratamacues from the drummer.
“Kuntu” may mean one thing in Bantu, but in English it metaphorically translates as an object lesson in flute timbre, color and invention.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Les Hirondelles* 2. 2-3-4-5 3. Ultravitre 4. Goût Bulgare 5. Tout Simplement* 6. Daolo 7. Deca Ut 8. Bag’s Mood 9. Lesson Choir* 10. Ruby My Dear
Personnel: Michel Edelin (flute, alto flute and bass flute); Steve Lehman (alto saxophone)*; Jean-Jacques Avenel (bass) and John Betsch (drums)