December 13, 2013
Michel Edelin Quartet
Unafraid of rhythmic consistency and solos which groove rather than experiment, is this latest offering from Paris-based flutist Michel Edelin. Edelin, whose past collaborators include fellow woodwind players Nicole Mitchell and Steve Lehman, has composed 11 compositions that feature his subtle interaction with venerable saxophonist/clarinetist Jacques Di Donato, an academic who moves between notated and improvised music and is best-known for a clarinet trio he led with Louis Sclavis and Armand Angster.
No sign of Di Donato contemporary music leanings surface on this pleasant disc. One of the reasons may be the practical and unbeatable back up for the two reedists by bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer Simon Goubert. Avenel, of course, was a long-time fixture in soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s combos, while Goubert works consistently with pianist Sophia Domancich.
With no composition longer than 6¾ minutes, each is polished to a high professional sheen, with themes and choruses evolving organically. The bassist’s woody plucks stay perfectly in, place, with no untoward modulations, while the drummer’s taps and rolls, maintaining the rhythm without every becoming obnoxious. Generally, with its artful blending of clarinet and its near-dozen examples of gentle swing, this CD could be a 21st Century variant on 1950s West Coast Jazz. Resurgence, an indicative title if you think about it, though it may relate most to 71-year-old Di Donato’s youthful Jazz leaning and confirm Edelin’s more conservative tendencies. That said – despite is political meaning – conservative doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and there’s some high quality playing and pleasing melodies showcased here.
For instance on “Errance Carminée”, as the rhythm section holds the line, Edelin unrolls a solo with exquisite tone, maintaining proper intonation without shrilling, yet avoiding the saccharine. Di Donato’s response is more staccato and fragmented, with the balance underscored by Avenel’s arpeggiated twangs and some cymbal clanks and rolls from Goubert. Then there’s “Bailes de Tango”, probably the most unconventional of the tracks. As Edelin maintains pure flute timbres, Di Donato interjects split-tone and note swallowing commentary as Avenel’s cello-register tones maintain the skipping melody. Following Goubert’s self-possessed drum solo, the romantic theme reappears but this time propelled by the bass clarinet.
Di Donato, who was a professor of clarinet at the Lyon conservatory for 25 years, dramatically demonstrates his reed command on clarinet, bass clarinet and soprano saxophone throughout. Meanwhile Edelin, who is more of an autodidact, fluently shows off his skills on flute, alto flue and bass flute. In fact some of the most memorable lines appear when Edelin harmonizes the low-pitched reed with the dark contours of Avenel’s lowest bass positions. As well he can always be counted upon to moderate too-bulky rhino-like lowing from the bass clarinetist with swinging chirps and linear motions.
Resurgence doesn’t break any new group sonically or compositionally. It’s merely an exceptionally performed record of master musicians playing at the top of their respective game(s). For many that may be enough of a recommendation.
Track Listing: Simon's Bubbles 2. Danse avec l’Ours 3.Old and Beautiful Story 4. Tristezza Della Diva 5. Le Chat et la Souris 6. Errance Carminée 7. Jet Lag 8. Tales of Seven Lizards 9. Bailes de Tango 10. Witches 11. Black Snow
Personnel: Michel Edelin (flute, alto flute and bass flute); Jacques Di Donato (bass clarinet and soprano saxophone); Jean-Jacques Avenel (bass) and Simon Goubert (drums)