Jacques Di Donato/Gaël Mevel/Thierry Waziniak

Trio Rives
Label Rives No. 2

Freely improvised music without artifice, this CD shows how three established French players combine to create a tone poem that calls as much on serialism as swing. Without any apparent fissures, this trio fabricates two extended programs which continuously bemuse with quick transitions.

A distinguished music professor, who has recorded with the likes of flautist Michel Edelin, Jacques Di Donato plays clarinet, soprano saxophone and percussion here. Gaël Mevel, whose proficiency extends to film as well as musical studies, plays piano, cello, guitar, bandoneon and percussion. Meanwhile Thierry Waziniak, a long-time Mevel associate as well as someone who has worked with among others, alto saxophonist Steve Potts, provides drums and percussion.

This uncomplicated multi-instrumentalism allows each track to include several motifs running simultaneously. For instance Morton Feldman-like piano passages glimpsed throughout provide an unforced continuum. Plus with that as a foundation, there’s that much more aural real estate that can be devoted to contrapuntal expositions from strummed guitars, double-bass-like thwacks from the cello and tremolo puffs from the bandelon. Non-obtrusive percussion adds modulated shading as well, while like a careful chemist, reedist Di Donato sounds only enough split tones or staccato shrills to add the proper ingredients to his improvisations. At junctures too, the trio members suddenly shift into full Jazz modes. Di Donato's penetrating staccato lines are transferred into whorls and whoops on soprano saxophone, while Mevel’s comping thickens into a McCoy Tyner-like emulation. The mystery behind the switches is made less opaque on “Première Rive” with inaudible commands exchanged in conspirational tones.

A subsequent interregnum stuffed with mellow cello swipes and reed bubbling doesn’t so much complete the first section as bond it to “Deuxième Rive”. Almost one-and-one-half lengthier than its antecedent, the piece is outlined with the same discipline. Here though the mood is pastorally lighter, with flat-line improvising plus short reed bites stabilized alongside string pumps and discreet cymbal scratches. Distinctively, the climatic breakthrough appears just before the finale, with expansive piano chords matched with buzzing clarinet and a concluding bass drum resonation vanishing in the air.

Proof that in the right hands pure improvisations propelled with intensity and style can be as purely inspiring as any music.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Première Rive 2. Deuxième Rive

Personnel: Jacques Di Donato (clarinet, soprano saxophone and percussion); Gaël Mevel (piano, cello, guitar, bandoneon and percussion) and Thierry Waziniak (drums and percussion