Yves Robert Trio

Inspired
BMC CD 228

Müller/Muche

MM Squared Session

Creative Sources CS 306 CD

Like a florid rodeo clown who only reveals the true purpose of his job as a paramedic if necessary, a trombonist’s ability to express broad emotions with his horn often masks the instrument’s cerebral ability. But without eschewing the brass instruments connective and conceptive role, the trombonists here – a German trombone duo and a French technician leading a bass and drum trio – demonstrate the instrument’s sonic elasticity.

Although he has probed the literature’s more experimental corners in the company of reedists like Michel Portal and Louis Sclavis, this trio disc from French trombonist Yves Robert never strays too far out. However the Vichy conservatory-trained instrumentalist easily demonstrates the slide-horn’s innate adaptability in 10 instant compositions, accompanied by bassist Bruno Chevillon and drummer Cyril Atef. The effect is like attending a recital by sophisticate thespians able to expound comedy and tragedy with equal skill.

If Robert and company’s disc is the equivalent of attending the appearances of actors who are as likely to animate a TV commercial, as Chekov, then MM Squared Session is the equivalent to dedicating your evening to avant-garde theatre. Two of Germany’s most accomplished trombonists, Berlin’s Matthias Müller and Köln’s Matthias Muche have created a two-hander with the idea of alluding to any extended technique and tones capable of being produced by their instruments. Since two modern sackbuts are involved, it’s impossible to tell who plays what. But the impression is like seeing Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart performing Waiting for Godot in full make up. The play’s the thing; not who performs it.

Balancing like the three sides of a triangle, the bouncy and chunky chromatism invested in Inspired is inspired as much by the skills and talents of Chevillon’s sluicing bass lines and Atef’s positioned rattling as the brass playing. Still the bassist’s guitar-like arpeggios help make a vibrating bed for vocalized, pinpointed slurs from the trombonist. Although there are places such as “Before the Bliss” where Robert’s clenched but surprisingly spritely plunger work conjures up the mental picture of a dancing rhino, when coupled with sonic loops of instrumental and vocal timbre the results are cemented into unstoppable forward motion. Working with tropes as expected as vocalized slurs and as unforeseen as tongue flutters, the brass player is able to concede the foreground to his associates without a letdown in pace. Before faint echoes from the bassist end “Ideas through Running” for example, the drummer pivots his beat in such a way that at points it encompasses Rock and Latin affiliations making as much a contrast to Robert’s straightforward, Jazz-playing as a scuba diver would confronting a yachtsman.

By the concluding “Cahutchuca” where the audience at Budapest’s Opus Jazz Club is verbally exhorted to dance, the trio reveals its sly strategy. Over an otherwise terpsichorean rhythm the three give one another enough space to explore new textures. Using conga-like hand slaps Atef maintains the back beat as chunky bass thumps move from exotic tagging to solid R&B-like allusions. After starting his solo with a feline-like yowl, Robert’s cascading grace notes add to the rhythmic mix, while staying true to tonal exploration like a gunslinger joining a posse for one heroic act.

Burying his technical advances within a danceable trio format makes Robert like William Carlos Williams, whose advanced poetics were created during his rounds as a country doctor. If Robert is Williams then Müller and Muche are more akin to Beat poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg on this CD at least. MM Squared Session’s four sound poems are designed to stretch the trombone language as much as the Beats did so with English language imagery. Unlike versifiers who work alone, the German brass men are able to ricochet concepts off each other and respond in kind to each other’s sonic suggestions. Most of the time however, their improvisations ignore the comfortable middle-range, choosing instead to concentrate on near-luminous puffs, cacophonous staccato breaks or low-pitched grumbles. The effect is sometimes like experiencing the aftershock of a hurricane. But M&M are so attuned to each others’ creativity that the oscillated buzzes, often forced through their horns without valve movement are reminiscent of waves fusing to create a choppy sea, and then gradually calming. That concept is put to good use on “Ma”.

Gentler meteorological readings result from “Mu” however. Escalating from distant buzzes to harsh blats the brass players come on like conjoined twins with the same nervous system. Flat-line burrs drip from one corpus to the other eventually creating almost opaque slurs that satisfy. It’s as if crazy glue has locked together two half of a painted portrait. This same sort of cooperation is evident on the extended “Tti”. Yet the genuine excitement engendered as M&M rupture the preceding low-key face off between toad-like crocking from one trombonist and rugged gusts from the other to determine who can blow out the largest volume of unaccented air. The finale funds both operating like twin harnessed steeds moving a carriage in tandem.

Renaissance trombones were known as sackbuts. But there’s a whole bag of modern tricks on display here via three contemporary trombone stylists.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Inspired: 1. La fabrication de l’instant 2. Bien dans sa peau 3. Expirine 4. Spirituel Frisson 5. Brain Wave 6. Before the Bliss 7. Between the Bliss and Me 8. Ideas through Running 9. Insperiment 10. Cahutchuca

Personnel: Inspired: Yves Robert (trombone); Bruno Chevillon (bass) and Cyril Atef (drums)

Track Listing: MM: 1. Mü 2. Mu 3. Ma 4. Tti

Personnel: MM: Matthias Müller and Matthias Muche (trombone)