Alban Darche

Pépin & Plume P&P 004

By Ken Waxman

As serene and amicable as the word it describes, this session by French alto saxophonist Alban Darche is his salute to the polyphonic West Coast jazz of the 1950s. But like dramatists who recast an oft-told story in a new setting to point out the universality of the art, Darche’s Cool Jazz doesn’t copy the concepts advanced by the likes of Gil Evans, Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond.

Instead of re-recording some Cool Jazz classics, the CD consists of 10 Drache compositions played by a quintet consisting of some of Europe’s most accomplished young veterans: trumpeter Geoffroy Tamisier, trombonist Samuel Blaser, Jozef Dumoulin on piano and Fender Rhodes and drummer Steve Argüelles. Dumoulin’s electric keyboard is particularly important for like an iphone plugged into a stereo outlet its distinctive shimmers are prototypically contemporary not mid-20th Century This is especially obvious when a snatch of the original California-styled music is quoted on the sardonically-titled “Birth of the Coocool” and when other Cool school motifs are especially obvious on “Pacific 2, Fugue Nº3”.

Preeminently a group effort, frequently balancing on the bucolic harmonies available via unison horn buffering, Darche leaves enough space for brief solos. His own work updates Desmond and Konitz with enough steel glimpsed through the silkiness to mix it up with feathery piano chording on “Pacific 3” or advance in concordance with trombone slides on “Kenny”. On the same tune Swiss-native Blaser, whose low notes add definition to the horn’s musical shape elsewhere, is involved in hide-and-seek with Dumoulin’s piano. More defining still is the fissure resulting when Blaser’s muted mellifluousness is contrasted with lead guitar-like ringing strokes from the pianist on “Pacific 2, Fugue Nº3”. Usually muted, Tanisier confirms that stand-out improvising can also be self-effacing; while Argülles is so tasteful he’s felt rather than heard. If Pacific has a drawback it’s that like its antecedents too often the band whispers and noodles instead of shouts. But if the reverse took place wouldn’t it upset the delicate balance here?

Concert Note: Samuel Blaser brings his European-American quartet to Hamilton’s Artword Artbar on Thursday, October 13.

-For The Whole Note October 2016