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This satisfying, varied and coherent date sounds like the work of a mature group leader, but in fact it is only the second release from twenty-something Swiss pianist Gabriel Zufferey. His first, Après l'orage, a trio outing with heavyweight French drummer Daniel Humair
and bassist Sébastien Boisseau, came out on Bee Jazz in 2005 to very good notices in Europe. Hear & Know was recorded live before a small and good-natured audience; the concert setting lends a freshness to the performance, but there is nothing loose or sloppy about the group's focused interplay.
's current trioand sometime group leader in his own right.) Zufferey is not an especially Hancock-like soloist, but he does have something of the older pianist's vast musical intelligence and deliberate judgment.
Some of the tracks feature the leader on electric piano, including a mildly twisted take on Thelonious Monk
's canonical "'Round Midnight," where the piano is abrasively distorted, more or less in keeping with Samuel Blaser's aggressive trombone playing. Monk makes a reprise near the close of the set, again helped generously by the trombonist's aggression: a Zufferey original, "Au bas, ma baraque," evolves into a fierce, thudding unison beat, over which it seems almost accidentally to occur to Blaser to start playing a particularly gutbucket rendition of Monk's "Blue Monk." He's subsequently joined, riotously, by the other players.
In between the two appearances by Monk, Zufferey's band traverses a set of elliptical original compositions. "HeaR(E) & kNOW" is perhaps the most quizzical, and "Ballade en cet" features probably Zufferey's loveliest solo. (Zufferey's titles are typographically elaborate, puns and coded messages, not all of which are readily deciphered. " kirE eitaS," of course, is "Erik Satie" spelled backwards, but it is not immediately clear whether the number's pretty theme, suitably Satie-like, is a Satie composition played backwards.)
Zufferey emerges as a relatively conservative soloist thrust into a somewhat adventurous setting. That he has placed himself in the company of musicians less conservative than he, and playing material that similarly calls upon him to stretch himself a bit, only demonstrates his good judgment. All the more so, given that he wrote most of the material; that is, he's a more radical composer than player. Let there be no misunderstanding: this is straight-ahead jazz that will appeal to a wide swath of the jazz audience. What is more or less radical, however, is the degree to which Zufferey is pushedor pushes himselfto broaden his harmonic and rhythmic thinking. It's a creative tension that yields rewarding results.
Track Listing: 'Round Midnight; Treize être ange; I'M'N'U; Be(e) Honey; Ballade en cet; HEaR(E) & kNOW; kirE
eitaS; Au bas, ma baraque / Blue Monk; Au bas, ma baraque / Blue Monk (take 2); Valse
Personnel: Samuel Blaser: trombone; Maria Kim Grand: tenor saxophone (4); Gabriel Zufferey: piano,
keyboards; Patrice Moret: contrabass; Ramon Lopez; drums, percussion.