Sylvie Courvoisier's work has come from a variety of angles over the years. She is a classically-trained composer with a strong ear for formal structure, an improviser with a strong sense of community and artistic relationships and an innovator whose work with preparing and altering the piano goes beyond the usual percussive effects to forge a new musicality on the instrument. All of those aspects of her work come together beautifully on Lonelyville, a fantastic and far-reaching suite written for a quintet with four of her longtime associates.
"Texturologie, the first of Lonelyville's four pieces, sweeps over more than twenty minutes, striking a perfect balance between the electricity of free improvisation and the coherence of composition. It's alternately beautiful and ferocious and sometimes even startlingly so, and it sets the groundwork for the three pieces that follow. Delicate string statements, played by Mark Feldman on violin and Vincent Courtois on cello, are set against the fluid pulsing of a rhythm section comprised of Gerald Cleaver on traps and Ikue Mori's processed drum machine sounds, as well as with the leader's piano, the preparations of which move the piano's nominal inclusion in the percussion family to an active membership.
Through it all, the group manages to take the sudden turns and drops and unaccompanied solos without ever seeming abrupt or overly formal. The music is never static, but also does not come off as unnecessarily complicated. It's simply sublimely, complex.
Lonelyville may be Courvoisier's strongest work yet as a bandleader in a discography that has included compelling trios, solo albums as well as duets with percussionists and other pianists. It's tempting to call it a crowning achievement. It's much more satisfying, however, to realize that there is, no doubt, much more where this came from.