Michel Edelin Trio: Kuntu (2009)
Perennially unfashionable and plagued by perceptions of insufficient heft and timbral variation, it's not surprising that flute-based trios are rarer than an apologetic banker. Not that this troubles the Paris-based RogueArt label, as straight after the Indigo Trio's Anaya (2009) comes another, this time under the direction of flautist Michel Edelin. Past associations for the Frenchman include Byard Lancaster, Barry Altschul and Steve Potts, though the majority of his projects have been European, with the likes of Daniel Humair and Francois Mechali.
For his current trio he has enlisted the thoroughbred partnership of bassist Jean-Jacque Avenel and American expatriate drummer John Betsch, best known as Steve Lacy's long-standing rhythm section. Saxophonist Steve Lehman guests on three tracks, renewing an association with Edelin dating back to a 2006 Eric Dolphy project.
Edelin penned nine out of the ten compositions, with the last being a breathy solo semi-abstracted version of Thelonious Monk's ballad, "Ruby My Dear." While the thematic material is straightforward, lively interplay between the leader's full-toned swooping flute and the taut rhythm section thickens the plot on the syncopated grace of "Daolo" and dashingly rootsy "Deca ut." Avenel, in particular, is at the top of his game, his rich woody bass dancing in joyous counterpoint, but responsive to every nuance and eddy when in support. His wonderfully baroque bowed introduction to "Goût bulgare" sets up one of the album's high points, with the beautiful flute melody cosseted by his astute pizzicato commentary. Naturally the bassist's history with Betsch makes for a relaxed telepathic swing, which nonetheless steers clear of easy wins while buoying up, but never overpowering, the leader.
As a guest, Lehman is perfect, his darting alto saxophone adding zest and tonal contrast without snaffling all the plaudits. His darting runs leap between the registers on "Tout simplement" over a choppy rhythm, while on the involved "Lesson Choir" his swiftly looping tonal distortions first introduce, then later interweave with Edelin's elongated flute lines, before a South African kwela-style coda closes out the piece to winning effect.
Perhaps a rehabilitation for the jazz flute is in the cards: this is certainly one place where interest rates remain high.
Track Listing: Les hirondelles; 2-3-4-5; Ultravitre; Goût bulgare; Tout simplement; Daolo; Deca ut; Bag
Personnel: Michel Edelin: flute; alto flute; bass flute; Jean-Jacques Avenel: double-bass; John Betsch: drums; Steve Lehman: alto saxophone (1, 5, 9).