Any two guys can make a hell of a lot of noise in this world; ask Romulus and Remus, or Watson and Crick, or Jordan and Pippen. Swiss pianist Marc Perrenoud and French drummer Sylvain Ghio, both in their mid-20s, got together in Geneva this June and did exactly that. Fortunately, they remembered to bring the beauty and the wonder too, as well as a good bit of envelope-pushing swing. It might not be as "out" as they think it is, but it's certainly hanging around my list of best jazz discs of the year.
This is Perrenoud's first jazz disc, as he is mostly a classical musician; I'm guessing that's where the "stream," as in Third Stream, comes in. He certainly loves the lyrical Windhamesque noodling, especially on his little amuse bouche pieces like "Interlude 3" and "Interlude 7." And tracks like "Vis Island" and "L'escalier" are clearly Compositions With A Capital C, as they develop themes and counterpoints and all that stuff, although the former song is more successful (because more aggressive and interesting) than the soft sweet latter. Perrenoud is always masterful, but he seems to just be getting his feet wet in jazz.
That's why it's good that he has a roughneck partner in Ghio. His drumming is at its best when he's not too worried about conforming to any kind of plan. Check, for instance, his semi-free intro to their version of Horace Silver's "Peace" (is it just me, or did everyone and their dog cover this in the last year or so?), all rolling toms and cymbal flourisheshe tones it down somewhat so Perrenoud can come in with the piano theme, then subtly disrupts that theme over the next three minutes in a wonderful way. And on the opener, Kenny Barron's "Voyage," his shuffling rhythm goads Perrenoud into a wonderful display of pounding pointillist improvisation, which is much more interesting than when he gets all cutesy.
Mostly, this is just two young guys having fun. It's excellent to hear them covering Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence," turning it into a nine-minute suite that goes through all possible variations of the song; it's also kind of fun when they turn the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "My Friends" into a gentle fragile ballad.
But it's a lot more fun when they're both just going kind of mad. Hopefully this isn't the last time they work together, or the last time Perrenoud works in jazz, or the last time I hear Depeche Mode covered like this. Kudos for now, but I think these two players have a lot better work in front of them.
Personnel: Marc Perrenoud: piano; Sylvain Ghio: drums.