When one thinks of chamber jazz, one hardly thinks of an ensemble consisting of piano, trumpet and trombone. This should not be such a foreign ide,a though, since the three instruments represent a broad range, both harmonically and texturally. And the trombone, at one time considered more of an ensemble instrument, is taking its rightful place at the forefront, as a result of the work of artists including Robin Eubanks, Yves Robert and Steve Turre. Add American Glenn Ferris to that list as he joins Italians pianist Giovanni Mirabassi and trumpeter Flavio Boltro for (((AIR))) , a programme that explores the diverse potential of these instruments, singly and in ensemble.
Surprisingly, there is a strong sense of rhythm, and it is not always carried by Mirabassi. Much like Bill Frisell’s Quartet of a few years ago with Curtis Fowlkes, Ron Miles and Eyvind Kang, rhythmic and sonic duties are shared by all, often shifting at a moment’s notice. On “Lili Est La,” Ferris establishes a rhythmic pulse and bass line that is soon taken over by Mirabassi as Boltro joins Ferris in stating the theme.
Like Yves Robert, Ferris explores the emotional side of an instrument that has a surprising capacity for true tenderness. His solo on “Benson & Hedges” is rich and poignant, with a plaintive tone that resonates deeply. Mirabassi’s style owes more to the romantic classical tradition than it does to more traditional American jazz; still, “Les Oiseaux de Passage” swings a bit, albeit in a choppy, almost tango-like fashion with a slight nod to the blues.
Boltro demonstrates a style that owes something to Chet Baker. On “Behind the White Door,” where Mirabassi lays down some dense chord passages that are reminiscent of Bill Evans, Boltro’s flugelhorn is tender and breathy, favouring the midrange in a solo that places musicality over technique. A characteristic of the whole recording is, in fact, that all three players, who clearly exhibit fine technical ability, are more concerned in fashioning a musical space, an ambience that, while often delicate is, just the same, more extroverted than one would expect from a chamber jazz recording.
(((AIR))) unites three players in a pleasant, easy-going affair that sets a different standard for chamber jazz ensembles. By pairing two brass instruments with piano, the ensemble manages to create a sound that is on one hand close and intimate and, on the other, bold and outgoing without being brash.
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