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Sebastian Gille: Anthem

Dan McClenaghan By

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The most famous and venerable German record label is ECM Records, Manfred Eicher's brainchild, founded in 1969 and still going strong with now more than twelve hundred recordings in its catalog. But there is a German upstart, Pirouet Records, which has been in the business of offering up its own musical vision since the early 2000s, with a multinational stable of artists including American pianists Marc Copland, Bill Carrothers and Kevin Hays, British-born saxophonist Loren Stillman and Belgian bassist Nicolas Thys and his fellow countryman, saxophonist Robin Verheyan. And many more.

Sebastian Gille is a German saxophonist and the leader on Anthem, a quartet set that showcases Gille's distinctive compositional voice on saxophones and alto clarinet, inside an exploratory and egalitarian ensemble. With two covers, Kurt Weill's "Barbara-Song" and the Goell/Speilman-penned "You Won't Forget Me," to go along with six Gille originals, the quartet crafts a tranquil and beautifully measured music that is introspective and often haunting.

"Blossom" opens the set on Robert Landfermann's rumbling bass before pianist Pablo Held and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel enter with a gentle splash, leading into the incipient blooming of the leader's tart saxophone. The group gathers to a turbulent crescendo then tapers down like a storm that blew through, leaving gentle sprinkles and breezes behind as Held takes a supple, crystalline solo. "Gray" gives off a lonesome, late-night shimmer mood, and Held searches with an elegant touch behind Gille's winding lines.

Not yet thirty years old, Gille has developed a distinctive voice of his own on saxophone. Favoring the higher reaches of the tenor, the closest comparison to his sound would be that of alto saxophonist great Lee Konitz: sharp, with a bit of a blur around the edges, and possessed of the ability the string out long, labyrinthine lines that loop into lovely but rather "out there" melodic threads.

The tenderest moment on Anthem (and there are many) arrives with the closer, "You Won't Forget Me." The ensemble flows into a melancholy prayer—six engrossing minutes of collective genius that evokes a lonely, slightly anguished mood to perfection, to wrap up an extraordinary debut.

Track Listing: Blossom; Gray; Anthem; Embrace; Charisma; Barbara-Song; Epilogue; You Won't Forget Me.

Personnel: Sebastian Gille: tenor and soprano saxophones, alto clarinet; Pablo Held: piano; Robert Landfermann: bass; Jonas Burgwinkel: drums.

Title: Anthem | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Pirouet Records


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