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Jeff Denson, Romain Pilon, Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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American bassist Jeff Denson and French guitarist Romain Pilon not only became professional acquaintances, but also great friends, when they began their studies at the much-revered Boston Berklee College of Music at the end of the last century. On Between Two Worlds the two celebrate their twenty years of on-and-off collaborating, with leading drum wizard Brian Blade completing the trio. In a set of mostly clear structures and highly melodic interplay between all involved, a crunchy guitar effect paired with punchy bass lines and Blade's signature ride strokes keep things interesting throughout.

While Brian Blade doesn't need a rapid bop rhythm in order to show how much swing just his right hand can add to the mix, the Denson-penned "Listen Up" is one of those exhibitions which displays this virtuoso side of Blade exactly. Starting out with only harsh and rapid blows on drums, Denson and Pilon step in for the introduction of a speedy head in unison, before Denson goes on a walk and Pilon tickles the blue notes out of some very intuitive voicings. Blade's playing doesn't impose but secretly boils in the background.

Between memorable themes and short and juicy solos, the album especially focuses on the great chemistry at hand—exposing three individuals who are obviously having fun exploring more-or-less linear compositional structures to their most outer rims. As displayed on the opener "Sucre," Pilon's solos are never just an excuse for a virtuoso show of force, but unassumingly make their way into the picture and leave again in the same manner. During their stay, they swiftly balance melodic motifs with dissonant sidesteps and compelling comping exercises, allowing Denson's deep frequencies to voice an opinion as well.

Some laid-back blues language on guitar gives "Song of a Solitary Crow" just the right amount of sass for its seven-minute stay, while the other ballad, "Lost and Found," falls back on a more typical modal-jazz approach, with a Denson solo at its core. As anywhere on the record, but especially prominent with the instrument in the spotlight, the production of the bass is a rare kind of crisp, covering all the necessary frequencies while bursting with dry attack. For an additional layer of variety in sound, the title track sees Denson getting out a bow and his sidemen reduced to their most accompanying spirit. Attack-less and release-heavy guitar voicings create a dense atmosphere together with dampened percussive drum work.

Filled with tasteful melodies and joyful interplay, Between Two Worlds is a very sophisticated recording which demonstrates just the right amount of adventurousness. The word "sophisticated" often has the negative connotation of being a euphemism for "boring." Make no mistake, this record is terrifically paced and doesn't drag for a second. Here, "sophisticated" just means that these guys know exactly what they're doing and how to do it. And they do it exceptionally well.

Track Listing: Sucre; Song of a Solitary Crow; En Trois Temps; Generation; Nostalgic Farewell; Listen Up; Madrid; Lost and Found; Between Two Worlds; Azur.

Personnel: Jeff Denson: double bass; Romain Pilon: guitar; Brian Blade: drum set.

Title: Between Two Worlds | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Ridgeway Records

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