Prompted by the pandemic, drummer and percussionist Florian Arbenz has set out to document 12 Conversations with musicians invited into his Basel, Switzerland recording studio. Conversation #1: Condensed was a trio with Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras and American trumpeter Hermon Mehari. Conversation #2 & #3 found Arbenz with British vibraphonist Jim Hart and Swiss bassist Jim Hart. Here we have the drummer teaming up with French bassist Francois Moutin and Cuban also saxophonist Maikel Vistel, who collaborates with the drummer in the sextet Convergence.
Was there a language issue? Absolutely not. The trio speaks the language of Thelonious Monk with "Bemsha Swing" and "Hackensack," Bill Evans with "Waltz For Debby," Joe Zawinul on "Scarlet Woman," and Eddie Harris with "Freedom Jazz Dance." What is more, listeners will not need Google to translate, though the common language is spoken with an accent. Arbenz opens "Bemsha Swing" in a funky groove, Nevertheless, the trio remains faithful to Monk's language. Both Moutin and Vistel drop disciplined solos here and throughout. Like the previous Conversations, the tracks are mostly brief affairs with compact solos and precise performances. The trio takes "Hackensack" at a breakneck pace, Moutin's lightning fingers fly over his strings chased by Arbenz' cymbals. This is Vistel's domain; he can speed and soar with a casualness that testifies to his immense talents. "Scarlett Woman" from Weather Report's Mysterious Traveller (Columbia, 1974) and 8:30 (Columbia, 1979) is given its due regard. Vistel exercises some deft Wayne Shorter-inspired soprano, and Moutin's bass acts as narrator with Arbenz filling in details. The trio coax a gentle dance with "Waltz For Debby," where Moutin again shines with his expressive attack.
As they say in the advertisements, "wait, there's more." Moutin composed one track and Vistel two. The trio runs through these with the same authority. With close listening this trio could be taken for a longtime working unit, and maybe that is the ultimate compliment given to this Conversation #4 session.
Bemsha Swing; Pandemia; Freedom Jazz Dance; A Soothing Thrill; Hackensack; Scarlet
Woman; Closer; Waltz For Debby.
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