Pianist Colin Vallon seems on the verge of a creative breakthrough with his new trio album Danse. With his third ECM trio release Vallon has cemented a personal approach to his music; it is one that has taken time to unfold much like many of his compositions. In his writing, as well as group interplay, the pianist has made a science of exploring open spaces and filling them with nuanced textures or opting for minimalism.
Vallon's influences include not only the familiar names of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Gyögy Ligeti but pop artists like Thom Yorke (Radiohead) and Björk. Here the pianist reunites with bassist Patrice Moret and drummer Julian Sartorius, both from his all-Swiss group on Le Vent (2015). Moret has been a working colleague for more than a decade and Sartorius had replaced Samuel Roher following Rruga (2014) and other pre-ECM albums.
The eleven compositions on Danse do not so much move the needle forward for Vallon and company as they do further refine the composer's excellent compositions. Having written nine of the eleven tracks on the album he clearly keeps the strengths of Moret and Sartorius in mind. The opening "Sisyphe" is an exquisite piece that demonstrates the perfect synergy between Vallon and Moret. Classical influences are apparent in "Tsunami" even as Sartorius' propulsion creates a tautness andeventuallyalters the motif. The title track offers a more intentionally disjointed relationship between piano and bass surprisingly held together by Sartorius while "L'onde" is more upbeat and pleasantly off-kilter. The drummer's light and musical touch can be best be appreciated on the beautiful "Kid" and that atmosphere bleeds into the brief "Reste." The album closes out with the hypnotic "Morn" and a second variation of "Reste."
Vallon has yet to find a broader and well-deserved audience in the US but that is logically a matter of time with three attention-demanding ECM releases. Much of his music exemplifies tranquility, even in the quirkier numbers, but there is always a restive quality, a tension that holds one's consideration and makes this more than a minimal experience. Danse has moments of unsurpassed beauty, offset by inventive, searching passages that portend the unexpected paths Vallon journeys down.
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