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Christian Pabst: Inner Voice

Don Phipps By

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What is that quote from the movie American Beauty? "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in." That's what German pianist Christian Pabst's album Inner Voice offers the jazz listener: a surrender to the beauty of music—not a sentimental beauty, but one that is profound yet entertaining at the same time.

Pabst and his cohorts, Marco Zenini on bass and Erik Kooger on drums, explore eight Pabst compositions that provide a distinct palette of sensations and color. There is a hint of Bobo Stenson-like pianism in Pabst's playing—a style that warmly reassures even as it leads the listener to the edge of ecstasy.

The album opens with the mysterious "Dantès' Dream." Pabst's long piano phrasing is anchored by Zenini's bass lines, lines that bring to mind Palle Danielsson. There's a sense of progression in the tune, like a series of switchbacks ascending to a mountain top.

With "North-East, South & West," the music takes off like a bird in flight, jetting through canyons of colored rock. Bass and drums echo the twirling piano lines. In this song, as in others on the album, Pabst eschews chords in favor of a single-note attack that leads to more full-bodied playing. Towards the end of the piece, Kooger provides an excellent exploration of musical timbres across the drum kit.

The enigmatic "Lartigue," begins with classic interplay as the piano pedal work, drum brushes, and bass create a dreamy, languorous, impressionistic canvas. The tune floats like lilies on a pond, gently modulating on the surface of the water. There is perfect symmetry in the way the trio interacts.

With its galloping mood, "Shadows" suggests horses racing through a dark forest. The bass and the bass line of the piano play in unison and the bass drum of the trap set adroitly joins their moves. Zenini explores the chordal structure through a syncopated attack up and down the neck of the bass. Pabst's piano pirouettes above. Then Pabst takes over with a nuanced but playful solo that explores the contours of the theme. The trio reemerges as the drums echo Pabst's left hand.

Pabst gets his funk on in the joyful and energetic piece "Flabbergasted." He uses rollicking attacks and flourishes to embellish the melody. Kooger hangs tightly to Pabst's changes as the song rises in intensity. Zenini solos towards the end of the piece, flashing his chops on bass in a controlled but expressive manner.

Like waking up to a blue-sky morning, the tune "Waiting" is all about anticipation. Pabst uses the space between the music to produce this feeling, and the colors he creates suggest autumnal red, oranges and yellows.

Another piece that emphasizes long phrases, dance like movements, and twirls, "Inner Voice" lets Pabst stretch out using a range of modes and moods. About half way into the piece there is a transition, as Pabst's lines twist and turn along with the bass and drums.

The final number, "A Promise," opens with a quiet and sparse melody. Pabst caresses the keys like Keith Jarrett, and one can hear the overtones of notes and subtle pedal work in the bluesy beginning. Then the piece evolves like a gentle shoreline, with feelings of grace and longing, and ultimately, a sense of arrival.

There is much magic on this album. Pabst's musical themes span a broad emotional spectrum. His playing is a revelation and his partners do much to further his vision. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Dantès' Dream; North-East, South & West; Lartigue; Shadows; Flabbergasted; Waiting; Inner Voice; A Promise.

Personnel: Christian Pabst: piano & composition; Marco Zenini: bass; Erik Kooger: drums.

Title: Inner Voice | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: mochermusic

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