Like many, Michael Attias cultivates multiple outlets for his vibrant alto saxophone. Having moved to NYC in 1994, Attias is now inescapably associated with that city's downtown scene. What unites his Quartet with his other outfits like Renku and Spun Tree is quality. In part that's down to the variety and imagination of the frameworks Attias provides, but also down to the rich pool of players he calls on for their realization. This time out pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist John Hébert and drummer Nasheet Waits complete an all star foursome.
Attias offers a wellspring of invention as he avoids repetition and deploys his light airy lines with fierce precision, shaded by subtle dissonance and overtones. As on his own Cub(an)ism (Intakt, 2017), Ortiz brings whiff of abstraction to whatever he touches, his rhythmic figures alternately lurching and flowing. Hébert and Waits match the empathy of the frontline with a notable level of inspired interplay and timbral savvy which gives the session a satisfying depth. While the parts are great, it's what they do collectively that thrills.
Together they form a tight unit, adept at unexpected turns. Who would anticipate the single keystrokes set in silence and Ortiz' subsequent thoughtful introspection after the dashing ensemble of "Nerve & Limbo" with its waves of chunky piano and Attias' alto squealing around the angles? That approach reaches its apogee on Hébert's "Rodger Lodge" where Waits' conversational drum introduction leads straight to a section for the bassist's unaccompanied ringing phrases and voice-like inflections, before Ortiz lays down a glinting minor key dirge, topped by the leader's gradually roughening folk melody.
The intricate unison of "Dark Net" presages a splendid curtain raiser which underlines the merits of this set in an expert mash up of artful themes, top notch soloing and sprung rhythms. They pack a lot of music into the 11 cuts. Other highlights include the edgy "Le Pèse-Nerfs" which begins with Attias fluttering between motifs, answered by Waits' spare tattoo, sudden bass scrabble, and piano interjections, which mass into a swirling nebula, and Hébert's emphatic "Nasheet" in which his stealthy pizzicato and Ortiz' piano sidle towards steady propulsion and a telling exposition from the saxophonist to present a powerful portrait. But really every track constitutes a concise gem in which pleasures await discovery.
Dark Net; Nerve & Limbo; Scribble Job Yin Yang; Boca De Luna; Moonmouth; La Part Maudite; Le Pèse-Nerfs; Rodger Lodge; Dream In A Mirror; Ombilique; Nasheet.
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