Michel Lambert divided his drumming leadership between two trios on Out Twice, one with pianist Milcho Leviev and bassist John Giannelli, and the other with bassist Barre Phillips and saxophonist Lionel Garcin. He also split his recording venues between American and European sites.
Both ventures were unique; Lambert used his personal drawings and sketches as inspiration for the trios in their free interpretation of music and its relationship to visual art. Lambert’s drawings are linked individually to most of the tunes on the disc. The musicians reacted to this form of guidance in lieu of traditional notation, permitting the pieces to be personal musical articulations of the visual impact they experienced through the artwork.
The music ends up wide open, giving vent to free expression by all participants, similar to the freedom exhibited in Lambert’s drawings. The common ground between the two groups is the leader's drumming. He is a subtle director, offering cushioned blows, quieter rolls, and softened beats to spur the bands into improvisational territory. Lambert underpins the band with rhythmic patterns as abstract as his artwork. He is communicating what he is hearing, as opposed to what the others are viewing, thus providing a wide percussive platform upon which all can create.
In both scenarios Lambert chose strong bassists as anchors. Giannelli and Phillips encompass the music with a dense bass cloak – Giannelli allowing his improvisations to flood over the deep keyboard ponderings of Leviev, and Phillips pouring fuel on the fire created by Garcin’s blowing.
In addition to the difference in group configuration, or maybe because of it, the output takes on contrasting characteristics. Garcin opens his reeds widely, freelancing with a spurting attack to catapult his trio into jagged, broken terrain. This causes Phillips and Lambert to take complementary tacks with their bass/drum lines, and the music soars on high with unbridled, liberated exuberance. In the piano trio context with Leviev and Giannelli, the music leans more toward the somber side, casting deeper shadows of weighty proportion and darker coloration. Leviev broods over the keys with absorbing intensity while the bass/drum interaction takes a commanding subterranean view.
Starting with optic motivation and ending in auditory response, Lambert’s project is an unqualified success. Music with character and originality flows from his trios, even though the paths these artists take are widely divergent. The recording abounds with complexity and challenge, making it a ready source of aural satisfaction.
Michel Lambert-drums; Milcho Leviev-piano; John Giannelli-bass; Barre Phillips-bass; Lionel
Garcin-saxophones. Recorded: February 24, 2002, Los Angeles, CA; April 29, 2002, Pernes Les
Frank has been a writer of live and recorded music for decades, having published in both hard copy and on-line magazines, and currently he documents the live jazz scene through photography, as evidenced by his AAJ photo collection of about 2,800 shots.