After two relatively stripped-down efforts, the duo Dice Thrown (Songlines, 2002) and solo Nu-Turn (Songlines, 2003), Parisian pianist Benoit Delbecq returns with a quintet for Phonetics, taking full advantage of the extended range of his groupstylistically, timbrally, and texturally. Delbecq's music draws from several diverse traditions, including the often counterintuitive constructs of modern classical music, the excitement and unpredictability of improvisation, and the polyrhythmic and contrapuntal complexity of Central African music.
All these big concepts have the potential of bogging down in academic abstraction, especially when combined, but Delbecq understands the pitfalls of synthesis and successfully navigates around them. He does this by endowing each piece with its own mood and character, finding fresh settings for each musician, and managing the sometimes precarious balance between ideas and momentum. The opening "Le Mème Jour" starts out briefly entangled, then resolves into a plaintive, gentle unison melody and eventually acquires steam and rhythmic energy, driven in large part by enthusiastic synergy between Congolese drummer Emile Biayenda and American bassist Mark Helias.
While most of Delbecq's compositions seem to fit together by careful assembly of shifting parts, they also melt into jam-like grooves on occasion. The highly percussive funk polyrhythms of "Yompa" serve as a platform for flitting piano phrases and snippets of pentatonic viola, returning to its oblique melody almost as an amnesiac reminder before splintering it apart and landing unexpectedly in unison.
This exceptionally well-recorded disc (released as an SACD hybrid) is perfectly suited to reveal timbral nuances and detail. Like pretty much everything on the Songlines label, you'll get a whole lot more out of the music if you listen carefullythis isn't background after-dinner music, that's for sure. But Phonetics is far more than the sum of its (already substantial) parts; it's a vibrant celebration of possibility and connectedness that reveals new things with each listen.
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.