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Michel Reis: Point of No Return

Dan McClenaghan By

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With Point of No Return, pianist Michel Reis—born in Luxembourg and now New York-based after formal education at Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory—has recorded an album of atmospheric, often somber, and consistently beautiful music. The twenty-something musician avoids the trap into which so many budding artists fall: that of mixing styles and concepts on a single set, trying to show off everything they can do.

The finely focused, mostly piano trio effort is augmented on three tracks by Vivek Patel's rich-toned flugelhorn, and is joined by soprano saxophonist Aaron Kruziki on the opener, "The Power of Beauty."

Reis is a musical storyteller in the mode of Ennio Morricone, the Italian soundtrack master, his soundscapes drawing pictures and stirring up reflective moods. "The Power of Beauty" explores, with its ebb and flow energy and pensive/gregarious dynamic, the subtleties and quirky joys of the appreciation of what pleases the soul. The group's approach is remarkably cohesive: like chamber music in its ebb times; jazzy and vivacious, when the tempo flows freer.

The trio tune, "Folk Song"—with its deceptively simple melody and sublime delicacy, combined with the leader's Bill Evans'-like touch—has a floating, pastoral feeling, painted by the subtle group interplay. "Sailing Away" opens with more forward momentum than most of the tunes, and then drifts into an interlude of spare, sparkling, inward quietude.

Patel rejoins the trio on "It's Only Been a Dream," which surges on a flexible momentum, while the title cut has the most hopeful vibe of the set, with a danceable rhythm that shifts into zesty, quirky, frenetic interludes, giving way to moments of lovely repose. "Riverside Drive" again features Patel, and some gorgeous, spontaneous-sounding work from Reis.

"The Sad Clown" closes out this first-rate set on a subdued and melancholy note, its dark-hued atmosphere full of gray shadows, shot through with shafts of sunlight.

Track Listing: The Power of Beauty; Folk Song; Sailing Away at Night; It's Only Been a Dream; Point of No Return; Riverside Drive; Street of Memories; Leaning Towards Tomorrow; The Sad Clown.

Personnel: Michel Reis: piano; Tal Gamlieli: bass; Adam Cruz: drums; Vivek Patel: flugelhorn (1, 4, 6); Aaron Kruziki: soprano saxophone (1).

Title: Point of No Return | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Armored Records

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