207

Micha: Renku

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Renku is a form of Japanese linked poetry with brief, imagistic stanzas created by two or more poets who meet to write together. Renku is also the debut album by Michaël Attias—a pan-cultural saxophonist born in Israel to Moroccan parents, raised in Paris and the American Midwest—and the name of his trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. The group's collaborative aesthetic and use of minimal yet evocatively visual compositions as the foundation for interplay make its title highly appropriate.

Renku is, by strict definition, a smaller, more rigidly-structured subset of the Renga, with three line haikus (five syllables/seven syllables/seven syllables) alternating with two-line stanzas of seven syllables each. Attias, who's as comfortable with complex postmodern composition as more open-ended improvisation, employs that definition as the basis for the title track, using the total of thirty-one as a metric structure to be broken down and built up in a variety of ways. It's a fine example of this trio's fundamental premise to make form and freedom coexist, blurring easy delineation.

Of these three players, Attias is the least-known and the least-recorded. Hebert's highest profile gig is as member of saxophonist John O'Gallagher's Axiom group, but his supple and unrestrained playing has become an increasingly common fixture on the New York scene. Takeishi has worked with artists including saxophonist Tom Christensen and pianist Eliane Elias. He's also a member of cellist Erik Friedlander's eclectic Topaz group, another unit devoted to breaking down preconceived boundaries, which was responsible for 2003's remarkable Quake. Takeishi is typically heard on his oddly-designed traditional drum kit/hand percussion hybrid; but on Renku he plays just a drum set, although in his hands that's by no means a limitation.

Sax/bass/drums trios often sound like a quartet missing a member, but Renku manages to come across as complete and self-contained. Seven of the album's twelve tracks are by Attias. They range from "Dark Net, which, despite all manner of displaced beats, retains a certain sense of swing, to the more rhythmically insistent "The Crunch. Hebert's two contributions are the darkly balladic "Hotel New #1 and "Ciao Monkey, which begins in an even more brooding fashion before shifting into a periodically broken-up high-energy vamp, with Attias extending his baritone's range with controlled multiphonics. Two brief group improvs and an appropriately quirky look at Thelonious Monk's lesser-known "Work round out the set.

Throughout the recording, Attias demonstrates rare skill and depth on soprano, alto, and baritone saxophones. Unlike many players who favor one instrument in particular, Attias feels completely at home on all three horns. He's capable of extremes, but he tends to avoid the brashness so often associated with the kind of form-based free exchange in which the trio regularly engages.

But the strength of Renku lies not in the trio members' clear individual talents. Instead, it's their ability to create a collective sound—on one hand spare, on the other surprisingly full—demonstrating clear conception, even at its most liberal, and unequivocal focus.

Track Listing: Dark Net; The Crunch; Renku; King Fish; Slow Arrows; Lumbago Boogaloo; Hotel New #1; Horse Fly; Loom; Ciao Monkey; Snow; Work.

Personnel: Micha

Title: Renku | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Playscape Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Profiles
Album Reviews
Read more articles
échos la nuit

échos la nuit

Out Of Your Head Records
2019

buy
Nerve Dance

Nerve Dance

Clean Feed Records
2017

buy
Live In Greenwich Village

Live In Greenwich...

Clean Feed Records
2016

buy
Spun Tree

Spun Tree

Clean Feed Records
2012

buy
 

Renku in Coimbra

Clean Feed Records
2010

buy
 

Byzantine Monkey

Jazz Messengers
2009

buy

Related Articles

Read Live at I.C.U.U. Album Reviews
Live at I.C.U.U.
By Karl Ackermann
June 16, 2019
Read 789 Miles Album Reviews
789 Miles
By David A. Orthmann
June 16, 2019
Read Follow Me Album Reviews
Follow Me
By Roger Farbey
June 16, 2019
Read You Get What You Give Album Reviews
You Get What You Give
By Ljubinko Zivkovic
June 16, 2019
Read Play The Bird And The Bee Album Reviews
Play The Bird And The Bee
By Dan Bilawsky
June 15, 2019
Read Appleblueseagreen Album Reviews
Appleblueseagreen
By Dan McClenaghan
June 15, 2019
Read The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings Album Reviews
The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings
By Doug Collette
June 15, 2019