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Hubert Dupont: Smart Grid

Don Phipps By

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Recorded live at the Salle Jacques Brel, in Fontenay-sous-Bois, Paris, France, Hubert Dupont's Smart Grid offers up a complex and challenging set of modern cool, hard bop, and funky jazz. All six of the album's compositions were penned by Dupont, and share an emphasis on angular phrases and odd meters. The result is an engaging affair that keeps one guessing where the music will go next.

Joined by alto saxophonist Denis Guivarc'h, drummer Pierre Mangeard and pianist Yvan Robilliard, Dupont gives his band mates plenty of opportunity to stretch their talents.

Dupont kicks "Greed" off with a couple of bass solos. The piece breaks into a funky beat with some tricky syncopation. Guivarc'h solos—dancing and darting above the phrasing. Running sixteenth notes comprise a break and then Mangeard rattles the drum kit with clever march rhythms. Robilliard solos and he's joined by Guivarc'h before the altoist takes over. The piece wraps up with a pulsing and intense restatement of the theme and Robilliard's impressionistic, dream-like solo quietly shuts the door.

The cool and boppish "Eoliane" begins with a statement of the theme: sax and bowed bass play in unison. Dupont demonstrates his mastery of the bow with the first solo. He then transitions to plucking up and down the neck. Next Guivarc'h shows his chops and dexterity. Robilliard mimics Guivarc'h and as Guivarc'h begins to fly, Robilliard splashes in accompaniment. After the theme is restated, Robilliard enters with an impressionistic abstraction: think Debussy or Ravel. The rhythm section joins in and the piece drifts off like a lily floating gently atop a Monet pond.

Another cool number with clever but unusual metering, "Helliptic" opens with an up-and-down Dupont solo while Mangeard provides a funky back-beat and some nice cymbal work. Again, Guivarc'h and Robilliard interact playfully—pushing each other along in rapid sequence—and Mangeard emphasizes the jagged rhythm with sharp snare smacks.

Dupont and Mangeard kick off "Wonder" with a funky beat. Dupont uses a steady attack as Robilliard adds an abstraction: his piano phrasing veers towards free playing at times without completely crossing over, and he does not shy away from the highest notes of the piano. He and Guivarc'h restate the theme, and then, exhibiting flawless technique, Guivarc'h flies up and down the saxophone, part bee and part bird.

"Recondition" is an extended improvised abstraction. Dupont offers a bowed intro before Guivarc'h and Robilliard enter with dream-like sequences. The pianist offers up abstractions while the saxophonist plays long notes and Dupont and Mangeard improvise underneath.

On "Pendulair," the music has more of an emotional edge. Guivarc'h and Dupont begin with a brief duet -and then things get funky. Mangeard struts over the odd meter. After a statement of the theme, Dupont solos, and then it's back to the theme. Robilliard solos, using single notes and chords; his solo evolves into full-fingered playing. Mangeard responds with strong all-over drumming while holding down the rhythm. The intensity builds. Guivarc'h enters with angular and muscular lines. His playing approaches free jazz but stays in control. The theme is restated before Mangeard solos, attacking all of the drums with rapid beats.

Dupont's Smart Grid provides fascinating interplay over angular and abstract compositions. The music has twists and turns, sculpting an urban landscape in which one is never sure what's ahead. His effort certainly suggests potential. However, while the gifted quartet provides moments of virtuosity, the music, with the exception of "Pendulair," could resonate more emotionally. In spite of this limitation, the group's strong phrases and technique offer the listener a rewarding experience.

Track Listing: Greed; Eoliane; Helliptic; Wonder; Recondition; Pendulair.

Personnel: Hubert Dupont: double bass; Denis Guivarc'h: saxophone; Yvan Robilliard: piano; Pierre Mangeard: drums.

Title: Smart Grid | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Ultrabolic

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