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Hubert Dupont: Smart Grid

Samuel Stroup By

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Hubert Dupont's new live album, Smart Grid, finds the seasoned French bassist in good company. With the assistance of saxophonist Denis Guivarc'h, pianist Yvan Robilliard, and drummer Pierre Mangeard, Dupont manages to give the set's six original tunes the utmost life. The exceptional work of the quartet makes itself known in not only their improvisation and interaction but in the grace and funk they manage to bring to the music. Sadly, this makes it evident that the compositions on the album are no match for the musicians that put life into them. Despite being thoughtful and complex, the bass line-oriented, straight-beat songs don't tend to intrigue, and often become mixed up in one another.

Still, the musicians waste no time in showcasing their own styles. Guivarc'h makes his presence known from the get-go, blasting a solo on the opener, "Greed," that seems to rely on, yet forego, melody and rhythm at once, to match the composition. The mood is changed completely as Robilliard begins to improvise, his right hand scampering all over the mid-tempo swing that his bandmates lay down. "Greed's intense mechanics bring to mind the music of Steve Lehman, with perhaps a little more grooviness. Guivarc'h and Robilliard also share many memorable moments on track 3, "Helliptic," as their simultaneous solos restlessly climb atop one another.

Dupont prefers to take his solo moments unaccompanied on Smart Grid, and he gravitates toward playing arco. The growling bowed bass adds an interesting texture to the music, particularly on "Eoliane," as the contrasting saxophone whistles along with the bass in unison. They play in unison again on "Recondition," before the song melts into an eerie, open section. Only here does the quartet reveal that free improvisation is well within their wheelhouse, but in a moment the tune evolves, replaced by a slow, shuffling swing. As Mangeard slaps out quarter notes on the snare, the trio of musicians above sing out melody lines loosely yet masterfully, keeping in mind their timelessness of minutes before.

Mangeard takes Smart Grid's final solo, crisp and busy, a solid lead-in to the outro of "Pendulair." The moment serves as a reminder that while the compositions could be more compelling, they serve as perfectly capable frameworks for the quartet to finesse their technical skill and creativity.

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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