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Album Review

SBATAX: Spires


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SBATAX: Spires
The current literature on training to improve one's physical fitness advises an 90/10 approach. Ninety percent of workouts, it is advised, you maintain zone 2 (elevated heart rate but with the ability to carry on a conversation) when say, running or cycling. The remaining ten percent of your workouts, you opt for HIIT (High Intensity Interval training). This entails intense or explosive anaerobic exercise with brief recovery periods until the point of exhaustion. If we correlate musicians with athletes, saxophonist Bertrand Denzler and drummer Antonin Gerbal certainly chose a HIIT workout with their release Spires.

The two have produced both sorts of recordings. They have recorded minimalist improvisation in duo, trios with Axel Dorner and Jean-Sébastien Mariage, and in larger contexts with ONCEIM (l'Orchestre de Nouvelles Créations, Expérimentations et Improvisation Musicales). Both can also be heard in multiple contexts. Gerbal in the Umlaut Big Band, the trio r.mutt and the quartets Peeping Tom and Ahmed. Denzler is a member of the improvising ensemble Hubbub, Trio Sowari, the large ensemble The Seen, and is a skilled and creative solo artist.

Spires is the duo SBATAX's third release. Their music ramps up from the musical zone 2 of Heretofor (Umlaut, 2014) to the fleet self-titled SBATAX (Umlaut, 2020) into the rush that is Spires. As the metaphorical starting gun is fired, Gerbal is out of the blocks and sprinting. His two arms and two legs are ceaseless throughout the two spirited tracks. He is both Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali. Gerbal's energy acts as the ignition for Denzler's tenor attack, which is both vigorous and ferocious. Both tracks, "Spires" and "Azimuths" maintain that same frenetic pace, challenging the listener to keep up with the exhilarating pace. The exhaustive nature of this recording leaves one dripping with sweat, as it probably did Denzler and Gerbal. But as they say, "no pain no gain."

Track Listing

Spires; Azimuths.


Bertrand Denzler: saxophone; Antonin Gerbal: drums.

Album information

Title: Spires | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Umlaut Records

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