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The Art (de Vivre) of the Trio

Geno Thackara By

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Amaury Faye Trio
Clearway
Pias Jazz Village
2017

Following several years of studying and reputation-building in his native France and beyond, Amaury Faye makes an accomplished and overdue step foward with Clearway. It was largely a standards affair on his leader debut Big Moe Trio (Greenworks, 2010). Here the French pianist includes just two semi-obscure cover selections and uses his own songs to bridge them with the more contemporary sounds of the genre. The unspoken theme here revolves around Faye's time in Boston while studying at Berklee, so there's an American streak throughout to complement the sophistication of his European roots.

One can hear a little Keith Jarrett (e.g. the jaunty low-end jitterbugging of "Clearway Street") or a lot of Brad Mehldau in melodic spots such as "Vence," though Faye's restless mind can't help weaving everything into a pattern of his own. The mode is contemporary jazz incorporating touches of classical and bebop, while his interplay with the solid rhythm section is a smooth and subtly accomplished delight to hear. The parts add up to a splashy, playful listen that doesn't need to shatter the mold of the piano trio, but doesn't mind cozily exploring and stretching it.

Maria Baptist Trio (Plus One)
Poems Without Words
Self Produced
2017

France has also left a certain mark on Maria Baptist. Her classically influenced chamber-jazz leanings and big-city swing are influenced by splitting her time between Berlin and New York City, respectively, but it still retains a subtle romantic feel that hints at narrow cobbled streets and sidewalk cafes. Paris is also the place where she first played with drummer John Betsch, and returning to her trio outlet (a mode she alternates with orchestra work and solo piano) made a perfect excuse to rekindle their happy rapport.

Baptist's chemistry with Jan von Klewitz meanwhile had sparked enough ideas to merit officially expanding the group this time around, since this batch of compositions was planned with his saxophone in mind. They're multifaceted and smart enough to be adaptable to a trio, but the club bop of "Beautiful Chaos" or pastoral meditation of "On Top of the Mountain" (also a key point for Fabian Timm's tasteful bass) would certainly feel less distinctly urbane without his fleet horn in the lead. The group swings and cooks at a brisk clip when called for, while Baptist's voice comes out even more distinctly in the slower and calmer moments, with "The Moon Stood Still" as a particularly lovely highlight. Her gliding keys have a subtle underlying exuberance in any mode, and Poems Without Words makes an eloquent showcase for her range of facets while revealing yet another new angle in the process.

Tracks and Personnel

Clearway

Tracks: Believe It or Not; Witchcraft; Bad Surprise; Clearway Street; Off Roading; Sunday Morning Blues; Vence; An Oscar for Treadwell; Journey to the East Coast.

Personnel: Amaury Faye: piano; Louis Navarro: bass; Théo Lanau: drums.

Poems Without Words

Tracks: Illuminate the Night; Apartment #3; Running; The Moon Stood Still; Beautiful Chaos; Things I Wanted to Say; Turn Up the Silence; Hell's Kitchen; On Top of the Mountain.

Personnel: Maria Baptist: piano; Fabian Timm: bass; John Betsch: drums; Jan von Klewitz: sax.

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