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Simon Nabatov 3 + 2: Verbs

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Simon Nabatov 3 + 2: Verbs
What constitutes a composition? German-based Russian-born pianist Simon Nabatov makes a convincing case that a simple verbal instruction can suffice on Verbs. It is not a claim he makes himself, but the six supposed improvisations each mines such a distinctive seam that, although spontaneously conceived without melody or other formal arrangement, the initial proposition proves enough. Perhaps germane to the achievement is the presence of the pianist's regular trio mates, bassist Stefan Schönegg and drummer Dominik Mahnig, although that is not the whole answer as the date also embraces less regular collaborators in reedman Leonhard Huhn and electronicist Philip Zoubek.

In the liner notes the phenomenally talented Nabatov explains that this session fits into a lineage which also includes programs of his works by top drawer Americans such as Tony Malaby, Brandon Seabrook, Chris Speed and Herb Robertson, on releases such as Last Minute Theory (Clean Feed, 2020) and Plain (Clean Feed, 2021). But he also appears as a frequent participant in unbridled formats with partners as varied as reedmen Frank Gratkowski, Michael Attias and Akira Sakata so, in a way, this record acts as a bridge between the two approaches, especially as it contains one of his charts too.

It often feels as if Nabatov's piano establishes the guide rails, from the active synthesis of comping, commentary and lead line on the opening "Pray" to the harp-like plucks and percussive taps on "Evolve." That first track is one which could easily pass as preordained, as Huhn's cool poised clarinet interweaves with disciplined but burbling synth and a calm processional vibe from the rhythm team, a mood which remains undisrupted even by the edgy digressions which everyone throws into the mix. Another example of a sustained gambit occurs on "Converge," which begins as a mysterious soundscape of eerie creaks, foreboding chords and indeterminate scrapes, before the parts gradually assume greater definition in a relentless crescendo, as if inexorably looming out of a mist. The final "Float" further demonstrates the group congruence, as jazzy outbursts erupt out of choppy interaction, with Nabatov in particularly sparkling form, while Zoubek's Rhodes-like electronics almost conjure a fusion ambience, even though they never quite settle on an agreed meter.

"Breathe," the single written number, also suggests unfettered invention at the outset, though the disconnected series of well-shaped figures emanating from various instruments hint at the existence of a controlling mind. That becomes crystal clear subsequently as the piece rotates through a sequence evoking a big band surge, then an airy Brazilian samba and an outbreak of pointillist improv, almost an album's worth of material in itself.

But even without the scripts, the band sets aside ego to pull off intriguing and cohesive results.

Track Listing

Pray; Race; Reveal; Breathe; Converge; Evolve; Float.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Philip Zoubek: synthesizers

Album information

Title: Verbs | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


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