JazzReview “Renku in Coimbra” review

February 8, 2010

A renku is a form of Japanese poetry that originated over one thousand years ago.  Here, superfine and somewhat under-recognized saxophonist Michaël Attias uses the renku as an interactive jazz frontier with his crack rhythm section.  The musicians have performed on and off since 2003.  Unsurprisingly, their intuition and synergy looms rather prolifically throughout.  Thus, Attias is one of the best in the biz, and this 2009 endeavor reemphasizes that notion in glimmering fashion.

The trio attains a translucent balance, where sheer might, eloquence, and capacious movements ride atop buoyant, asymmetrical pulses.  Attias is a fluent technician who injects variable amounts of gusto, soul and warmth into the grand scheme, while possessing a fluent attack.  On saxophone great Lee Konitz’s “Thingin,” the musicians gel to a carefree setting, sparked by Satoshi Takeishi’s dance-like brush patterns across the snare drum.  Moreover, Attias conjures up a wistful mindset as the band gradually instills tension, which is an element that carries forth on the somewhat scrappy free-form piece, “Do & the Birds.”

It’s no secret that Takeishi is a multitasking performer.  With this outing, he integrates small percussion implements and tiny cymbal hits to add texture and rhythmic color.  Attias is a master at understating a primary melody line, akin to the intent of an author unfolding a plot.  The trio effectively mixes it up during late saxophonist Jimmy Lyons’ composition “Sorry,” as they render a scorching bump-and-grind motif, spotted with variable flows and the leader’s sizzling flurries.  They close out the program with a reprise of the first piece “Creep,” via extended unison notes and Attias’ harmonious alignment with bassist John Hébert.  Sure enough, Attias and his associates are at the very top of their game throughout this irrefutably compelling musical statement.

– Glenn Astarita