March 12, 2017
On his new album, Nerve Dance, the alto saxophonist and composer Michaël Attias strikes a precarious balance between instinct and intellect. He has just the right partners for such a task: pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist John Hébert and drummer Nasheet Waits, brilliant musicians who know how to complicate any hard-and-fast distinction between “outside” and “in.” The album’s mood and strategy shifts subtly from one piece to the next, as if to keep everyone poised to pounce. On “Moonmouth,” a ballad in flowing 17/8 meter, the form is articulated with a through-composed piano part, over which Attias calmly weaves an improvisational line. The sound of the piece, which at times can recall Tim Berne’s music, is both delicate and determined, with more than a little outright beauty. It should have some part to play in the quartet’s album-release gig this Saturday at Cornelia Street Café.
– Nate Chinen