Music And More “échos la nuit” review

April 2, 2019

Michaël Attias is very impressive on this album, playing both alto saxophone and piano simultaneously, with no overdubs. He is performing everything on the album live and the music is completely improvised. The reverberation of the room and the resonance of the piano strings also set a sympathetic environment for this ambitious project. “Echoes I: Mauve” opens the album, with piano and saxophone in a spare swirling formation, working together in space and providing a lonely late-night feeling. There is an attractive yearning tone to the saxophone, and it is capable of great emotional depth. Saxophone and piano probe together on “Trinité” gradually building blocks of notes, as the two instruments closely echo each other side by side, and Attias will also hold a lengthy saxophone note while playing piano underneath it, to excellent effect. “Autumn II” features sad sounding saxophone and piano becoming more open and brisker, as sound moves in the open air and provides a great deal of color, while adding touches of piano that are more reflective in nature. Piano notes in outer space open “Fenix III” where they are joined by breathy sounding saxophone that begins a loping solo, moving in a free and appealing manner, with an excellent tone that is punctuated by piercing tones and quicksilver flurries of notes, building an excellent narrative structure that is one of the highlights of the recording. Breathy saxophone builds a hypnotic repetitive feeling on “Circles” gradually building in volume and varying in textures of light and shade within the tone of the saxophone itself. “Rue Oberkampf” explores light and nimble saxophone movement, you are so close that you can hear the pads and keys moving adding an aura of quiet intensity to the proceedings. Attias is playing quite fast, but not loud and in complete control, extrapolating small motifs for further improvisation, adding louder and deeper tones for balance. The longest piece on the album is “Song for the Middle Pedal” which has soft saxophone playing long lines of sound, patiently allowing the music to develop and creating emotional shades that are accessible and approachable. Piano enters later in the performance, adding a further dimension to the music which is wistful but never maudlin. “Sea in the Dark” is awash in heavy sustaining piano, contrasted by lighter toned saxophone played at a slow pace. These long tones can match the sustaining low rumble that is continuously moving and developing. The album concludes with “Echoes II: Night” where haunted saxophone and barely touched piano offer up a noir-ish atmosphere, and the music gradually builds upon the opening structure to become more wide ranging and variable. This album would have been very impressive from a duo, but considering it came from one person it is remarkable. Attias draws on many threads from classical music to jazz and free improvisation, melding them creatively to create an album that is fresh and unique.

Tim Niland