December 1999

Philippe Saisse
Halfway 'Til Dawn

Multi-instrumental keyboardist Philippe Saisse is something of a puzzle master when it comes to assembling compositions. Although the pieces themselves aren't necessarily unusual in themselves, the way Saisse combines them is almost always a surprise. On Halfway 'Til Dawn (GRP VERCD 61; 61:17), Saisse works his wizardry on pieces like "The Girl with the Botticelli Eyes," which pits his straightforward piano melody against a syncopated bass line, which thumps like the heartbeat underneath a wistful romantic poem. On "Minds Alike," a double-time back beat and funky bass slides give the soulful piece an underlying urgency. Another highlight, "Vol de Nuit" plays like an elegant spy piece, with a simple melodic motive floating above dense, eerie keyboard atmospheres and wicked-fast percussion, while "Halfway 'Til Dawn"-with its lumbering, orchestral dark quality, is given a lonely feeling by a distant percussion groove, and haunted trumpet accents by Jeff Beal. Throughout, Saisse's own diverse keyboard techniques shine; a particularly stunning example is on the disco-fusion vortex "Fusionesque," which finds Saisse riffing in fast, technical spurts, then suddenly and effortlessly breaking down into bluesy chord rolls.

Originally published in December 1999

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