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November 2005

Benoit Delbecq Unit
Phonetics
Songlines

Pianist Benoit Delbecq claims a wide range of unusual influences, both musical and extramusical. One of the odder sources he has mentioned is Oulipo, the French-speaking literary movement that creates works using constrained writing techniques, and Delbecq's latest CD sounds like a musical offshoot of it. The pianist finds dazzling creativity through the careful use of set rules and layered, complicated structures.

Delbecq wanted to explore his multilayered, shifting-meter tunes on Phonetics with many accents. To that end, he collected African drummer Emile Biayenda, Americans Marc Helias (bass) and Mark Turner (sax) and Dutch viola player Oene van Geel, and the pianist elicits a satisfying, rich and remarkably controlled sound out of the group. The redoubtable bounce and light touch of Biayenda (a terrific recruit) along with earthy bass work from Helias make striking contrast with long, legato and nearly classical lines from Turner and van Geel. Delbecq jumps between the two camps, with a percussive touch on a semiprepared piano or unison lines with Turner and van Geel.

Originally published in November 2005
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