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04/18/14

Colin Vallon
Le Vent
ECM Records

The Colin Vallon Trio’s second ECM album picks up where the first, Rruga, left off, with its cool detachment, insistent grooves and post-postmodern sensibility. The Swiss pianist and his sidemen, bassist Patrice Moret and new drummer Julian Sartorius, deftly navigate this fairly new but already ingrained territory between piano jazz and rock. Vallon is a student of the Keith Jarrett school and part of the wave of icy, swing-eschewing European pianists—Tord Gustavsen, Nik Bärtsch, Marcin Wasilewski, Ketil Bjørnstad, the late Esbjörn Svensson—who would like jazz to see things their way.

On Le Vent, notes and chords are repeated and repeated, simply and forcefully, a strategy used immediately with Moret’s “Juuichi,” whose meter is deliberately elusive. The other nine compositions are Vallon’s, and the two brief pieces that conclude the album are spacey group improvisations. “Juuichi” and “Immobile” are the most bombastic tunes on Le Vent, as well as the album’s most dramatic, cinematic moments.

But building tension toward celebration is the raison d’etre of the Colin Vallon Trio, and that becomes evident on nearly every tune: the atmospheric “Rouge” (with prepared piano), the ominous “Pixels” (with bullish bass), the unruly “Altalena” (with skittering sticks), the sluggish “Goodbye,” the pulsating “Le Quai,” the heartbeat-mimicking title track. The framework is simple: minor keys, emotional chord changes, bare melodies, no-frills solos, (mostly) rock rhythms, insistent basslines. Le Vent is the place where Jarrett meets Vangelis. You’ll find no swing here; instead you’ll get epic acoustic jazz with arena-rock ambitions.

Originally published in April 2014
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