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Tethered Moon: Chansons d’Edith Piaf

One of the more intriguing concept albums, newly released on the Winter & Winter label (a continuing adventure in itself), takes on what might seem an unlikely referential point of departure in a jazz context: Edith Piaf, the revered French chanteuse. Tethered Moon, the inspired and uniquely flexible trio of Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, drummer Paul Motian and bassist Gary Peacock, brings to this project a passionate engagement and a willingness to take poetic liberties with the source material. Motian and Peacock have been ripe, atmospheric foils for other sentient pianists, including Keith Jarrett and Paul Bley, and they offer the right degrees fo support. Motian, in particular, knows when to breathe, when to stretch and when to heat up the rhythmic machinery.

For his part, Kikuchi follows his instincts toward generous free play, making his returns to melodic purity all the more bittersweet. If sometimes his piano poetry is marred by unmuffled, involuntary vocal sounds, his intentions are noble and true on this recording that is part homage and part jazz-tinged deconstruction of the Piaf originals. Lovely French classics like “Sous le Ciel de Paris” and “La Vie en Rose” are open-ended essays, as much “about” the songs as they are “of” them.

Originally Published