Fay Victor Ensemble: Absinthe & Vermouth

It’s difficult to imagine a better intoxicant than absinthe to describe fearless vocal abstractionist Fay Victor. The anise-flavored spirit gained favor in Paris in the early 20th century, among the sort of artistic iconoclasts-Wilde, Toulouse-Lautrec, Satie-who are her kindred spirits. Absinthe continues to offer a dangerous allure, an attribute Victor would surely gleefully apply to her unhinged work.

As has often been observed, Victor picks up where Betty Carter left off. Her third session with her Ensemble, now narrowed from quartet to trio, is her most adventurous to date. Victor constructed all nine of the album’s pieces with her husband and producer, Jochem van Dijk, leaving considerable space for improvisational mayhem in league with guitarist Anders Nilsson and bassist Ken Filiano. Whether combing the detritus of her oversized purse (“Big Bag”), examining the “Gunk” that must be cleared out to enable health and clarity, honking through the traffic jam of urban monotony (“Robot Clown”), commenting on modern technology’s mechanized drone (“Talk Talk”) or opening the door to heaven (“Seashore”), Victor and company remain bracingly, craftily brilliant.