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Gui Duvignau: 3, 5, 8 (Sunnyside)

Review of the French bassist's third album as a leader

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Cover of Gui Duvignau album 3, 5, 8
Cover of Gui Duvignau album 3, 5, 8

Globally, in our current troubled moment, jazz is challenged as commerce but thriving as art. An unprecedented number of people you don’t know, who come from everywhere, are making excellent records. Gui Duvignau was born in France, grew up in Brazil, was educated in the United States at Berklee, moved to Paris, then returned to New York to get a master’s degree at NYU.

There are in fact three impressive new players on 3, 5, 8. The other two are pianist Santiago Liebson from Argentina and guitarist Elias Meister from Germany. The core of this album is a trio with Liebson, Duvignau on bass, and American veteran Jeff Hirshfield on drums.

“Volta,” the opening track, is hypnotic, a bare melody that circles and hovers. Liebson’s insistence on the theme, in dark chords, becomes an incantation. The ritual is deeper because of Duvignau and Hirshfield, who abandon any thought of keeping time and instead thunder and rumble and clatter in place. “Volta” never ties off in a resolution. It simply slows and stops, leaving the melody as part of the air.

“Une pensée pour Paris” and “2,” like “Volta,” are cells of melody from which the trio derives unexpected implications. The former is rapt and the latter kicks ass.

Duvignau takes occasional dense, searching bass solos, but the distinctive identity of 3, 5, 8 starts with his distilled compositions and his fresh concepts of ensemble form. On half the tracks the trio becomes a quintet: Meister and tenor saxophonist Billy Drewes (with whom Duvignau studied at NYU) bring in new textures and enhance the album’s overarching aesthetic. Drewes is quietly passionate on the love song “Yerevan.” And Meister’s range is wide; his guitar whispers like a distant choir on “Minas” and rasps and whines, then careens into a drop-dead solo on “Somewhat.”

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Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.