Jacques Schwarz-Bart: The Art of Dreaming

It isn’t essential-but it doesn’t hurt-to know that The Art of Dreaming is French tenor saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart’s counterpart to Carlos Castaneda’s same-titled book. Part of the late Peruvian author’s Don Juan Matus series, the book postulates that by maintaining awareness during the dream state, the dreamer might visit other realms of consciousness. Schwarz-Bart, in his explanatory liner notes, suggests that a group of musicians essentially dreams collectively while playing together, and this album is his band’s extrapolation of that experience.

Whether that brings to the listener a greater appreciation of the music herein is neither here nor there, but it’s easy enough to embrace The Art of Dreaming without knowledge of the Castaneda connection. Schwarz-Bart is a sensitive and fluid player who proffers a hearty, brash tone and clever ideas and whose soloing is never less than noble. His fellow realm-travelers-pianist Baptiste Trotignon, bassist Thomas Bramerie and drummer Hans van Oosterhout-are sympathetic to the leader’s whims and fancies, navigating the often lush and lustrous terrain like-mindedly through shifts in tempo, temper and temperature.

Both Trotignon and Bramerie contribute nearly as much material to the project as Schwarz-Bart, and provide some of the set’s highlights. The pianist’s “Peyotl” hastens, ebbs and steadies seamlessly, and Bramerie’s “Emile” both serves as a bass showcase and provides Schwarz-Bart and Trotignon multiple opportunities to ride the waves the rhythm section generates. Throughout, Schwarz-Bart’s saxophone is a thing of melodic beauty. The Art of Dreaming, like any worthy dream itself, feels real as it unfolds, but unlike most dreams it doesn’t recede back into nothingness when it’s over.