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Reverso: Live (OutNote)

A review of the trio's live album recorded just before France's first COVID-19 lockdown

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Reverso: Live
The cover of Live by Reverso

Mid-March, 2020. France is about to begin its first COVID-19 lockdown. Originally set for 15 days, it would end up lasting into May. Cellist Vincent Courtois, one third of Reverso, remembers friends coming to Le Triton in Paris to see the performance captured here; he remembers his sister cheering him on. Waves of normalcy, or what could be mistaken for such. Waiting for the deluge.

Thankfully, the trio—Courtois plus pianist Frank Woeste and trombonist Ryan Keberle—don’t let existential jitters go to their chops. Unusual instrumentation allows for, especially, Courtois’ sinuosity to meld with Keberle’s deft blendings, slurred notes substituting for strings. A sound that claims chamber music, claims Ravel, claims “Le Six,” composers from roughly a century ago, but pounces on the beat with a lyrical energy and a glide, set apart from many Third Stream outings.

Several pieces here came from either Woeste or Keberle, especially designed for Reverso’s sonorities. One notable exception: Woeste’s “Clara,” an homage to his daughter here couched in Courtois’ string line until Keberle comes in to match it, the cellist then diving low before waxing pizzicato like classical guitar. Keberle’s “Exemplar,” a nod to friends and muses here and gone, rides on long lines; hopeful but sad souls watching, let’s say, rockets go up. 

We’ll fiddle and wail and plunk our praise of the next leap forward, the trio seems to say. But it’s a little sad. We’ll never see that hardware again and we’ll never see those people again, much the sadder. Maybe they make it; maybe they find what transcends making it. We stake our instruments on this moment, and let go.

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Ryan Keberle & Frank Woeste: Reverso – Suite Ravel (Phonoart/Alternate Side)