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Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: D’Agala (Intakt)

Review of album by Swiss pianist and her trio of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Kenny Wollesen

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Cover of Sylvie Courvosier Trio album D’Agala on Intakt
Cover of Sylvie Courvoisier Trio album D’Agala on Intakt

Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier’s experimental trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Kenny Wollesen is a rhythm section first and foremost. The excellent D’Agala opens with “Imprint Double,” during which a firmly percussive triplet ostinato becomes polyrhythmic—first under Courvoisier’s guidance and then with Gress and Wollesen’s entrance. It sets the tone for the album: a wonderland of piano-trio surrealism that is nonetheless grounded in rhythmic earthiness.

Melody and harmony are hardly an afterthought on D’Agala. “Eclats for Ornette” is of course dedicated to one of America’s premier melodists and harmonic innovators. Still, Courvoisier approaches its distinctive melody with a hammer-like touch. (Ditto her improvisation, which evokes the abandon of Cecil Taylor’s bands more than Ornette and even paraphrases the leitmotif from Taylor’s Silent Tongues—as does the following track, “Simone.”) As well, the already fraught harmonies of Courvoisier’s chords and Gress’ bass in “D’Agala” and “Fly Whisk” are further tensed by their grimly determined staccato and thumping accents, to which Wollesen adds fierce crashes on “Fly Whisk.”

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