Label: Clean Feed, 2018
Personnel - Benoit Delbecq: piano; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; John Hebert: double bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.
Parisian pianist Benoit Delbecq conquered his own space in the edgier side of the jazz spectrum through flashes of compositional virtuosity and modernistic explorations of sound. His latest album, Spots on Stripes, features ten originals decorously shaped in the company of his talented cohorts: saxist Mark Turner, bassist John Hebert, and drummer Gerald Cleaver, all of them respected bandleaders and indomitable improvisers.
The title cut opens the recording like a free-ish, urban matrix carried out by the pungent bass/drums activity on top of which the bandleader, adopting a laid-back approach, delicately sketches sharp-angled figures. He comes back with a sack full of ostinatos after Turner sports a hip, penetrating timbre while piling up cliché-free expressions. Hebert also improvises before the jaunty theme is re-implanted.
The bassist pursues the spotlight again on “Broken World”, a lenient rubato ballad whose reflectiveness gets smaller proportions than on “Dripping Stones”, holder of an enigmatic charisma.
Anchored in a folk phrase, “Rosemary K” follows a cyclic, non-aggressive path. This tune can be paired with “De Stael”, where the simplicity and accessibility of the recurrent melody go well with the brilliancy of Turner’s wide-ranging impromptu outputs.
“The Loop of Chicago” is an explosive exteriorization marked by convulsive piano strokes, vigorous bass thumps, and an agitated drumming that never brings forth more than the necessary. On top of this guttural, primitive groove, we have Turner’s angularities, Delbecq’s improvised phrases loaded with odd intervals and hard-pressed lines, and a brief solo by Cleaver. The tune ends up enveloped in a dreamy texture weaved by soft pianism, brushed cymbals, bowed bass, and high-pitched saxophone wails.
Contrasting with “Old Vinyl”, a sculptural modal exercise packed with syncopated rhythms and enthusiastic swinging passages, “Disparition Du Si” and “Dawn Sounds” show off distinct yet hypnotic African pulses. Equipped with prepared piano, the former reminded me an old static music box, while the latter is a mesmerizing, full-steamed avant-garde number with rhythmic juxtapositions and an exuberance that harks back to Roscoe Mitchell and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Relying on dynamic combinations and rich tonalities while probing indefinitely, Delbecq eschews any sort of redundancy, bringing out one of the most exciting works of his career.
04 - The Loop of Chicago ► 06 - Dawn Sounds ► 10 - De Stael