Sam Newsome / Jean-Michel Pilc - Magic Circle

Label/Year: Self produced, 2017

Lineup – Sam Newsome: soprano saxophone; Jean-Michel Pilc: piano.


American soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc denote a great chemistry on Magic Circle, a duo album that explores classic jazz tunes and a couple of originals with a very personal vision.

Autumn Leaves” starts by juxtaposing the intact melody as we know it (with a few punctual escapades by Newsome) against Pilc’s adventurous rhythmic experimentation, whose primary goal seems to find ways of sounding innovative without losing melodic sense in the accompaniment. After the improvisations, one can check up on Newsome’s timbral explorations over a 6/4 piano cadence.

Ellington and Monk were evoked with sharp-angled renditions of two pieces each. The former’s “In a Sentimental Mood” starts with fugue-like classical intonations and features Newsome’s varied timbres and techniques, including multiphonics and slap tongue, while Pilc, operating on several octaves of the piano, assumes the risk for the sake of freedom. The sonic scrutiny of “In a Mellow Tone” sounds playfully percussive, resorting to ringing sax vibes and popping sounds to impress. Introduced by piano, Monk's “Misterioso” has Pilc quoting the melody of “Crepuscule With Nellie”, another Monk’s tune, and cuts short the stroll with a typical bluesy ending. Its sweet n’ sour mood differs from the beautiful “Ask Me Now”, here subjected to a disconcerting ad-lib treatment permeated with rich interplay.

One of the two originals on the album is the title track, “Magic Circle”, which comes shrouded in melancholy, evincing ingratiating piano movements and rapid sweeps sparsely sounding acerbic.

Undoubtedly a high peak, “Giant Steps”, John Coltrane’s iconic composition, is mounted with unpredictable, slow-morphing shapes that include twisted strands of horn-driven melody over crisp and refractory piano textures.

Commanding their instruments with an admirable precision, Newsome and Pilc opt for spontaneous choices in their unattached musical approach, conveying a strong sense of freedom and openness.

        Grade  B

        Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
03 - Giant Steps ► 06 - Misterioso ► 09 - Ask Me Now