Label: Out of Your Head Records, 2019
Personnel – Michael Attias: alto saxophone, piano.
Saxophonist Michael Attias, a paragon of perspicacious playing and exceptional leadership, releases his first solo album, in which he plays two instruments, sometimes simultaneously. While his left hand holds the alto sax, a carrier of awe-inspiring tone colors, the right hand plays the piano, whose individual notes and chords work as melodic/harmonic pivots, promoting contextualization and, consequently, facilitating our reading of the music. Turning down overdubs, this recording takes you to a few singular places in Attias’ active musical mind. By tailoring a stripped-down aesthetic with distinctive approaches to each instrument, he proposes a sleek, sometimes undemonstrative distillation of timbres that can be more or less complicated to apprehend.
Two distinct versions of “Echoes” bookend the eleven tracks on the album. The first part, “Mauve”, enhances the beautifully contrasting colors between saxophone and piano, bright and poignant, respectively, within a cerebral mood. The second part, “Night”, offers a melodic reflection that often lands on a resolution. Still, the ambiguity of the piano and some spellbinding unison passages make us alert. The approach is low-key, unfussy and intriguing. Experimental, in a way.
“Trinité” insists in unison ideas occasionally interpolated with intervallic surprises. The piano work is not as tantalizing or emotionally charged as in the introductory section of “Fenix III”, a snappy creation whose quirky chord has a strong connotation with Attias' former collaborator, the late Japanese pianist Masabumi Kikuchi. Domineering cyclic phrases driven by pitch allure are balanced through prolonged notes replicated on the piano. Something like knotty explorations whose elements are in a permanent state of affairs.
The piano-less “Rue Oberkampf” feels like an incantatory chant brimming with slightly popping patterns inspired by saxophonist's early studies of the Schillinger technique. Great note choices are brought effortlessly with grandiose, mesmerizing shifts in timbre before three consecutive woodwind cascades bring it to an end. The reverberation is from the room and is even more noticeable over the course of “Circles”, where the intensity keeps fluctuating.
The nocturnal mood and fascination of “Sea In The Dark” are impressive, combining dark bass notes and delicate phrases for an illustrative intonation that coaxed me to search for more. Some other pieces, like the slow-moving diptych “Autumn”, justifies lethargic reactions through its vagueness and pallor.
Listening to this album was such an oddity. Each track feels like looking at perplexing pictures whose thin focus is on the closest object while the background keeps immersed in obscurity. Indistinctness means forever open and this very personal album is beyond style.
01 - Echoes I: Mauve ► 08 - Rue Oberkampf ► 11 - Sea In The Dark