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French Suite Thomas Savy (Plus Loin Music) by David R. Adler


Savy’s French Suite is a bass clarinet trio album and right away this gives it a certain uniqueness. But the disc’s standout qualities come equally from the rapport of the group and the strength of the music itself. “I didn’t write for a bass and a drumset,” Savy declares in his illustrated, Frenchlanguage liner notes. “I wrote for him and for him,” he continues, referring poetically to bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart. So one can speculate that Savy also didn’t write for bass clarinet, nor pick the horn just to be different. It so happens that he plays the instrument with uncommon agility, expressive range and sheer lung power. Given the American rhythm section and the presence of hard-hitting trumpeter David Weiss in the producer’s chair, it makes sense that French Suite would pulse with an unmistakable, hard-swinging New York energy. It’s most evident, of course, on the uptempo “My Big Apple”, the fifth movement of a seven-part suite that fills most of the program. “Ouverture”, “Ignition” and “Atlantique Nord”, the earlier movements, establish a theme of spry unison lines, elastic rhythm and open harmony. “E & L” and “L & E” offer contrasting takes on midtempo C blues, prompting some of the richest horn-bass dialogues of the session. “Ballade de Stephen Edward” is too multifaceted to be a ballad in the strict sense, but Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” and John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament” slow things down, highlighting Savy’s bass clarinet at its most lyrical and most tenor sax-like. By turns solemn and ecstatic, his improvisations show a remarkable control and purity of tone across all registers. They’re something to behold. For more information, visit

personalized sound to the following discs. Rodrigo Amado is a Portuguese sax player (mainly tenor and bari) with a big, rough-hewn sound. He’s released five previous albums under his own name and three as a member of the Lisbon Improvisation Players. His favored mode of expression seems to be free improvisation and he always commands attention. On Searching for Adam he’s enlisted three American players: Bynum, bassist John Hébert and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Sharing the frontline with Bynum makes for a study in contrast; Amado’s big blustery lines mesh nicely with Bynum’s spiky, cleanly delineated cornet. If there’s a precedent for this, it’s the Sonny Rollins/Don Cherry group of 1962-63, which shared a similar mixture of heft and grace. The rhythm section, both consummate outsideinside players, work together to keep things interesting and at a high energy level. Even on the epic title track, which is a ballad for most of its 21 minutes, there are no sagging moments. While this is an ad-hoc assembly of musicians, this quartet sounds like a working group. A year later, Bynum, Hébert and Cleaver reconvened for Book of Three, a set of nine pieces (five improvisations and two compositions each by Bynum and Hébert). The influence of Bill Dixon on Bynum’s trumpet playing is all over these tracks. This is measured music, proceeding at a pace almost similar to a classic Paul Bley piano trio, organically developing in a thoughtful deliberate fashion. That’s not to say there aren’t some satisfying energetic passages in this music but it’s the slow, languorous passages that stand out. The OtherTet finds Bynum collaborating with one of his mentors, trombonist Bill Lowe. Rounding out the band are Joe Morris (on bass) and Ghanaian drummer Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. On their self-titled debut they make music that hearkens back to free improvisation’s early days. The music sounds like a modern descendant of the New York Art Quartet with Bynum’s cornet in the place of John Tchicai’s alto. Obeng’s drumming functions much like Milford Graves’ did in that band, providing a polyrhythmic accompaniment (at times a barrage) for the soloists. The program consists of three free improvisations and two compositions each by Lowe and Bynum. Once again, it’s this contrast that works, Lowe’s burly bass trombone complementing Bynum’s cornet. It’s particularly effective on Bynum’s “Dream Sketch”, where the deep, dark lines Lowe essays support Bynum’s joyous shouts and muted bluesy phrases. The recording quality is less than optimum, with an almost muted quality, but the music still shines through. For more information, visit, and Bynum is at The Stone Dec. 12th. See Calendar.

Searching for Adam Rodrigo Amado/Taylor Ho Bynum/ John Hébert/Gerald Cleaver (Not Two) Book of Three Taylor Ho Bynum/John Hébert/Gerald Cleaver (Rogue Art) Eponymous The OtherTet (Engine) by Robert Iannapollo

Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum has carved quite a niche

for himself in the jazz/improvised music sphere. Emerging from the tutelage of Anthony Braxton in the late ‘90s, he set out on his own path as a composer and musician. What’s impressive about Bynum is how, despite his own projects (of which there are many), he seems more than willing to lend his talents as a sideman. He’s a member of Jason Kao Hwang’s Edge and Myra Melford’s Be Bread. And he adds his own

22 December 2010 | ALLABOUTJAZZ-NEW YORK

Thomas Savy | Allaboutjazz-New-York  

French Suite Thomas Savy (Plus Loin Music) by David R. Adler

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