Noir is one of Canadian pianist Paul Plimley's best trio sessions. It was recorded in a Montreal studio over two days in October 1992. Longtime partner Lisle Ellis is on bass, more recent encounter Gregg Bendian on drums, and saxophonist Bruce Freedman guests on two tracks. All but Freedman contributed pieces, but the overall mood is marvelously homogeneous and best described by the title -- these are the dark corners of free jazz. The set opens with "Noir," a lightly sketched theme with jazzy overtones which feels like a triple soliloquy addressed to the moon (the theme comes back in "Noir Encore," a second take rendering the working canvas of the piece more explicit). "Open Apertures" is more thoroughly written and features Freedman. Its theme could almost have been lifted from Thelonious Monk's songbook. Ellis' "Fade to Gray" and "Fade to Gray Then Blue" are also very jazz-oriented -- on the former Bendian alternates between his drum kit and the vibraphone. And then, there are those three pieces by Bendian. "Jill Cyborg" is a conventional (but very well-executed) free jazz tune in the form of a main theme/let's break apart/let's get back together. Paradoxically, "Sleeves of Alloy" is a piano/bass duet written by a drummer -- and it's a lot closer to Xenakis than Monk. Ellis keeps shifting elegantly from his bow to his fingers. "To David Cronenberg: Interzonia" brings in some Edgar Varèse and a very dark atmosphere nourished by loud dramatic chords and disquieting suspensions. There is nothing left of free jazz here: This track is the most tightly written of the set, and is one of Bendian's strongest compositions. Strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture