Since his arrival on the jazz scene, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc has shown a remarkable intensity, yet his music requires repeated hearings to appreciate its nuances. The opening tracks of Cardinal Points have an African flavor, but add some very unusual twists. "Fred's Walk" is a bit of a loping introduction, giving way to "South," a brisk variation that adds soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and features Pilc whistling and playing melodica as well. "West" is a much more ominous work, while "North" suggests a brooding nightmare. The final segment, "East," provides a tense conclusion to this mini-suite. "Ari's Mode" is initially a playful post-bop duet with drummer Ari Hoenig, before Newsome and bassist James Genus make a late entrance. The one standard of the session is a haunting interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," which suggests a gathering storm yet proves to be captivating. The CD concludes with Pilc's intriguing four-movement "Trio Sonata," in which François Moutin takes over on bass.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden