Michel Portal

Fast Mood

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It took more than 30 years for the paths of these two French jazz giants to cross, and such encounters always raise a lot of expectations. Their different concept of freedom in music is surely what kept them apart for so long. Solal's cerebral playing can be perceived as a sharp contrast to Portal's emotional style. This probably explains why Fast Mood actually seems to be the pianist's date. The session does not leave much room for spontaneity, and the relatively short pieces do not give either musician the chance to stretch out. "Duo à 3 Voix," which features overdubs, also suggests that their duets were well planned and rehearsed. Perhaps the expectations were too high, but there is a definite sense that Solal and Portal do not attempt to challenge each other. This possible display of mutual respect makes their first meeting a disappointment. This is not to say that it is devoid of beautiful moments. The compositions are often enticing, and their moodiness and concision surely justify the album's title. It is also a real pleasure to hear Portal following Solal in his every twist and turn, but there are too few sparks to make this opus a truly convincing effort. This will surely please fans of Solal and Portal, but listeners who are interested in getting acquainted with those two singular musicians -- especially the latter -- should start somewhere else.

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