Gaël Mevel Quintet

La Promesse du Chant

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At the time (August 2002) La Promesse du Chant came out, the musicians in this quintet, including their leader, were little known outside of France, maybe with the exception of cellist Didier Petit. It reveals a group of talented improvisers performing the kind of structured improv and free-form jazz usually associated with France. Gaël Mevel uses a light touch on the keys, developing a voice closer to the grace of Aki Takase or Irène Schweitzer than the clamor of male improvisers like Keith Tippett, Borah Bergman, or Alex von Schlippenbach. On a couple of pieces he trades the 88-string instrument for the bandoneon, stretching out of it tiny sounds like the gasps of a silent witness. Petit, reedsman Jacques Di Donato, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel, and drummer Thierry Waziniak (also playing congas on one track) follow his lead, weaving delicate themes into a fabric of free improv. The dreamy opener "Le Rêve de Nathanaël"; "Silences," focused on microscopic sounds; and "Le Clown Caressant," featuring a soaring cello melody, account for the best moments on this disc. Mevel and his group manage to balance experimentation and pleasurable listening, something that can prove to be dangerous, but they do it convincingly. Some listeners may find the album lacking bite, but if you like a bit of restraint, melody, and that special French class (think of Louis Sclavis' music) in your avant-garde jazz, this one will be right up your alley.

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