Paul Motian's second late-'70s trio excursion with Charles Brackeen on saxophones substitutes Jean-François Jenny Clark for David Izenson on bass with no drop-off in quality, but definitely one in mood. Tadayuka Naitoh's cover photo -- three blurry figures in black against an amorphous color backdrop (could be bundled-up women waiting at a crossroads) -- is a pretty good visual representation of the introspective, abstract flavor of Le Voyage.
"Folk Song for Rosie" opens muted with Brackeen's moody, bluesy soprano and a notably spare, melancholy bass solo from Jenny-Clark before "Abacus" embarks on an angular, obtuse melody. "Cabala/Drum Music" starts mournfully with an arco bass solo before launching into a drum solo, but Motian is actually less a drummer than a percussionist on "Le Voyage." Throughout the disc, he works mostly from the cymbals and clicking percussion effects -- the drums themselves are more commonly used in flurries of rhythmic commentary, implying the beat more than laying down a swinging foundation. "The Sunflower" opens with another bass-drum dialogue before Brackeen's melody launches into serious interval leaps and spiraling, vaguely Albert Ayler-esque lines that suggest where he'd end up on his string of exceptional Silkheart albums ten years later. The closing title track finds him back on soprano, in ethereal float mode over the interplay of Clark's twisting lines and Motian's bursts that launch more intense improvisations. Le Voyage is a very reflective, ruminative disc bordering on chamber jazz and marked by that distinctive ECM sound, clean but very distant. It's top-quality music, but look to Dance for more liveliness and ebullience in this phase of Paul Motian's career.