François Raulin

Trois Plans Sur La Comète

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This intriguing, drumless trio takes off from Jimmy Giuffre's early-'60s experiments in the same format, and impressively expands them in several directions. The pieces, largely composed by pianist Raulin tend to have a strong thematic basis even as they veer toward the freely improvisational, often riding the line between in a delicious manner. "Soho," for instance, begins with free-form, groaning, baritone sax from Francois Corneloup (who is excellent throughout) before spiraling into a chugging, propulsive rhythm that recalls puffing locomotives. When the leader's solo turn comes, Raulin, to one's surprise, is heard investigating the properties of the prepared piano -- a smidgen of Cage blithely tossed into a jazz performance to wonderful effect. Similarly, "Calligraphes" starts with a wild arco solo from bassist Bruno Chevillon, known for his fine contributions to many of Louis Sclavis' groups, before settling into a lovely tango with multi-tracked soprano lines, and Chevillon continuing to race on his own looping, swirling path. Indeed, the highlight of the set might be "Song for Oime," with a prelude that recalls Anthony Davis at his most severe, but then tumbles into a baritone-led lament of heartfelt immediacy. Raulin keeps this juggling act in play for the duration. Just when you think things are getting a bit too precious, he infuses some tart commentary or unexpected abstraction, making the music at once accessible to more mainstream ears, and spicy enough for the experienced avant-garde fan. Impressively conceived and beautifully played, Trois Plans Sur la Cométe is a hidden gem in the hatOLOGY catalog, and one that shouldn't be overlooked among the many bigger names dwelling therein

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