"Nature Morte" is the title of a poem written in 1971 by Joseph Brodsky. He and pianist Simon Nabatov were both born in Russia and later resettled in America. Nabatov took the ten-part poem, a rich conjuration of life and death, and wrote what can only be described as an ambitious song cycle, even though the fact that Phil Minton sings it means one must stretch his usual definition of the word "song." Trombonist Nils Wogram and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski (also heard on clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute) complete this impressive quartet. Nature Morte is a work of symbiosis, first between Brodsky's words and Nabatov's music, then between the music and the very talented musicians, the words and Minton's interpretation of them (both intellectual and physical), Minton's interpretation and Nabatov's. One immediately thinks of the singer's Mouthful of Ecstasy, another quartet which rooted in literature (this piece used excerpts from James Joyce's works). But the two pieces stand very much apart: Nature Morte is less improvised, abstract, and arid, a lot more soulful, gentle, and organized. Minton's voice goes from warm ("Part 8") to guttural (his solo at the beginning of "Part 9"). Nabatov's piano provides the backbone of the music, with his complex chords and rhythm patterns framing the songs, while Gratkowski and Wogram dialogue with each other and develop the harmonic contents. A peak is reached in "Part 4," where an insisting motif clashes against Minton's idiosyncratic vocal improvisations. This Nature Morte is a thing of beauty, revealing itself a little more at every listen. Very strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture