Originally released on Bellaphon in 1996 and reissued by Leo Records in 2002, this eponymous CD is Pago Libre's second opus. The quartet was in their creative peak and delivered a masterpiece of light avant-garde jazz. "Light" because the music still relies on melodies, swing, and a certain dose of entertainment value; avant-garde because the writing includes daring harmonies, extended techniques, and the kind of creativity that immediately signals that we are not in mainstream land. Tscho Theissing (violin), Arkady Shilkloper (French horn), John Wolf Brennan (piano), and Daniele Patumi (double bass) all contribute compositions, but the best moments are found in the violinist's pieces. Highlights include "Rochade," a witty opener driven by a 15/8 riff; the solemn "Als Die Spätlese Noch Vor Sich Hungärte," where each member of the quartet gets to stretch over a romantic theme; "J.P.S. (& Carla)," where Theissing performs his impression of Stéphane Grappelli; and the humorous "Wake up Call" (which, incidentally, became the title track of the group's live album released in 1998 on Leo). That is not to say the other tunes hold no interest. The four parts of Patumi's "Suite Stream of Consciousness," scattered throughout the album, act as short textural tableaux, nice contrasts to the melodic material. The liveliness of this music invites comparisons to Italian jazzmen the likes of Mario Schiano, Pino Minafra, and Carlo Actis Dato, although it never uses their flamboyant colors. Instead, the French horn (a rarity in this field) brings with it an aura of chamber music, something intimate and felt-like. Highly recommended for the musicianship, the beauty, and the pleasure.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture