Jean-Michel Pilc Trio

Together: Live at Sweet Basil

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Those who experience this phenomenal trio had better be prepared for an exhaustive exercise in deep listening, for Pilc is a pillar of intensity. He utilizes broad-ranging adaptations and reinvention of standards, with a wellspring of ideas that tumble out with the force of a rushing waterfall. This 73 minutes of music is at once stunning, dumbfounding, compelling, and brilliant beyond description. Bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Honing follow Pilc's improvisational lead, keeping up as best as can be expected, or wished for. In rather oblique style, the trio starts with a stunning metamorphosis of "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," hinting at snippets of the melody in extraordinarily free, loose-associative cognizance. "Tea for Two" features a cascading, reharmonized intro and great solos by Moutin and Pilc. There's also the kinetic, highly charged free-bop original "Jealousy" and the freight-train abandon of "Runaway," which sports a near-reggae feel and Thelonious Monk-ish overtones. Pilc goes light and airy for "Muriel" and gets into furious repeated chord progressions and intense, driven improvs on "C Jam Blues," with Moutin elevating the song's melody to maddeningly higher and higher key signatures during his solo. "Trio Improvisation" reflects Herbie Nichols' harmonic touch, while "My One & Only Love" proves Pilc a subliminal, though darkly defined, romantic. "Bye Bye Blackbird" rushes through the melody to immediate improv in an amphetamine-powered bop framework. The specter of "Mr. P.C." is clearly evident during the title cut, as furious stop-starts contrast with discernible stride inflections. "My Foolish Heart," with its tiny-sounding plucked bass solo, is the most tonic of these selections, and the truest to the original ballad. There's no simple way to describe the overwhelming depth of this music, because Pilc is as ornately complicated as any jazz performer out there today, but listeners should be advised to take a deep breath before diving in. Highly recommended, especially for the pyrotechnically inclined.

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