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THE RENKU TRIO AT BARBES (Brooklyn, NY)
CD RELEASE PARTY
Wednesday October 5, 2005
Michaël Attias: alto & baritone saxophones, John Hébert: bass, Satoshi Takeishi: drums.
The tunes :
Dark net, Renku, New Ballad (JH), Loom / Mes petites Amoureuses, 9/8 (JH) and Sorry (Jimmy Lyons)
It’s been two years since Renku’s debut gig at Barbès. Like good wine that matures over time, the group’s empathy has developed to the point where the release celebration of their first CD (on Playscape) could not have come at a better time. But what is Renku?
Renku (traditionally known as 'Haikai no renga' by the Japanese) is a style of linked poem that began over a thousand years ago and reached its height in the 17th century. It can be found in several lengths and forms, consisting generally of three parts (called jo-ha-kyû rhythm) comprised of stanzas of various lengths. Attias’ choice of the name Renku for his very colorful and poetic trio not only reveals his deep interest in philosophy and poetry, but also the underlying nature of the group’s musical concept. Focusing on improvisation, it mixes free blowing with renku’s formal structure, keeping the same principles of link and shift between its parts, giving each player ample room to shine together or individually.
“Dark Net’s” angular lines and shifts between forte and pianissimo passages started the set as an enticing appetizer example of these principles, keeping a fiery swinging path, leading logically to a magnificently colored “Renku” as the second tune. The beautifully evocative solo intro by Takeishi, using just his hands on a panoply of small exotic percussions (various tiny bells and small cymbals) punctuated by bass drums accents soon turned into clever twists, stop-and-go segments, fierce and tender passages that brilliantly demonstrated the full range of the jo-ha-kyû as perceived by the three musicians. The dark and moody brand new Hebert’s composition “New Ballad” (three weeks old) – with his gripping, full-bodied somber bass solo -- blossomed into radiant squirts of notes returning to a soft and ethereal alto saxophone plaint over gently glittering cymbals. The contrast between lyrical alto and growling baritone served well the fast and furious medley “Loom / Mes petites amoureuses” that followed, with its frequent time changes, converting the mood from slightly middle-eastern flavor into screeching blues mode, highlighting masterful jumps from deep low A to razor sharp altissimo register notes, a showpiece for Attias’ fertile harmonics and Takeishi’s ever inventive free rhythms and colorful creations. The final two pieces, “9/8” and “Sorry” (respectively by Hebert and Jimmy Lyons) offered a series of empathic interplay and solo statements that served as final reminder of what Renku stands for…
What we had that evening were three major voices on the NYC music scene, a stimulating multicolored trio with a bag full of improvisational surprises, seven cleverly structured compositions (four of them bearing Attias’ signature), an attentive audience, and a return to the intimate and friendly Barbès where it all began two years ago for Renku… Good reasons to celebrate!
© 2005 Gilles Marie-Paul Laheurte
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