Sylvie Courvoisier Trio

D’Agala
Intakt Records CD 300

By Ken Waxman

Nearly 15 years of collective rumination about the jazz trio tradition has led to this collection of original compositions dedicated to many of her inspirations by Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and her American associates, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Intense, but not insensate, Courvoisier’s tunes are unique enough to equally incorporate brooding meditations, solemn threnodies and springy acknowledgments.

Dedicated to pianist Geri Allen for instance, “D’Agala” is actually more reminiscent of Bill Evans trio elaborations, where emphasized keyboard tones move forward crab-like, as each texture is shadowed by connective double bass thumps and underscored by echoing bell-tree-like and chain-shaking percussion that frames each carefully thought-out pattern. “Éclats for Ornette”, honoring saxophonist Coleman, jostles with a wobbly effervescence as the semi-blues melody and walking bass emphasis work into a clanking climax that’s as self-possessed as it is solid. “South Side Rules” for guitarist John Abercrombie is sparse, distant and darkened as his work, yet each isolated note is kept from formalism due to cymbal swirls and drum shuffles; while “Fly Whisk” for Irène Schweizer, isolates the celebrated pianist’s distinctive keyboard tapestry, relieved by bursts of forceful chording, without every compromising Courvoiser’s singular identity.

Immersing herself in these nine demonstrations of jazz trio wizardry, the pianist does more than appropriately honor her important influences. Her playing and compositions confirm her membership in the coterie of innovative improvising keyboardists.

—For The Whole Note June 2018