Sebastien Ammann’s Color Wheel

Skirl 47

Gathering a group of accomplished players around him, Swiss pianist Sebastien Ammann has created a subtle and supple collection of stable sounds. True to his band’s name many tinctures of the musical color wheel have been blended into Resilience’s high gloss. But the concoction may be too uniform. The tracks lack the jagged edges or intense hues to make them pop. A sensitive soloist and accompanist, Ammann, who also plays Fender Rhodes, works in pop as well as Jazz in the company of musicians like Kris Davis. Familiar from many contemporary groups, bassist Noah Garabedian, and especially the even-handed pattering of drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell, together provide an unbeatable rhythmic cushion. As for American alto saxophonist Michaël Attias and Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser, each usually functions as a bandleader.

Both are heavily featured on “Untangled “, the CD’s longest track, which separates as promised with smudged yet direct slide strategies from the trombonist and horizontal peeps and curlicue squeezes from the saxophonist. The horns’ burry undulates are gently prodded by drum pulses plus brief keyboard clipping from the pianist, except for a section where Ammann carves out a distinctive multi-fingered showpiece.

Exploratory when he wishes, Attias also bring a relaxed texture to his playing as he does on “The Traveller” in a Lee Konitz-like emulation. As well an interlude of elongated down-the-scale glides from Blaser characterize the title tune, with his shuddering moves bookended by a pumping bass introduction and eventually harmonized with the pianist’s linear flow. Stretched pitches and rhythm on the final “Pedestrian Space” put Ammann’s concepts in boldest relief as the narrative is extended horizontally with more information added following the repetition of each motif. This encompasses horn pecking, rooted piano sweeps and paced drum smacks adding up to pronounced intensity.

Besides the originals, the pianist masterminds a run through of Carla Bley’s “King Korn”, which departs from the familiar melody long enough for swaying piano lines, reed twitters and basso brass to build variations on the opening and closing theme.

Over her half century career Bley has created music which is instantly identifiable when played. Ammann’s compositions are notable and fluid, but still appear to lack that personalization that comes with experience and self-confidence. But especially with the fine combo assembled here, he appears headed towards astute musical realization.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Yayoi 2. Untangled 3. Castello di Traliccio 4. Resilience 5. King Korn 6. Aylan Kurd 7. The Traveller 8. Afterthought 9. Pedestrian Space

Personnel: Samuel Blaser (trombone); Michaël Attias (alto saxophone); Sebastien Ammann (piano, Fender Rhodes); Noah Garabedian (bass) and Nathan Ellman-Bell (drums)