Tag Archives: Renku

JazzWord review by Ken Waxman

Michaël Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
Oleś Brothers with Rob Brown – Live at SJC (Fenommedia Live Series)
Double bass and drums power and patterns are the reason for the success of both these trio CDs which also feature – and in one case is lead by – an alto saxophonist. Nonetheless, these cohesive qualities would likely be present no matter who was the third partner.

Poland’s most notable rhythm section, twin brothers, bassist Marcin Oleś and drummer Bartłomiej “Brat” Oleś are a lot more than the Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb of Eastern Europe. Although their skills as close-knit accompanists have benefited musicians ranging from German woodwind player Theo Jörgensmann to American cellist Erik Friedlander, they also produce sessions and – as in this case – compose the music. Not only has Brat Oleś in particular supplied memorable tunes for this CD, but the two spur New York saxophonist Rob Brown to his most impressive soloing on record. Considering Brown travels in the company of players such as bassist William Parker and pianist Mathew Ship that’s high praise.

Although bassist John Hébert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi together have been Israeli-American saxophonist Michaël Attias’ rhythm section since 2003, they’re also busy with a variety of other projects. Takeishi has also worked with Anthony Braxton as well as Brown and Friedlander, while Hébert plays with trombonist Joe Fielder and pianist Benoît Delbecq. More tellingly, the bassist contributed four of the eight tunes on this session and his thick thumps and walking keeps everything balanced. Meantime Takeishi uses a variety of percussion implements to add novel coloration and shore up Attias understated style. The Haifa-born saxophonist, who was raised in Paris and Minneapolis was also mentored by Braxton and has paid sideman dues with drummer Paul Motian and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum.

Recorded in a Gliwice jazz club in 2008, Live at SJC could be the 21st Century equivalent of Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section from 1957. Although Brown’s sharp and piercing tone is closer to Jackie McLean’s, “Brat” Oleś constant clatter, rumbles and rolls plus cymbal sizzles as well as his brother’s slippery plucks, strums and reverberations provide the necessary impetus for the saxophonist as Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones did for the saxophonist on the Pepper LP.

Not that Brown needs much prodding during the CD’s more than 75½ minutes. Gritty runs flutter tonguing and glissandi extensions are just a few of the ways he exposes every note pattern nuance to the audience. During the three-part “Here & Now Suite” for instance, his wet trilling, high-pitched split tones and node extensions are prominent during nearly every solo. The Oleś’ responses to his nearly ceaseless mutiphonic playing are circular cross pulsing from the drummer and curvaceous string pumping from the bassist.

Each man also has suitable solo showcases, with Marcin Oleś at one point slip-sliding timbres up the strings; at another doubled string slapping; both of which leads to andante walking. Meanwhile, blunt drum-top strokes and cymbal prestidigitation characterize some of Brat Oleś’ rhythmic thrusts. But if Brown frequently seems to be wrenching every last sweaty ounce of rippled trills from his horn, the drummer’s strategy is more indulgent.

Although Brown’s reed-biting and note squishing is tautly expressed most of the time, he relaxes enough on “Ash Tree” to assay what in these circumstances is a melancholy mid-range ballad. Spreading harsh, altissimo timbres, he links up with low-pitched bowed bass strokes and unattached cymbal rustles. Reaching a climax with intense tongue vibrating in unison with Brat Oleś’ subtle patterning, Brown exits with trumpet-like timbres as every wisp of air is squeezed from his horn.

If Brown’s reed technique on Live can be compared to the use of a steak knife, then Attias’ on Renku in Coimbra is more like that of a butter knife. That isn’t a putdown. Each piece of flatware has a particular function, and Attias’ style is as languid and relaxed as Brown’s is tense and agitated.

Note this particularly during Hébert’s “Universal Constant” which showcases the saxman’s discursive, yet lyrical trilling. Meantime the bassist scrubs and plunks his strings, while Takeishi could be using knitting needles to sound thinner vibrations from cymbals and other parts of his extended kit. Although he’s consistently melodic, his indolent runs are durable as well, and infrequently reflect harsh vibrations.

This track and others are traditional enough to feature a recapping of the theme at the end. Before that there’s plenty of solo room – both during the almost obligatory turnaround and elsewhere. Pianist Russ Lossing even makes a brief, but potent, appearance on one track, recorded like the others at a studio in Coimbra, Portugal, about 3½ months before the Brown-Oleś Brothers CD.

Attias says that Lee Konitz and Jimmy Lyons were two of his earliest influences on alto saxophone. Konitz’s graceful and unhurried stylings are evident on more than the one Konitz composition recorded here. Instructively, the trio’s energetic reading of the latter’s “Sorry” doesn’t differ markedly from how they – and Attias in particular – treat Hébert’s “Wels” or the saxophonist’s own “Do & the Birds”. The latter is almost a rhythm section demonstration, with Takeishi’s mismatched nerve beats, cymbal shakes and wood-block strokes evolving in broken-octave concordance with guitar-like twangs from below the bridge of Hébert’s bass. By the time the saxophonist enters with a mellow texture, the resulting rubato coloration and textural echoes could also be ascribed to the bull fiddler’s almost identical harmonies.

As for his own “Wels”, Hébert’s role is slinky and secondary as the drums bounce and rebound while the altoist hooks onto the treble melody, rubs and caresses it and moves it away from eccentric timbres. Nonetheless, the piece is cantilevered by hard rim shots and fleet-fingered bass string twangs before the lightly accented head is recapped.

Involving musicians of varied backgrounds, both trio sessions demonstrate how, with improvised music a particular, circumstantial alignment can produce first-class music, which can be captured in usual places.

Master of Small House review by Derek

Michaël Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
New York-based saxophonist Michaël Attias has a sound steeped in a somewhat unexpected amalgam of sources. He’s obviously enamored of the free jazz canon and players like Jimmy Lyons and John Tchicai, but there’s also a feathery, aerated inflection to his phrasing that obliquely recalls the Cool and West Coast schools of 50s jazz and specifically players like Lee Konitz and Art Pepper. This set, recorded during a three-night stand in Portugal by his quintet in the summer of 2008, pares that group down to a trio for an exploration of six originals as well as Konitz’s “Thingin’” and Lyons’ “Sorry”. 

The collaborative Japanese poetry form referenced in the disc’s title is a handy analogue to the ensemble’s dynamic and sound. Bassist John Hébert is Attias’ shadow, his accompaniment and counterpoint so closely aligned with the saxophonist that borders on the extrasensory. Drummer Statoshi Takeishi plays his kit with an ear and touch aligned towards nuance and pacing. Gongs, shakers and other percussion regularly inform the foreground of his patterns, enhancing with color and shading the supple rhythms he sculpts with sticks. The pair’s repartee in the initial minutes of “Do & the Birds” coalesces into a loping processional of bulbous and brittle bass manipulations and muted percussion play that Attais eventually glides across.

Pianist Russ Lossing pops up on fleeting “Fenix Culprit”, changing the chemistry quite dramatically with increased density and momentum. Attias hardens his attack as Takeishi and Hébert work up a heavy rhythmic froth, but the four retreat into pallid tension and release in the piece’s finale. That taste of more aggressive interplay also informs the comparatively tumultuous Lyons’ cover and a genuine groove builds out of the lush back and forth that propels “Universal Constant” but much of the set adheres to a conversely temperate itinerary. Tenorist Tony Malaby, the last member of the quintet, is absent and it’s hard not to pine for his presence given the spark Lossing brings with a brief cameo. Summing up this appraisal with a superficial sports metaphor, the set’s not a slam-dunk, but rather a solid basket from the post.

All About Jazz Italy review by Vincenzo Roggero

Michael Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
La presenza di due brani targati Lee Konitz e Jimmy Lyons non è casuale. Del primo Michael Attias possiede l’eloquio dai toni astratti del secondo l’esuberanza controllata. Volendo completare il quadro dei riferimenti potremmo dire che nel contralto di Attias si ritrovano pure la morbidezza e la nonchalance di Wayne Marsh e la logica matematica di Anthony Braxton. Insomma Attias è un sassofonista che ha assimilato appieno il linguaggio di alcuni maestri del sassofono e lo ha rielaborato in maniera originale e funzionale alla sua visione musicale.
Registrato in un pomeriggio nel 2004, durante una three-night residency del quintetto con Tony Malaby e Russ Lossing al JACC Festival, Renku in Coimbra è la classica seduta nata quasi per caso, come momento di relax tra le fatiche di un tour. Solo che quasi magicamente tutti i dettagli che concorrono alla riuscita di una registrazione sembrano andare ciascuno al proprio posto, come guidati da una mano invisibile. Ne risulta così una musica che rispecchia l’assoluto comfort dei musicisti, che suonano con grande intensità e altrettanta scioltezza, prediligono le atmosfere calde e rilassate, smussando gli angoli e spianando le asperità delle improvvisazioni che normalmente contraddistinguono le loro esibizioni.

Il lavoro di Satoshi Takeishi, impegnato spesso alle spazzole, abile nel creare sequenze stranianti con i metalli riducendo al minimo la pulsazione delle pelli, e il poderoso contrabbasso di John Hebert, autore di alcuni strepitosi interventi solistici, completano un triangolo musicale che mette in mostra un lato della personalità artistica di Michael Attias non sempre valorizzata.

Jazz Review review by Glenn Astarita

Michael Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
A renku is a form of Japanese poetry that originated over one thousand years ago.  Here, superfine and somewhat under-recognized saxophonist Michael Attias uses the renku as an interactive jazz frontier with his crack rhythm section.  The musicians have performed on and off since 2003.  Unsurprisingly, their intuition and synergy looms rather prolifically throughout.  Thus, Attias is one of the best in the biz, and this 2009 endeavor reemphasizes that notion in glimmering fashion.

The trio attains a translucent balance, where sheer-might, eloquence and capacious movements ride atop buoyant, asymmetrical pulses.  Attias is a fluent technician who injects variable amounts of gusto, soul and warmth into the grand scheme, while possessing a fluent attack.  On sax great Lee Konitz’ “Thingin,” the musicians gel to a carefree setting, sparked by Satoshi Takeishi’s dance-like brush patterns across the snare drum.  Moreover, Attias’ conjures up a wistful mindset as the band gradually instills tension, which is an element that carries forth on the following and somewhat scrappy free-form piece, “Do & the Birds.”

It’s no secret that Takeishi is a multitasking performer.  With this outing, he integrates small percussion implements and tiny cymbal hits to add texture and rhythmic color.  And Attias is a master at understating a primary melody line, akin to the intent of an author unfolding a plot.  The trio effectively mixes it up during late saxophonist Jimmy Lyons’ composition “Sorry,” as they render a scorching bump and grind motif, spotted with variable flows and the leader’s sizzling flurries.  They close out the program with a reprise of the first piece “Creep,” via extended unison notes and Attias’ harmonious alignment with bassist John Hebert.  Sure enough, Attias and his associates are at the very top of their game throughout this irrefutably compelling musical statement.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Michael Attias Blends the Cool and the Hot in New CD

Michael Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
There are times when you welcome an unfamiliar name and sound to the music corpus that constitutes your listening and playing life. Other times perhaps you can be satiated and nothing gets through the jaded ears into the appreciative consciousness. Then too, it can be that only the last few listenings in a cycle of familiarity can make everything clear to your musical head.

Michael Attias got through to me as a voice that should be heard only after a couple of listens to his excellent Renku In Columbra (Clean Feed).This is a showcase for his cool-hot alto playing, a subtle commodity that charms and caresses the senses with a real facility but also a sensitive sense of phrase and form.

The album runs through several originals by Michael and the formidably propellant bassist on the date, John Hebert. Then there are rather unknown but interesting pieces by Lee Konitz and Jimmy Lyons, one apiece.

Besides Hebert, drummer Satoski Takeishi adds a groovingly out presence. Russ Lossing joins the fray on piano for one cut.

This is improvisation as high art. Attias and Hebert are masterful, impressive, loquacious. Takeishi is alternately bombastic and playful, subtle and driving.

It shows that Michael Attias can create a sound on the alto that has a classic ring to it–cool like the coolists, hot like the new thingers, but filled with really interesting and original phrasing. These cats can swing and they can tumble out of time. They do either like they own their music, authoritatively. I am happy to get a chance to hear Attias and company hold forth so effectively on Renku. You might well feel the same way.

Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak

Michael Attias – Renku in Coimbra (CF 162)
Fluent, stylish saxophonist MICHAËL ATTIAS—whose long history with local cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm includes playing together in New York combos like Peep and Anthony Coleman’s Self-Haters in the early 90s—is the most jazz-oriented participant. On the excellent new Renku in Coimbra (Clean Feed), a trio outing with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi, he’s impressively limber and resourceful, creating a graceful continuity even when he pares a solo down to a series of elliptical phrases. A sharp version of Lee Konitz’s “Thingin'” evokes west-coast cool, while the original tune “Do and the Birds” both lurches and glides, its interactions more turbulent but no less intuitive.


All About Jazz concert review by David R Adler

Michael Attias
Brooklyn, NY December 3, 2009

Michael Attias is known for his work on alto and baritone saxophones, but on the new Clean Feed disc Renku In Coimbra he plays only alto. This was his game plan too at Barbes (Dec. 3rd), where he gathered together his Renku trio with bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. The music of Attias’ alto sax heroes bookended the set, starting with Jimmy Lyons’ “Sorry” and ending with Lee Konitz’ “Thingin,'” both of which appear on the new CD. Of course these tunes took on the spiky, free-flowing coloration that Attias and his partners have developed so beautifully, a language of sparsely orchestrated yet precise themes, open harmony and intuitive transitions. Without a pause, “Sorry” gave way to Hebert’s slowly pulsing “Wels” and Attias’ three-part “Bad Lucid,” broken up by virtuosic unaccompanied bass and a drum break that found Takeishi assaulting his snare from underneath. The bass-drum interplay crackled on Hébert’s “Fez,” with Takeishi hand-drumming at first, then moving on to more aggressive accents. Attias shifted the mood with a lyrical intro to his balladic “Lisbon,” inviting a fluent overlapping texture of arco, brushes and cymbal washes from the band. With the jazzier bounce of Attias’ “Spun Tree,” the leader forcefully took charge, navigating a tricky form with fire and poise. He drew improvisational focus from the simple melody of “Thingin'” before closing with “Renku,” the trio’s theme song, full of drive and contrapuntal detail. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=35211