Noé Tavelli & the Argonauts Collective’s New CD

DMCHR71359 - cover

TAVELLI: Rudy’s Blessing. Blanc comme Neige. Interlude 1. Improvisation. Byway. Interlude 2. Rush. Interlude 3. GEMINIANI: Giasone. Moods / Noé Tavelli, dm/ldr; Matthias Spillman, tpt/fl-hn; Francesco Geminiani, t-sax; Fabien Iannone, bs / Double Moon DMCHR71359

From the publicity for this CD:

Founded in 2016 by Swiss drummer Noé Tavelli, Noe Tavelli and The Argonauts Collective is an ensemble that brings together young European jazz musicians. Their music, which is collectively shaped and written, is fed by the influence of the New York Jazz scene, as each member of the band has spent extended time in the “Big Apple.” The band, a chord-less quartet, offers an ambitious blend of traditional and modern jazz combining both complex form and freedom. Marcel Papaux wrote of the present release: “Beautiful enchanting music, steeped in tradition and delivered by musicians in perfect symbiosis.”

The one thing I did not particularly like about some of their music is that it is based on rock music, but for the most part this comes from Tavelli’s drums and does not permeate the entire quartet. Both horns and the bassist play in a sort of advanced-cool-school style, similar to some of Miles Davis’ late-1950s/early-to-mid 1960s groups, and they are very good in their ability to create interesting improvisations that are original despite their obvious influence. Geminiani, in particular, avoids trying to copy John Coltrane, for instance, playing more in a Sonny Rollins style, and I was impressed by their ability to move the harmony around, subtly and sometimes quickly shifting the underlying chord progressions, using only a bass.

Since I was not provided download links for this recording, I had to review it via streaming audio on YouTube, where the tunes are presented out of sequence. On YouTube, Blanc comme Neige comes up first, a slow, somewhat melancholy piece with an attractive if somewhat intangible melody line. This is followed by the opening track, Rudy’s Blessing, which is only slightly quicker in pace. At times their harmonic progression comes close to the kind of things that the original Ornette Coleman Quartet was doing in 1959-60, but for the most part their music has a tonal bias with excursions into chromatic or modal harmonic movement, not the other way around. In Rudy’s Blessing, Tavelli fractions the time for long stretches of time while the horns and bass keep a stricter tempo, and at the 3:12 mark he introduces particularly complex rhythms.

Improvisation is even slower than the other two pieces, and here all members of the group play with rhythm in a fluid manner. Bass and drums open this track, leading to an extended solo by flugelhorn player Matthias Spillman before Geminiani’s tenor sax enters as a sort of harmonic foil for him, playing whole and half notes underneath that advance the harmonic fluidity of the music. When the saxist takes over for his solo, he leaps into the upper range of his instrument but does not stay there long; rather, he backs off to allow Iannone to play a bass solo that fades out as the track closes.

Moods, another slow piece, begins with trumpet and tenor sax playing in harmony before moving into the unusual melody in 3/4. First the sax plays slow quarter notes while the trumpet plays, then they reverse roles. Eventually the tempo appears to shift from 3 to 4, or possibly something more complex (they don’t keep strict time anyway) as the bass and drums become more active behind them. Harmonically, however, this one is a bit more conventional. Rush, the only uptempo piece on this disc (and medium uptempo at that) is a welcome relief from their usual patterns, with Spillman’s somewhat ebullient trumpet predominating.

Indeed, without going into detail on every track in this album—the moods and patterns have a certain sameness to them, anyway—I was struck by the rather melancholy mood of almost the entire disc. This is not “ambient jazz” by any means; they play real jazz, and are obviously dedicated to their particular style; but taken as a whole, the album is certainly designed to create a feeling of what I would characterize as relaxed sadness.

If this is your cup of tea, you will revel in this album. If not, I recommend not listening to it when you’re feeling down. Mind you, the music is indeed creative, but there is no joy in this music, only slow-moving figures and improvisations.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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