LOOKING AHEAD / NARDIN: Colours. Just Easy. Look Ahead. Three for You. Prelude to “Memory of T.” Memory of T. Prelude to “In the Skies.” In the Skies. Prayers. PARKER: New Direction. HANCOCK: One Finger Snap / Fred Nardin, pno; Or Bareket, bs; Leon Parker, dm / Naïve NJ6992
And here’s another (the latest) album from French pianist Fred Nardin, whose previous CD I raved about. This one is a little more intimate in feeling but no less innovative; Nardin is, quite simply, a fascinating improviser. Nonetheless, I found the opening track, Colours, to be a fairly mundane tune, saved only by Nardin’s fine solo work, but he makes up for this with an attractive piece taken at a nice medium swing tempo, Just Easy. Leon Parker plays some nifty yet subdued drum breaks on this one, and bassist Or Bareket tosses in a sly reference to Lullaby of Birdland at the beginning of his first solo behind the pianist. Nardin’s own solo is extraordinarily imaginative, completely re-composing his own piece and making something much more complex of it.
The title track is a fast, complex little line (really no more than a couple of bitonal riffs), but once again Nardin and his trio make not lemonade but a lemon soufflé with a cherry on top out of this insignificant snippet, at one point converting the rhythm from a straight 4 to a slow 3 which he also plays at one point as a 6/8. Three for You opens with a little cymbals, Nardin playing repeated chords, and Bareket playing a fairly complex line which is the tune’s melody. When Nardin comes in, we hear that the tempo is not in 3 but in a slow 4, with the quirky melody played lovingly before the improvisations come around.
New Direction is just (I think) Nardin vocalizing in very rhythmic scat, including handclapping, before moving into a very fast-paced version of Herbie Hancock’s One Finger Snap. Nardin almost sounds like Bud Powell on this one. Parker is very busy on this one, too. The Prelude to “Memory of T” sounds just like a Monk piece, but it’s not, likewise Memory proper. Apparently, Nardin just likes Monk, which is fine by me because I do, too.
Prelude to “In the Skies” is mostly a bass solo, whereas the piece itself—which starts with the bass plucking repeated A-flats—is a rather wistful tune played by Nardin very softly at the keyboard. The music also develops oddly, in stages like a classical piece rather than in a linear style. Towards the end, Nardin plays a repeated four-chord pattern while Parker improvises over him.
The closer, Prayers, is a slow, quiet piece played solo by Nardin until Bareket comes in behind him at the 1:36 mark to make a duet. The bassist’s lines are played double time pizzicato, acting as a sort of counterbalance to the serenity of the lead line.
This is a splendid disc and a fine addition to Nardin’s growing discography!
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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