There is old school, then there is the next level of going medieval on your cerebral cortex as achieved with the dramatic release from Samuel Blaser, A Mirror to Machaut.
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz
Swiss trombonist Samuel Blaser is indeed a rising star in modern jazz and his latest release A Mirror to Machaut sets the benchmark for blending early music forms with the more traditional form and functionality of modern improvisational music we refer to in the west as jazz. Instead of following a more predictable path that some chamber jazz contemporaries have followed, Blaser chooses the sonic path of least resistance. Focusing on the works of Frech composers, Guilaume Machaut and Guillaume Duffy from the 14th and 15th centuries, Blaser does a most ingenious riff on these works with a progressive jazz motif while others were given a more straight ahead approach necessary as fit the composition in question.
Blasser's somewhat legendary encounter and experience with Paul Motian is evident in the spatial context of the harmonic movement yet the ultimate lyrical flow is strictly the Blasser voice asserting itself with a firm yet chameleon like approach with a presentation of modal, straight ahead and chamber jazz aesthetics merging into one harmonious train of thought. On odd occasion through this magnificent work there can be heard a somewhat theatrical phrasing or flow more closely associated with works of Leonard Bernstein. A Mirror to Machaut is both intriguing and utterly fascinating on virtually any level one may wish to consider.
To incorporate modern improvisational technique within the integrity of the ancient musical forms on display here and never lose accessibility is a remarkable triumph. A Mirror to Machaut is not too cerebral as to venture into the land of lyrical pretentiousness nor does it pitch a tent in odd meter and venture off the theoretical cliff in an effort to prove a point.
Tracks: Hymn; Douce dame jolie; Saltarello; Dame, se vous m'estes lointeinne; Color; Cantus planus; De fortune me day pleindre et loer; Bohemia; Linea; Introit; Complaite: Tels rit au main qui au soir pleure.
Personnel: Samuel Blaser: Trombone; Joachim Badenhorst: Bass Clarinet, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Drew Guess: Double Bass; Russ Lossing: Piano, Rhodes, Wurlitzer; Gerry Hemmingway: Drums, Percussion.