Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sylvie Courvosier: Signs And Epigrams

Sylvie Courvosier (piano; 1968)
Signs And Epigrams (Tzadik; 2007)

In the world of improvised piano, Sylvie Courvosier is one the best. A friend turned me on to her music only recently. Very difficult to give you a good reference point but maybe a combination of John Cage, Keith Jarrett and Cecil Taylor might be appropriate.

Born is Switzerland and now living in Brooklyn with her husband and fellow musician, cellist, Morton Feldman. Courvosier has performed with some of the best avant garde musicians on the New York scene including John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Joey Baron, Tim Berne to name a few. I don't allot a Sylvie Courvosier's music but one of the albums I constantly listen to is a solo piano release entitled, Signs And Epigrams on John Zorn's Tzadik label.

Signs And Epigrams is jazz improvisation and classical thought moving in various patterns and structures. Moving through different tonal structures, "Ricochet" bounces back and forth in a delicate pattern that is both challenging for the listener both introspectively rewarding. The harmonic structures Courvosier utilizes over the course of Signs And Epigrams is simply startling. This is a subtle study in construction of sound and deconstruction of sound. There are moments in which Courvosier's playing sounds like an ensemble instead of a solo piano (that was the intention after all).

That intention is evident on the three part suite "Epigrams I-III" as Courvosier manipulates the piano in various points. There are moments of intricate joy and periods of intense exaltation. It's as if Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett performing a recital together playing completely separate pieces. Amazing.

"Soliloquy" closes out this harmonic journey with multi-levels of sounds that connect with a sheer range of beauty that the piece takes on a whole character of its own almost separate of the rest of the album. Midway through "Soliloquy" Courvosier turns gentle and emotional before returning to a multi-textured plain of sound and then quickly moving to a close.

Signs And Epigrams is one of those rare solo piano records that enveloped in sound, compelling and dynamic in its construction. It's an undiscovered treasure in my opinion. Go find it...


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