Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fred Hersch & Benoit Delbecq: Fun House

Benoit Delbecq (piano)
Fred Hersch (piano)
Fun House (Songlines Recordings; 2013)
Mark Helias (bass)
Gerry Hemingway (drums)
Jean-Jacques Avenel (bass)
Steve Arguelles (drums)

It's always an exciting prospect when two great conceptualists combine their ideas. The results can be sublime. And that is exactly what happens on Fun House, the new collaboration between Fred Hersch and Benoit Delbecq.

A fantastic intersection of classical tradition, jazz ethos and soundscapes. Delbecq known for his complex patterns and sparse ambience. Hersch renown for his creativity, elegance and agility to move the jazz tradition forward. These elements are pulled, stretched and expanded through Fun House in various hues by an amazing double trio.

"Ronchamp" is a heavy, dense piece that while revolving around improvised notes of Hersch and Delbecq, also serves as a platform of vibrant performances by Avenel and Helias. The movements feature deep lows and cathartic high tones. All folded into a short three and a half minutes.

"Fun House" and "Le Rayon Vert" are complexed ballads wrapped in third-stream harmonic melodies. They are at once blissful and serene. Then carving a pattern of improvised exchanges between each instrument. While "Night For Day" is the more traditional piece in this set. A straight ahead one, two bop rhythm. It's cool and playful as Hersch sounds like the shadow of Thelonious Monk.

The closing track, Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," was also featured on Hersch's Alive At The Vanguard release from a year ago. Here in the double session, it has more atmospherics and a rich psychedelic feel. Still deeply personal but also crackling with life thanks to dueling conversation between the two pianists.

At times throughout Fun House it's difficult to discern which musician is which coming through the left and right channels. But that actually is the point. This set of accomplished musicians, whom have played together before in various configurations, sound like one ensemble in harmony. Fun House is an easy and control session with lots of dynamics that will be immensely enjoyable to admirers of both Delbecq and Hersch. But also for those seeking something new and introspective. Highly Recommended.

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