29th Jan2017

Adrien Chicot ‘Playing in the Dark’ (Gaya Music Productions) 5/5

by ukvibe

A native of Paris, pianist Adrien Chicot was self taught from childhood, before joining the IACP, a school led by the Belmondo brothers which is now seeing the emergence of a new generation of talented jazz musicians, including Samy Thiebault, Julien Alour, Alexandre Freiman and Geraldine Laurent, to name but a few and “Playing in the dark” is Chicot’s second album and as the first; “”All in”, it is a piano, bass and drums trio affair where intelligent composition meets passionate performance. The line-up for this recording is also the same as the previous outing, with bassist Sylvain Romano and drummer Jean-Pierre Arnaud joining Chicot on piano.

The first thing to say about this recording is that it is an acoustic trio album in the truest sense; no effects (apart from some birdsong on the final track), no electronics, no shenanigans. Just pure and simple acoustic jazz. In this sense, it harps back to a more traditional sound, one that we might hear in a small, late night jazz club. One that evokes memories of Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, or even Ryo Fukui. And yet there is something else here… something intriguing and beguiling and post modernistic in how this trio go about their work. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love well-used studio techniques, sound manipulation and electronics etc, but this trio seem to instinctively know what’s right for them.

Chicot’s style is fascinating. There’s an architectural quality to it, one that employs a unique musical language that has a free, spirited and apparent spontaneity to it. The pianist plays at times with vigour, at times with sensitivity, but always with an unerring confidence and articulate passion. The opening tune “Late” sets the tone for the rest of the session. Melody is always a strength, with curiosity baring its teeth from beneath. The key to any trio is always how well the three performers interact, and on “Fourth Floor” it is easy to hear clearly how well these three musicians do so. The drum break and underpinning bass towards the end of the tune tells the listener everything they need to know. “Under The Tree” is a delicately balanced piece of music, hovering between light and shade, it has a beautiful poise to it that is both joyous and reflective in nature. “Blue Wall” swings with a life of its own, classic in its feel and aided and abetted by a superb bass solo from Romano. The heat rises further with “Key for Two”, once more providing some engaging and immersive interplay between the three musicians. The title track has a more meandering quality to it and as with much of Chicot’s writing and playing, has hooks to die for that sit comfortably at ease with the improvisation and soloing. “Backpack” exudes confidence and ability, with a slightly angular harshness counteracted by a powerful and lyrical melody. Brilliant and vibrant it enjoys a mood of its own. The solo piano of “Lush Life” has a timeless, endearing quality to it that leaves the listener totally entranced. The album closes with Sunset With The Birds” which sounds like a reprise of the first tune on the album, “Late”. Birdsong plays alongside the trio, creating a meditative and blissful mood to round the album off nicely.

“Playing In The Dark” is both playful and sincere. It is one of the most refreshingly inventive yet repeatedly listenable trio albums I have heard for quite some time. One of those albums where the more you listen, the more you find satisfying reward. A bright future lies ahead for Adrien Chicot and co.

The album will be celebrated with a live performance from the trio at Duc des Lombards, Paris, on Thursday March 16th.

Mike Gates

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