Adrien Chicot ‘City Walk’ CD (Gaya Music Production) 5/5

“City Walk” is French pianist Adrien Chicot’s follow-up to the excellent Playing In The Dark. It’s the same line-up this time round, with pianist/composer Chicot on acoustic piano, Sylvain Romano on bass, and Jean-Pierre Arnaud on drums, and is just as refreshing and enjoyable as the previous release.

The trio work their way through nine original tunes, with barely time to take a breath before the final piece ends. This is head-on acoustic piano-led trioism at its best. Chicot has quite a unique style and his fellow band members seem to fully embrace this, driving the music forward with effervescence and unnerving skill.

The opening track “”Bogota” sets the tone. Startling melodies twist and turn with mouthwatering aplomb, a kind of post bebop, contemporary jazz hybrid. It’s like listening to an early Keith Jarrett trio gig, where the pianist has so many ideas in his head that he just has to find a way to let them out. And yet… it is compositionally so astute in regard to what to do when and how to do it. It just works, brilliantly.

“See you Monday” has that Chicot signature sound where drums and bass form a heady bedrock to the pianist’s lyrical and quirky melodies. There’s a very engaging bass solo mid-tune, and everything just sounds so ‘connected’. Great virtuosity from all three musicians.

The title track “City Walk” begins with a bar-room Spaghetti Western sound, with the tune developing into a luminous burst of energy as the trio combine in unified magnificence. The tune itself could be made for a modern-era silent movie, almost comedic and yet blissfully poignant and sincere.

There’s some traffic on “Traffic”, leading into the gorgeous solo piano. It’s like a tale of our times, a man walking slowly then hurriedly as he watches the traffic go by. Or a woman sitting at the wheel of her car, resigned to the fact that she’ll be stuck in a traffic jam for hours. Or it could be me, sitting on the car park we call the M6. Either way, the tune makes me smile, and I like that.

“Cross the street” is a little more conventional as a jazz piece. Once again the composer’s piano playing sparkles with delight, with a glorious bass solo and fulfilling drums making for great listening. Chicot gives the impression that he believes music should be an adventure, playful and evocative. And that’s exactly how it comes across here.

The Blue Note era Herbie Hancock-esque “Caipiroska” is more definable than most of Chicot’s tunes, but none less effective. The groove is supplied by the bass line, with the innovative pianist once more delightfully creating his own dance as the melody bounces with a freedom and sweet exuberance.

“Green Light” is a more angsty passage of sound that is short and focussed with superb drums leading the way as a fiery melody burns its way through to the heart of the tune.

The band’s perfect mix of lyrical inspiration and free-flowing improvisation continues on “Mosquito Hunt”. Again, it’s like these guys have ideas to burn, and they come at the listener free and fast. It’s exciting to hear a trio like this on such good form, bringing together all of the elements that make for a great sounding trio.

The closing track “Ko I Sashi” has a slightly more reflective feel to it. It’s a storytelling piece, a beautiful tale of deft musicality, a pied piper of piano players leading the dull and formulaic out into the light, showing them a new and intriguing path to musical pleasure.

What a wonderful album.

Mike Gates