Matthieu Bordenave / Florian Weber / Patrice Moret ‘La traversée’ CD (ECM) 3/5

French tenor saxophonist Matthieu Bordenave’s first leader date for ECM is a trio outing with German pianist Florian Weber and Swiss bassist Patrice Moret. On “La traversée” – The Crossing, Bordenave explores an area between contemporary chamber music and jazz, subtly influenced by the innovations of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow who “opened new territory that remains relevant for improvisers today. This recording was guided by this approach to trio playing, in which melodic lines interweave and blossom in the nuances of tones, as each musician follows his intuition.”

Perhaps the best way of describing the music on this album would be be to use the term ‘tone-poems’. In the album’s liner notes, the saxophonist writes “as in a volume of poetry where a certain atmosphere emanates from the text, the pieces resonate with each other like a mosaic…” This certainly sums up the feel of the recording, with the three independent voices – quiet yet strong, delicate yet resolute – interacting and crossing paths as they roam freely, connecting and disconnecting seemingly at will, as if discovering new horizons together for the first time.

Bordenave’s writing for the trio emphasises that this is a music in which space will have an important role to play, a feeling borne out by the austere quality of the improvising. The saxophonist has a wonderful tone, and as one would expect with an ECM recording of this nature, the sound quality is superb, allowing the sax, piano and bass to explore and create intimate atmospheres of sound. There is an open quality to the trio that I really like, and although at times the music may feel a little too sparse, the hidden depths of repeated listening allow much to discover.

The three musicians appear well suited to one another, with a quiet yet compelling imagination flowing through the entire session. Nine original pieces by Bordenave offer much to enjoy. There is a sense of complexity to the music that on initial listening could leave the listener curious, yet not entirely bowled over. It takes time to appreciate some of the subtleties and nuances within the tunes, and a little more effort than usual perhaps. But it’s well worth giving it that time, as the more one listens, the more compelling and beguiling it undoubtedly becomes.

Mike Gates