Tony Tixier ‘I Am Human’ LP (Whirlwind Recordings) 3/5

Pianist Tony Tixier’s latest release “I Am Human” is a lockdown album that instinctively reflects on the connections of everyday existence. Recorded in his Paris apartment, Tixier conceived a plan to spontaneously record a series of pieces, all in one take, and then send them out across the world to a chosen band of his closest musical accomplices- Scott Tixier, Herman Mehari, Ben Leifer, Logan Richardson and Adrien Soleiman- musicians with whom he felt so closely in tune that the enforced separation of time and space could be overcome. Inviting them to overdub a response and to create a series of virtual duet recordings, the resulting album is thoughtful and intimate, with a warmth and compassion that befits the meaning behind the music.

“Each track is dedicated to a friend, someone I feel close to,” says Tixier. “I sent them the track in the morning and by the afternoon I had the track back with their parts.” The intuitive, instinctive feel to the music is perhaps partly achieved by this speed of response, and there’s a real sense of spontaneous sharing and feeling that comes across in the duets. A strong emotive pull is apparent throughout the entire album, one which gels everything together very sweetly.

Each side of the vinyl release opens with a performance of an original solo piece by Tixier, both recorded back to back. ‘Leaking Life’ is a meditation on the passing of time and a call to action to make the most of every day. ‘Humain’ is an expression of his own identity “A presentation of myself – I don’t see myself as mixed-race – I am 100% black, 100% white, 100% human.” Fluid and lyrical, Tixier’s own inner voice shines most brightly on these two compelling pieces.

‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ features Scott Tixier, Tony’s twin brother, playing violin on the tune made famous by Billie Holiday. The level of empathy in the music is obvious to hear. “As humans, we all need a special person to watch over us: for me, this is my twin brother, my best friend.” says the pianist. With each track being dedicated to a friend and based on a different aspect of human emotion, ‘But Beautiful’ was sent to trumpeter Hermon Mehari as the message in the song sat naturally with his optimistic personality. A lovely take on a classic tune. ‘Like Someone In Love’ went all the way to Kansas City and love-struck bassist Ben Leifer, who gives a wonderfully virtuosic performance here. ‘You Know I Care’ elicited a rare, deeply committed and mesmeric performance on tenor sax from Adrien Soleiman. Tixier contacted his longtime bandmate Logan Richardson, recalling an original tune over a well-loved sequence that they used to play. ‘When They Happen’ is the spontaneous result, developing into a thrillingly free-flowing outro.

The emotional connection between the long-distance performers is testimony to how music travels across both physical and mental borders. This short, exquisite album from Tony Tixier and friends is a reminder of how close and connected we can still be, even when a physical distance separates us.

Mike Gates

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Tony Tixier ‘Life Of Sensitive Creatures’ LP/CD (Whirlwind Recordings) 5/5