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This is the first time, to my knowledge, that US-based Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier has led a sextet and offered music spanning two CDs.

Originally composed in response to a commission from the French festival Sons d’hiver, Chimaera‘s music is both highly written and open to improvisation.

The pianist’s six themes, with titles inspired by works by the painter Odilon Redon, range in length from 8 minutes to over 20 minutes, making them sound tableaux where the creation of an atmosphere is the main concern.

This atmosphere is essentially based on an unusual instrumentation where the two trumpets of Wadada Leo Smith and Nate Wooley shine, and where Christian Fennesz’s guitar and electronic effects play a major role. In this context, the pianist’s usual trio doesn’t function as a traditional rhythm section, but participates in the elaboration of the group sound, with drummer Kenny Wollesen occasionally swapping his kit for a vibraphone.

On the whole, the leader’s piano is rather discreet, and one senses that Courvoisier has focused here on composition. The result is a music that is rich in timbre, often meditative in rhythm, and demands sustained attention from the listener.

A fine achievement from a musician who, since the mid-90s, has never ceased to propose innovative and varied music.

Line Up:

Sylvie Courvoisier: piano, composition

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet

Nat Wooley: trumpet

Christian Fennesz: guitar, electronic

Drew Gress: double bass

Kenny Wollesen: drums, vibraphone

Chimaera was released by Intakt Records, on October 20, 2023

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