Alive – Set 1
Live at Dièse Onze, Montréal
Live at Dièse Onze, Montréal
The music here contains endlessly delightful surprises woven seamlessly into the intricate fabric within the individual pieces themselves. Two Miles Davis classics provide excellent examples … from the sheer simplicity of lyricism in Nardis, like a consistently evolving, but persistently gentle snowfall of filigreed delicacy; to the rumbling and rolling All Blues, escalating into a two-fisted romp that culminates in a scalding rapid-fire explosion of breathtaking intensity and ferocity.
The Hammerstein/Romberg song that became a jazz standard Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise passes through so many stages of musical evolution, from its fragments of melody Tristano-ish opening through thunderous crescendos that never lose the sensitivity of the song, and culminating in a tantalizingly slow bluesy swing evoking the territories explored by Bud Powell and Herbie Nichols.
A pair of Pilc originals are also included – 11 Sharp, a highly rhythmic, somewhat Monkishly grooved excursion, consistently evolving in melodic variety and emotional intensity; and the title piece Alive, an evocative, persistently explorative foray in gently insistent lyricism, which ends this wonderful album on a subtly provocative note.
Music like this can only be achieved by such consummately impeccable musicians as these three gentlemen. LeBlanc and Doxas are not simply sidemen by any means, as Pilc’s music demands far more ownership of the music by all the collaborators. Throughout the album, the bass and drums solos are never just there to give them some playing space, but are fully woven into the textural fabric of each piece.
Released February 25, 2022
Label: Justin Time Records
Jean-Michel Pilc – piano
Rémi-Jean LeBlanc – bass
Jim Doxas – drums
Produced by Jean-Michel Pilc
Recorded live June 26, 2021 at Dièse Onze, Montréal, Québec
Mastered October 2021 by Guy Hébert at Concrete Mastering Montréal, Québec
Cover art ‘Jungle Sun’ by Alex Dodier
Jean-Michel Pilc prefers to fly without a net. A prolific pianist-composer and unpredictable improviser who excels at perpetual invention and is known for performing spellbinding solo sets with no set lists, he’s joined on his debut album for Justin Time by bassist Rémi-Jean LeBlanc and drummer Jim Doxas — longtime trio mates who, like their leader, strive for spontaneous expression in everything they play as a unit. Performing for a COVID-weary, jazz-starved audience at Montreal’s prestigious Dièse Onze jazz club last June, the group takes standards like “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” and “All Blues” on long thrill-rides of creative deconstruction. Two Pilc originals — the quirky swinger “11 Sharp” and the gentle, lyrical title track — provide even more surprises as the trio takes listeners on dynamic adventures through an ever-evolving landscape of unexpected plot-twists and sudden style-shifts. But for all the merits of these exceptional players and their sophisticated musical interactions, it’s the overall emotional impact of the performance that makes Alive–Live At Dièse Onze, Montréal such a powerful and important document. The music is joyously uplifting — exhilarating, even — and covers a full gamut of intricacies and nuances that add up to a delightful and satisfying set. It was an amazing night, and the enthusiastic vibe enveloping the room translates nicely into album form. This is collective improvisation at its absolute best, with virtuoso-level artists in their natural habitat, the jazz club, playing music for its own sake. The Dièse Onze concert was recorded in its entirety, and the remainder of the music — the complete second set — is available in digital form for streaming and download. The additional material includes three more Davis-affiliated tracks (Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” and the standards “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “My Funny Valentine”) along with an intricate romp through the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” a whimsical version of “All The Things You Are,” a lovely take on “My Romance” and an explosive journey into John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” For more information on Jean-Michel Pilc and Alive–Live At Dièse Onze, Montréal, see our upcoming article in the June 2022 issue of DownBeat (print and digital editions). ~ by Ed Enright, April 2022. Downbeat (4 1/2 stars)