By Dan Bilawsky, March 20, 2023 | AllAboutJazz
On November 28, 2021, at the completion of a two-day recording session for Galician saxophonist Xose Miguelez’s Contradictio (Origin, 2022) at CARA-OJM Studios in Matosinhos, Portugal, pianist Jean-Michel Pilc had a little time on his hands. And with a gorgeous Steinway right in front of him, beautiful acoustics in the room and engineer José Trincado at the ready to record, it proved to be the perfect opportunity to explore the moment. The result, a stunning statement on subliminal complexities and the beauty in becoming, speaks volumes about a gifted musician unencumbered by the weight of expectations.
While creation obviously preceded titling for this music, each track’s name eloquently addresses the art of perception, how an artist processes their own discoveries and how that may influence a listener’s interpretation. Arriving on “Leaving,” for example, Pilc ruminates and creates an aura of anticipation. In doing so, he reveals myriad emotions attached to the process of parting. Whether the music remains fixed on departure from or toward a place of comfort is wonderfully unclear. But much of the wrestling with that question is, of course, due to the very nature of titular association.
Though ears and minds might choose to endlessly chew on that connection between names and sound, that may distract from the substance of the music. And there’s no denying the power in what Pilc has to offer in that department. “Discovery” finds the pianist expanding an arc of possibility through deeper connections to the movement and magic of time and consequence. “The Encounter” eases into a tender a tuneful space, rises to peak tension and offers release. “First Dance” moves from stable sway to flitting finger work to percussive play before cooling off. And “Just Get Up” opens with curiosity and climbs the ladder of intensity and immensity before clearing its own slate, starting anew and ultimately moving in the opposite direction.
“Way To Go,” opening on an attention-grabbing glissando, embraces a broad history of jazz in Jaki Byard-esque fashion while remaining true to Pilc’s own unique language. “Understanding” haunts with the slow passage of simple truths and what lies beneath them. An engrossing “Waltz for Xose” masterfully coalesces through acts of self-trading. “Not Falling This Time” offers bravado, showcases Pilc’s virtuosity in high-speed happenings and charms with bluesy bantering in different gears. And the pianist ties a bow around everything with the uplifting of “I’ll Be Back.” Wonderfully unpredictable and completely in keeping with Pilc’s penchant for investing fully in each and every moment, Symphony is a gift from an artist in perpetual evolution.