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Simon Nabatov - Michaël Attias



"Brooklyn Mischiefs" Leo Records LR CD 901 / 2021


 The Art Music Lounge March 2021

Of the latest crop of CDs I received from Leo Records to consider for review, this one was, to my ears, clearly the finest. The album title refers to the fact that these two artists first met and performed together in Brooklyn, New York one night and realized the strong affinity they had for each other. And that affinity is clearly evident on this release. Michaël Attias is an alto sax counterpart to tenor sax legend Ivo Perelman, and on this set his playing is not only explorative and imaginative but also focused. To this extent, I also give credit to Nabatov, who introduces his own ideas for consideration by the saxist but is also happy to follow the latter whither he shall wander. In a sense, Attias and Nabatov have an affinity for each other’s ideas similar to that of Perelman with pianist Matthew Shipp, with whom he has recorded close to a dozen albums (including a couple for Leo Records). The difference is that Shipp tends to create a bit more structure into which Perelman fits his own ideas, whereas Nabatov plays less chords and more single lines; but the instant rapport between them is eerily similar. They listen to each other and try to complement each other’s excursions as best they can, and frankly, that’s all you can ask of any improvising musician. Despite the slight differences in approach from Perelman-Shipp, Attias-Nabatov also touch base with tonality once in a while. This helps to ground the listener in what is going on and make it sound structured even when it is wholly improvised. As both Lennie Tristano, the grandfather of free jazz, and Charles Mingus, who also dabbled in it occasionally, said, “You can’t improvise on nothing.” Indeed. If there is no substance to the music the results, no matter how interesting, are bound to sound disorganized at best and cacophonous at worst. Even at their most adventurous, neither Attias nor Nabatov sound cacophonous or chaotic, and that is the essence of all good music. Take, for instance, the opening of Gowanus By Night. Attias plays high, sustained tones on his alto, sounding almost like a harmonium, while Nabatov sprinkles a few notes here and there, occasionally plucking the inside strings of his instrument. They are focused on creating a mood, of course, but a mood that will develop into something more substantial…which they do, slowly but surely. At 2:27 Nabatov plays a surprisingly Tristano-like lick on the piano that he develops, the tempo picks up, and both of them are off to the races. A strong rhythm in 4 suddenly asserts itself and it seems as if no matter what one plays, the other has a complementary idea for it. This is the essence of great jazz, regardless of genre; it’s a tradition that goes back as far as Louis Armstrong with Earl Hines or Ornette Coleman with Charlie Haden. Since what they are playing is often bitonal or atonal, naturally the music will not appeal to all jazz listeners, and of course there are several moments here, as in Satoko Fujii’s new album Moon on the Lake, where the music actually leans more towards contemporary classical music than to jazz, but that’s the beauty of it. Nothing is played here for ego’s sake, for showing off. At no point in this album do you feel that either artist is trying to outdo the other, in part because they realized early on that no matter what one of them played, the other could come up with a complementary idea, and this is even true of the duo at their wildest, as they are in Languid/the Spinning Song. It would be easy to dismiss what Attias, in particular, is doing here as unstructured noise, but there are notes here and they do coalesce into something phenomenal even if it seems momentarily over-the-top, and both artists are smart enough not to let that mood dominate the proceedings for too long. They pull back into quietude while continuing to create interesting shapes and sounds that have meaning. Indeed, at the 7:55 mark, Nabatov suddenly begins playing an absolutely lovely if evasive tune that could have come from Bill Evans or Jaki Byard, except that he then suddenly begins to double and quadruple the tempo and develop it in ways that Evans only did in his earlier, more experimental days. Attias picks up on this and thus, when he enters, he is fully in the mood, and it surprised even me to hear the two of them suddenly drop the tempo at exactly the same moment and indulge in a duo-improvisation that included both lyrical and rhythmic elements. There is also Glances, in which Nabatov plays the inner strings of his piano, creating a percussive sound much like musique concrete, during which Attias does not simply splatter notes against the wall to see if any of them stick but, rather, creates fascinating lines and melodic fragments over it. Of course, I could give such details of each and every encounter in this splendid album, but in a way that’s spoiling the fun for first-time listeners. This was a miraculous encounter, and I sincerely hope that Attias and Nabatov follow up on it with more mischief in the future.

Lynn René Bayley

 Recordings and Beyond March 2021

An atmospheric duo, recorded at iBeam in Brooklyn in 2014, but released by Leo Feigin in March 2021. The music they play is a closest to the kind of free jazz of Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp: it is full of delicate phrasing of the alto and the piano, full of melodic motifs, yet entirely free improvised, as can be heard on the opening "Glimpses & Tanges". Yet, there are many differences: Simon is rooted in European avantgarde, while Michaël in American. After short, slow and abstract "Gowanus by Night", comes the highlight for me: over 16 minute long "Languid/The Spinning Song", the track that both in its abstraction and expression goes beyond the free jazz idiom. "Glances“ return to it, however, in a magnificent manner. Finally, "Poetic Bug Bite", the most beautiful song of the album, a masterpiece of the free jazz cantilena. Great record!!!

Maciej Lewenstein

 All About Jazz December 2022

Registrato all'iBeam di Brooklyn il 6 luglio del 2014 e riemerso dagli archivi nel corso della pandemia, questo album documenta una fortunata serata di improvvisazione tra il pianista di origini moscovite Simon Nabatov e il sassofonista contralto israeliano Michael Attias, un "primo incontro" tra due artisti usi a muoversi su territori accidentati e inesplorati. I cinquantatrè minuti di musica sono suddivisi in cinque tracce, tutte improvvisate a eccezione della terza, che include un'escursione in "The Spinning Song" di Herbie Nichols, artista al quale Nabatov si è a lungo dedicato. L'impianto, come si addice all'improvvisazione più aperta, è fondamentalmente dialogico e fa liberamente uso di molteplici stilemi; l'intento, tuttavia, è tangibilmente quello di costruire un discorso sempre perfettamente intellegibile, anzi perfino lirico, che comunichi all'ascoltatore un chiaro messaggio drammaturgico. Esemplifica questa poetica l'ultima traccia, "Poetic Bug Bite," oltre dieci minuti di musica che cambia ripetutamente, iniziando da una narrazione lirica del pianoforte poi affiancato dal contralto, che s'impenna in una più libera cascata cristallina di note dalla tastiera con il sax che si produce in forzature espressive, diviene rarefatta fin quasi al silenzio attraverso un gioco ritmico che rallenta, per poi impennarsi di nuovo, con il contralto che esplora gli armonici e il piano che percuote, sfumando infine verso una quietissima conclusione. Tutto questo, pur con l'uso di forme espressive particolari e virtuosistiche, senza mai perdere un momento il filo del discorso e il senso drammaturgico: impresa non facile con una materia musicale così complessa. Nelle altre tracce la trama si sviluppa ogni volta in modo diverso e tuttavia sempre con questa varietà e la medesima coerenza. Nabatov vi mette a frutto i suoi studi su Nichols e Monk, ma anche la sua frequentazione di Steve Lacy e Misha Mengelberg; Attias usa qua e là anche sovracuti e colpi d'ancia, ma lo fa sempre per accentuare l'espressività di un discorso che passa dal disegno di linee coerenti, ancorché perlopiù non rettilinee. Cosicché il disco è di ascolto in ogni sua parte gradevolissimo, ma al tempo stesso non annoia e permette di essere riscoperto a ogni ascolto. Creazione istantanea di primissimo livello. Album della settimana.

Neri Pollastri

 Culture Jazz May 2021

On ne présente plus l’immense pianiste russe Simon Nabatov qui, en 2014, rencontrait le saxophoniste-alto Michaël Attias, pilier de la scène new-yorkaise. Tout au long des cinq improvisations collectives, les deux musiciens aguerris qui s’associaient pour la première fois, n’ont aucune difficulté pour se jeter à l’eau, s’autorisant toutes les échappées, circonvolutions, fantaisies, ouvertures. Un duo et des échanges d’une grande justesse.

Jean Buzelin

 Jazz Weekly July 2021

Duets by alto saxist Michael Attias and pianist Simon Nabatov create sonc conversations, as Nabatov picks some strings on the strident “Glances”, creates a pulse for Attias’ long tones on the eerie “Gowanus By Night” and does some scrambling bop on “Languid/The Spinning Song”. Buzzing reeds and pretty tones stretch out on the misty “Glimpses and Tangles” and the two get percussive on “Poetic Bug Bite”. Free form frolics.

George Harris

 HisVoice June 2021

CD Brooklyn Mischiefs bylo sice nahráno již 6. června 2014, kdy se oné noci Simon Nabatov pustil poprvé do společného muzicírování s Michaëlem Attiasem, ale záznam „vyhrabal“ až v době pandemického zastavení času a následně tento skvost spatřil světlo světa až letos v březnu. Je to nahrávka zachycující hvězdnou hodinu, v níž se oběma podařilo najít kromobyčejné porozumění a vystihnout odlesky města, které je obklopovalo, a zároveň dělat geniální jemné neplechy. První cca dvanáctiminutový kus Glimpses and Tangles je skutečně o záblescích a zamotávání, oba hráči v něm skvěle využívají všechny své dovednosti a vytvářejí něžné plutí i pnutí, které koření tu neznělými údery do piana, jindy vytím či vytrysknuvším trylkováním na saxofon. Pěti a půl minutové nokturno Gowanus By Night začíná tajemností, která nakonec vyústí do snové skotačivosti. Šesnáctiminutový středobod Languid/The Spinning Song se pozvolna rozehrává přes struny piana a postupně se rozbíhá k naléhavosti přes víření až po rozbouřené drama, jež zhruba v polovině přechází do zvonivě nostalgického Songu z pera Herbieho Nicholse (jehož skladby ostatně předtím Nabatov nahrál). Glances je opět rozechvívání záblesků i prostorem pro vzájemně sladěnou komunikaci. Zhruba desetiminutová tečka Poetic Bug Bite je pak po „standardním“ začátku přehlídkou nejrůznějších špílců, které ještě dotvrzují celkovou imaginativnost alba.

Petr Slaby

 Music Zone April 2021

Si tratta dell’ottavo disco in duo per la Leo Records del pianista di origine russa Simon Nabatov, questa volta insieme a Michaël Attias al sax alto, un musicista israeliano che ha girato il mondo e che ora è a New York ed e`entrato a fare parte in pianta stabile della comunità di artisti di quella città. Si tratta di un concerto tenuto nel 2014 a Brooklyn e la cui registrazione, a distanza di tempo, è piaciuta ai musicisti ed all’infaticabile produttore Leo Feigin così che si è deciso di permetterne la pubblicazione. La registrazione è vibrante, ricca di pathos, nonostante si siano lasciati fuori di proposito i rumori degli ascoltatori. Il dialogo fra i due si fa subito serrato per il semplice fatto che conoscono le infinite possibilità che offrono i loro strumenti, capaci di improvvisare e trovare idee inusuali, Nabatov anche all’interno del pianoforte. Il disco scorre riservando sorprese, ad ogni minuto che scorre si scopre qualcosa di imprevedibile, anche una composizione di Herbie Nichols, The Spinning Song, che appare in coda ad un momento improvvisato intitolato Languid. Gran bella musica quella dei due, artisti al di fuori delle comuni categorie.

Vittorio Lo Conte

 Nieuwe Noten November 2021

Pianist Simon Nabatov is one of the musicians who releases work with Leo Records with a fairly high frequency, whether or not under his own name. Yesterday we paid attention to Frank Gratkowski's 'Dance Hall Music' and today we pay attention to two duo albums. 'Brooklyn Mischiefs' Nabatov recorded with alto saxophonist Michaël Attias and on 'Voluptuaries' we hear him together with guitarist Brandon Seabrook. Tomorrow two more albums will follow on which we will hear Nabatov with a large ensemble. Attias and Nabatov played together for the first time that night in Brooklyn, July 2014. That's a fact, because you don't hear it by the five, rather long pieces that make up this album. What you do hear is the inspiration of the sounds of a metropolis. At least, they are never far away when I listen to 'Glimpses & Tangles'. And furthermore, this is another special album, in which we immediately recognize Nabatov's signature, his sense of rhythm, his strong abstraction ability, but also the classical background that reveals itself in sometimes strongly romantic phrases. And the combination piano – alto sax is of course a very beautiful one, the sounds of both instruments regularly meet in a special way. And Nabatov is by no means limited to his keyboard. For example, 'Languild', which forms a unity with the only cover, Herbie Nichols' 'The Spinning Song', consists largely of sounds that he generates under the lid, the sound sometimes resembles that of a harpsichord, sometimes of percussion. Lots of abstractions on this album, but that certainly does not apply to the wonderfully rhythmic 'Gowanus By Night', a piece that would have fit on 'Dance Hall Music' and of course also not for that Nichols cover. Wonderful how Nabatov and Attias do justice to Nichols' compositional ingenuity here.

Ben Taffijn