Christian Brenner Quintet: Avant L’Été
Parisian pianist mixes limpid impressionism with ensemble modal sequences variously driven by backbeat, jazz waltz and samba rhythm
By Michael Tucker 19 April 2023
I’ve relished the incisive yet open lyricism and harmonic literacy of the Paris– based Brenner’s pianism for nigh on two decades. With elective affinities which run from Wes Montgomery, Miles and Coltrane to Tatum and Monk, Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, Kenny Barron and Fred Hersch, Herbie Hancock snd Pat Metheny, Brenner likes to work with musicians who share his comprehensive knowledge and love of the modern jazz idiom and repertoire, and who, like him, bring fresh and vital perspective to the music.
Featuring his own characterful compositions, and mixing to organic effect three solo improvisations with quintet settings and a concluding trio piece, Avant l’été is Brenner’s fourth release on his own Amalgammes label. On every level – compositions and arrangements, playing and programming – it is his finest achievement to date. It follows the diversely cast and most enjoyable trio and quartet items Influences Mineures (2005) and Le son de l’absence (2009) and the quintet session that is Les Belles Heures (2016).
The last-named had a suite of original pieces documenting Brenner’s considerable feeling for the music of Brazil, where the album was cut. The fine Belgian saxophonist and flautist Stéphane Mercier was present, as he is
on Avant l’été. Hear, on Ballade pour Flo et François, the poised yet flowing interaction of his flute figures with the contributions of another first-class improviser, the French saxophonist Vincent Mascart – or enjoy the finesse of their sax interplay during the joyous, now floating, now piping Les reflets.
They join Brenner and the well-attuned Bruno Schorp (b) and Frédéric Delestré (d) in delivering what I would deem beautifully crafted contemporary music for
the ages: music of both resonant melodic register and harmonic intelligence, pensive and penetrating emotional depth (witness the concluding June, which I confess brought me to tears) and energising rhythmic élan (move to the kicking grooves of, e.g., the strongly projected May be, Kerbouron and Marées).
Sample further the brief opening solo piano threnody that is Manchester, its lament for the victims of the unspeakable atrocity of 2017 recast in a later, emotionally transfigured group treatment; or enjoy the gently building and swinging Valse d’automne where Brenner’s lucid touch and phrasing shine. Above all, don’t miss this handsomely packaged music, which gets its live premiere at the Sunset Sunside Jazz Club in Paris in mid-June. Can’t wait!
(1) Manchester; (2) May be; Kerbouron; Valse d’automne; (1) Marées; (2) Ballade pour Flo et François; Les reflets; Marées; (1) Vincent et Natacha;(2) Avant l’été ; Manchester; (3) June (51.30)
(1) Brenner (p); (2) as (1) plus Vincent Mascart (ts, ss); Stéphane Mercier (as, f); Bruno Schorp (b); Frédéric Delestré (d); (3) as (2) but Mascart and Mercier out
Brussels 2-5 May 2022
Amalgammes AMAL202205 Michael Tucker