Jazz CD Reviews

Colin Vallon Trio – Rruga – ECM Records

Swiss jazz trio raises the bar with style and verve.

Published on May 26, 2011

Colin Vallon Trio – Rruga – ECM Records, 53:59 ****:

(Colin Vallon – piano; Patrice Moret – bass; Samuel Rohrer – drums)

Colin Vallon has an interesting approach to the trio format. Vallon had fronted his own trio since 1999.  After playing in saxophonist Cyrille Bugnon’s quartet with bassist Patrice Moret and drummer Samuel Rohrer, the interaction of the musicians was significant. After three or four years, a collective dynamic evolved within the group. The players decided that a greater strength and cohesiveness would be fostered by sharing the compositional load. It comes as no surprise that independent jazz pioneer ECM has embraced them.  
 
Rruga (the Turkish word for path) is the ECM debut for the Colin Vallon Trio, a vanguard of the blossoming Scandanavian jazz scene. The album is a meditative ruminating exploration of various musical themes, many of them Turkish and Balkan. Utilizing a stark minimalist structure, the musicians develop complex interplay as the pieces develop. There seems to be a bridge uniting the folk elements of the music with classical (almost romantic) elements. Unlike most piano trios, the synergy of the players is more evident. The opening cut (written by bassist Moret, and influenced by Wayne Shorter and Radiohead), Telepathy, starts with a moody simple piano chord structure that builds intensity. Rohrer’s percussion touch neatly envelops the piano lines with intricacy on both drum and cymbal. The title song (remotely inspired by a tambourine riff on a recording of a Turkish piece by Erkan Ogur) evokes an atmospheric harmonic tone in Vallon’s textured runs. The piece ebbs and flows with graceful precision. A variation on this song (“Rruga.var”) features a rare but effective solo by Moret. Another Vallon piece, “Home,” is imbued with a haunting classical tone in an arrangement that is measured, but not without subtle changes.  The ability of the trio to showcase a low key improvisational style is compelling.

The connection to traditional folk music is coalesced on “Meral”. Named for his Turkish grandmother, Vallon creates a hypnotic dance vibe to the flow before a spacey ethereal finish. The tempo rises on the Rohrer-penned, “Noreia”. A steady left-handed chord pulse is balanced by more lyrical sweeping right hand notations. Once again, there is a gradual unwinding to a hushed conclusion. The core strength of this group is the unexpected spontaneity. The standard improvisational framework is bypassed with no bass or drum solos. Abstraction is explored at every opportunity. “Iskar” (based on “Shope Shope” by Stefan Mutafchiev) is the lone track credited to all three players. The unusual assortment of experimental tones pushes the standard conventions of jazz. The cohesiveness of the trio shines on the closing, “Epilog”. Moret’s bass works in tandem with Vallon’s drifting piano, always buoyed by the unassuming percussion by Rohrer.

Rruga
challenges the listener with eccentric coloration that takes off in many surprising directions. Each time it is played, something fresh and different is revealed. There is one constant…an introspective, melodic elegance.
 
TrackList: Telepathy; Rruga; Home; Polygonia; Efjafjallajokul; Meral; Iskar; Noreia;  Rruga.var; Fjord; Epilog.
 
–Robbie Gerson




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