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Free Unfold Trio - Ballades

David Kane, Cadence Magazine

A world away from the previous releases lies the cool, abstract landscapes of Ballades, a recent CD from the French group, Free Unfold Trio. I must say that I like the concept on paper — freely improvised pieces done in a “ballad” style — a bit better than the actual result. Think “Paul Bley Plays for Lovers” for a general sense of what this music is like. Although the music doesn’t even amount to 30 minutes running time, it definitely seems longer. Thoughtfully placed piano notes amid a pointillistic landscape of gentle cymbal swishes and eerie ponticello arco moans from the bass (and so on) are the order of the day here. In retrospect, the musicians are wise to keep the CD as short as it is because I don’t think this type of approach is capable of sustaining interest beyond what is already extant. Then again, I suppose an album of all conventional ballads would likely engender the same soporific reaction, so it’s not really the content that’s at issue here; merely the pacing and lack of dynamic contrast. Nonetheless, despite my ultimately flagging interest, I did like the idea and the idea was executed well. It’s gratifying to hear such care and sensitivity to be lavished on totally improvised music of this sort and these guys pull it off as well as anyone could.