Abdelhaï Bennani Trio - There Starts the Future

Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz

I had once heard Abdelhaï Bennani's "Ensounded" record, and qualified it maybe too fast as good but not more than that, but after listening to this performance, I may have to go back and revise my opinion. The trio conists of the leader on tenor, Benjamin Duboc on bass and Edward Perraud on drums. From the very beginning Bennani sets the scene by playing very intense, almost agonizing tones, in short bursts and wails, creating openness and tension at the same time. Duboc reacts well, both pizzi and arco, and Perraud joins with a very implicit rhythm, keeping the tempo yet playing assymmetrically, now on the toms, then on the cymbals, some rolls and a rimshot. The music hesitates, tries to move forward, perplexed and in full suprise, yet it moves on, and as a listener you would expect a moment of release, a moment when the thing explodes into unrestrained hitting, plucking and blowing. You can wait for nearly 30 minutes on that first track, but that release does not come, you stay in this little sound universe the trio has created for you : intense, open, hesitating, agonizing. That doesn't mean that nothing happens, quite on the contrary, the story they tell is an interesting and captivating one, there are variations, in Bennani's tone, in some sudden walking bass and tempo increase, but it just will not give that moment of release, before you know it, they're back in their small universe, as a trio, for a bass solo, for some powerfully subtle drum beats. The second track starts more uptempo, yet don't expect themes or patterns, Bennani keeps uttering his highly sensitive squeals, and then it evolves into slowness, with little sounds produced by the three instruments, apparently only there as boundaries for silence and open space, yet the slower they play, the less sounds you hear, the higher the intensity. You get the feeling that some huge thing is trying to get out, emotionally overpowering and potentially explosive, yet it doesn't, it's duly chained within this trio's sound universe, making the story even more compelling. And that's the amazing paradox of this trio : how free improvisation can create such a powerful feeling of confinement and restraint (whether deliberate or not). A great listening experience for those with open ears.