French trombonist Yves Robert makes his debut for ECM with an album of poised chamber...
John Eyles 2002-12-13
The trombone is reputedly the instrument that best imitates the human voice, with personal styles on it being as individual as players own voices. Yves Robert is a virtuoso player with a very personal sound. Largely avoiding the swoops and slurs that can make the instrument an ideal comedy foil, he instead produces a sound that is plaintive and vulnerable, at its best as affecting as Miles' Harmon-muted trumpet. This album's subtitle "48 de tendresse" is well chosen.
On this, his debut album as leader on ECM, Robert's melodic compositions are ideally suited to his own sound and that of his trio. Typical are the album's three separate versions of Robert's title composition, a funereally paced piece that perfectly sets the tone; melancholy and brooding yet strangely optimistic. Robert is joined by Vincent Courtois on cello and Cyril Atef on drums in a chamber jazz group of the highest order. Courtois sometimes takes on the role of a conventional bassist, but more often acts as a melodic foil for Robert. The trombone and cello frequently play lines that intertwine and blend together, at times becoming inseparable. By way of contrast, Atef provides an understated punctuation of sounds, full of micro detail.
The longest track here, "La Tendresse", encapsulates all of the above qualities and more. In particular, it allows Robert the time and space to give a bravura demonstration of the range of his playing, from slow and mournful through to quickfire staccato, never losing that wonderful tone. He shares the spotlight with Courtois, whose slowly evolving sustained phrases underpin the trombone. The piece is engaging throughout, and its seventeen-minute duration flies by. In that, it typifies this beautiful sounding album.