By Sean Conly
The latest release by Renku, featuring Michaël Attias, John Hébert, and Satoshi Takeishi is a live recording of their 2014 Sound It Out concert series performance. This trio has been playing together for well over a decade and this recording documents what being a long standing band is all about. Three voices interact and weave around each other like starlings in flight, an aural ballet that showcases the mixture of freedom and form at which Renku excels. Democracy is in effect as each voice takes the lead and then hands off the baton to another, with the kind of trust that is built over many years of music making.
The CD consists of works by all three members both old and new, and gives the listener a snapshot into the continuing evolution of this trio. The pieces “The Sunflower” (for Paul Motian) and “Goodbye Rumination” (for Masabumi Kikuchi) show the trio’s profound respect for the loss of these great musicians. These tributes are made more poignant by the fact that Renku is built on the foundations of these masters work without being repertory in any way. The beauty of their remembrance and respect for the elders is shown by how personal their own conceptions of music is and by the way they look forward with memory as opposed to reliving the past. The whole record is about forward motion both as a band and in their playing. The older songs in the set offer you a chance to hear just how free this group is of preconceived notions. For instance, if you compare these versions of “Renku” and “Dark Net” to the older recordings of them, you will hear how this trio always lives in the moment remixing their long history in real time, in every note of their music .
Attias, Hébert, and Takeishi have some of the quickest and most creative ears of their generation. Renku continues to grow and in many ways represents the state of the art. Both composition and improvisation flourish in the same soil, never overtaken by the other, and one gets the feeling that every song would grow into a different blossom with each new performance. This makes them one of the most fertile collective voices in the music of our time and makes me eagerly await the next step in their constant evolution.