Louis Sclavis, Craig Taborn, Tom Rainey – Eldorado Trio (CF 193)
France has two great clarinet players: Jean-Marc Foltz whose latest album, “To The Moon”, still figures in the “Albums Of The Month” section.The other one is Louis Sclavis, without a doubt better known, and quite prolific. The problem with him is that he switches genres easily, between film music, straight-ahead jazz, avant classical, avant chamber jazz, over his great African trio, duets with Aki Takase, tightly composed modern jazz, to more adventurous music. Not all his initiatives are successful, and the breadth of his scope make each new album a surprise in style. That can be good, but sometimes also disappointing.
This trio is pure jazz with composed pieces and improvised tracks, but all with an adventurous streak, and that’s only possible and successful because of the superb musicianship both technically and creatively. Sclavis is of course on bass clarinet, but also on soprano sax, Craig Taborn plays piano and Tom Rainey drums, without a doubt each among the best on their instrument today.
The compositions range between the melancholy (“La Visite”) and the joyful (“Up Down Up”, “Possibilities”), or even the slightly insane (“Luccioles”), but all of them are musical delights. On “La Visite”, on which after a long and sad Taborn piano moment, Sclavis brings some of the most heart-rending bass clarinet-playing that I’ve heard in a while, slowly driving his beautiful playing to a wailing climax.
Sclavis is excellent throughout, using his full skillset on the clarinet from classical over swing to modern music, Taborn and Rainey are not only functional but they create the overall environment becoming a perfect fit for the variations in mood and styles, not just accompanying but creating the context in which the soloist must journey. Despite the variations, the music is still very coherent. One of Sclavis’ least polished albums, yet the rawness of the adventure suits him quite well.