Michael Attias – Spun Tree (CF 261)
Confession time: This is the first time I’ve heard Michael Attias as a leader on a recording; and am I ever sorry I wasn’t clued in earlier. The band he’s assembled is measured yet open, and produce music that is often delicate without sounding precious or fragile, reminiscent of a freer version of Miles’ second great quartet. Look no further than the opening track, “Bad Lucid,” as proof, as the melody line conjures up Wayne Shorter; and the band sounds something like Shorter, Herbie, and Miles playing alongside Sirone and Andrew Cyrille. Attias floats along gorgeously before a long passage appears featuring the group riding a one-note bass passage, swelling against a tide of their own making. “Question 8” begins with a thoughtful drum solo by Tom Rainey, before Matt Mitchell’s piano figures propel slowly forward in blocks, then pull back at the same rate while notes move up and down in a spiral of carefully constructed geometry.
There is a melody played by Attias and trumpeter Ralph Alessi that starts “No’s No” that I can only describe as oblong. Mitchell’s haunting chord progression grounds the horns’ exotic phrases, but not too much. This band’s sense of space, openness, and just plain balance has to be heard to be believed. For example, there is a cluster of repeated chords around 3.5 minutes into “Calendar Song” that locks into Rainey’s thumping before stopping on a dime and rolling directly into a sublime passage featuring an elliptical bass line by Sean Conly. Rainey’s accents propel everything forward at a constant rate. Around the 7.5 minute mark, Mitchell takes the lead with bright, quick glissandos that deliver a knockout punch.
“Subway Fish Knit” and “Arc-En-Ciel” are shorter vignettes that function as meditative pieces, particularly the latter track. Spun Tree is an aptly named disc, as it describes the loopy vertical melodic figures that the musicians constantly wind around each other. “Ghost Practice” is a prominent example of this; and shows the unusual, restrained interplay between the musicians to be of the very highest caliber. This one’s a keeper.