Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kartet - Grand Laps

Grand Laps

Guillaume Orti - Saxophones
Benoit Delbecq - Piano
Hubert Dupont - Acoustic Bass
Stephane Galland - Drums

Kartet is a group operating somewhere in the intersection of avant-garde, mainstream and chamber jazz. I was not familiar with them before Grand Laps (French for "a long while"), but as it turns out the group began 25 years ago and this is their sixth album, although it’s been seven years since their previous release.

Even though the line-up is that of a classic jazz quartet, this is not a horn-with-rhythm section album; it’s more egalitarian in design. The music on Grand Laps generally unfolds at an unhurried pace, and the structures the group use emphasize dialog, not blazing displays of virtuosity. At some points I was reminded of Miles’ second quintet in their more introspective moments. There’s an MBase influence lurking as well in the angular nature of some of the compositions.

The most distinctive element of Kartet’s sound is owed to the presence of pianist Benoit Delbecq. His percussive style is immediately recognizable, and goes the furthest to define the group’s identity. Delbecq also shows his impressionistic side, with a wonderful blend of lyrically abstract playing. 

Guillaume Orti primarily plays alto, with a tone that’s a little thin in the upper register for my taste, as well as C-Melody and soprano saxes. He gives the music plenty of breathing room, although at times I wanted more direction from him to propel the music forward. Dupont does a nice job of providing support when needed while adding his own commentary. Galland, who replaces original Kartet drummer Chandler Sardjoe, implies the rhythmic structures with his shading, but turns up the intensity when required.

Kartet does a good job of integrating composed and improvised sections so that each flows easily into the other. The music on Grand Laps is challenging to the listener, but has a lyrical, attractive quality that is unexpected. A late night avant-garde album, perhaps?

Here's a video on the making of the album:

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