The third solo album of French master pianist-composer Benoît Delbecq, «The Weight of Light», offers a surprising and deeply personal perspective on music inspired by shadow and light. Delbecq, the ever curious about the visual representation of music and a musician who weaves ideas from mathematics, poetry and architecture into his work, uncovered a buried memory from his childhood: gazing at the hanging mobiles in his parents’ bedroom casting moving shadows.
Following this memory, Delbecq drew the image that would become his album cover for «The Weight of Light», and realized that he wanted to «render something mysterious about the shadow of this mobile». He connected that notion to his physicist brother’s Ph.D. work focused on proving that light has a mass. He took the poetic liberty to change «mass» to «weight» and went further to explore what this transitional concept might sound like on a piano.
Delbecq always regarded the piano as a vessel for expansion. «The Weight of Light» highlights his expert manipulation of the prepared piano with preset patterns, pauses and un-patterns, as well as his idiosyncratic rhythmic conception, fascinated by seminal drummers like Kenny Clarke, Paul Motian, and Ed Blackwell. The nine compositions conceived for this album, recorded in March 2020, also stress Delbecq’s architectural, compositional strategy. He invents the future shape of his compositions like three-dimension objects and searches how these shapes interact with light and what is hidden at other angles of these sonic shapes.
Delbecq created a series of elusive and highly suggestive compositions, all flowing-dancing in unpredictable, mysterious courses, and all suggest his transitional imagery. These compositions constantly shape and reshape themselves, offering new ways to experience time and space. This approach is demonstrated beautifully already in the opening one, «The Loop of Chicago», and later on in the sonic illusion of «Anamorphoses» and on «Pair Et Impair», that transforms the prepared piano into a completely new, vivid and soulful instrument, with a language and mind of its own. Other, more subtle and chamber-like compositions like «Opening Stones», «Chemin Sur Le Crest», «Havn En Havre» and the last, the moving, balladic one, «Broken World», radiate Delbecq’s contemplative, emotional responses to the refined games of light, time and space. The percussive «Family Trees» and «Au Fil De La Parole» brings to mind Gamelan’s trance-like repetitive patterns.
The impressive «The Weight of Light» is dedicated to the memory of late artistic director of Vancouver Jazz Festival Ken Pickering and the piano technician and tuner Philippe Bailleul, responsible for Delbecq Bösendorfer piano in his recent recordings for the Canadian Songlines label (Poolplayers’ «Way Below The Surface», Delbecq Trio’s «The Sixth Jump» and Delbecq’s solo «Circles and Calligrams», 2008 and 2010).
Benoît Delbecq (p, prep.p)