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Corpos is the debut album of a new, Barcelona-based trio formed and led by Spanish, classically-trained pianist Clara Lai, known from José Lencastre’s Common Ground quintet and for her duo Slight Deform with guitarist Ferran Fages, and featuring Catalan double bassist Àlex Reviriego (who plays with Lai in the Bec trio) and drummer Oriol Roca. This trio focuses on collective dynamics and exploring different compositional possibilities and improvisational languages, or as the trio defines it: Pieces as sound bodies that find unity through embracing their diversity. The album was recorded at Rosazul Studio in Barcelona in April 2022. The beautiful cove photo is by Portuguese double bass player Hernâni Faustino.

Lai composed two pieces and the trio is credited with the composing of the four other pieces. The dynamics are free and democratic, intense even in the more contemplative moments, never subscribing to familiar courses of a piano trio and always searching for challenging, risk-taking ideas. Lai’s playing is economical and enigmatic, stressing a strong personal voice and colorful imagination. She often employs extended techniques inside the piano that add an exotic aroma to her playing. Her playing demands that the listener would take an active role in deciphering her abstract, sometimes even almost silent ideas, and construct their narratives, as in the most cryptic piece here, «Decreciente | Creciente». Reviriego’s commanding, extended bowing techniques and Roca’s inventive and delicate rhythmic touches deepen the fragile tension and the mysterious atmosphere, and let the music flow in deep waters of perpetual movement and change.

Creciente features Lai leading a quartet with Barcelona-based tenor sax player Albert Cirera, trumpeter Iván Gonzalez and drummer Joan Moll. As on Corpos, this album explores the subtle tension between improvisation and composition and attempts to strike a balance between these complementing poles. The album was recorded live at Teatre de l’Aurora in Igualada in June 2021. The cover artwork is by Ana Escar.

This quartet focuses on exploring, constructing and deconstructing sonic textures, with Lai and Cirera employing distinct extended techniques in order to expand their instruments’ timbral horizons and colors and enrich their established vocabularies. Lai’s imaginative playing inside the piano transforms her instrument into a mysterious sound generator, and she finds in Cirecra a kindred soul in these abstract yet intimate sonic adventures. The longer pieces suggest the quartet’s own take on collective, free improvising strategies, with Lai as a natural bandleader with a strong, uninhibited voice who navigates the expressive, poetic interplay with her precise, economic gestures.

Both albums are impressive, highlighting Lai as a unique, creative force to reckon with.

Eyal Hareuveni

Clara Lai (p), Àlex Reviriego (b), Oriol Roca (dr), Albert Cirera (ts), Iván González (tp), Joan Moll (dr)

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