Swiss, Basel-based drummer Florian Arbenz began in 2021 an ambitious project: releasing 12 Conversations-albums with 12 distinct groups of musicians, with him curating the music to suit the individual musical personalities present. The first album in this project is «Conversation #1: Condensed» teams Arbenz with American, Paris-based trumpeter Hermon Mehari and Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras (who worked with Arbenz before in the quartet, «Convergence», Self Produced, 2020) and in a way, continues the meeting of Arbenz with the American sax player Greg Osby (and Swiss painter Stephan Spicher, «Reflection of the Eternal», Self Produced, 2020). The second album in this project, «Conversation #1: Condensed», is with American vibes player Jim Hart and Swiss double bass player Heiri Känzig.
This ad-hoc trio relies on the close affinity of Arbenz and Veras and their almost telepathic, subtle rhythmic games (check «In Medias Res» and «Circle»). Arbenz never met Mehari before the recording session but admired his warm tone and open-minded musicality, as presented in his recent album «Bleu» (Self Produced, 2016, with pianist Aaron Parks among others).
The music on «Conversation #1: Condensed» flows organically despite the unusual instrumentation and the lack of bass. Arbenz added an array of custom-made percussion instruments to cover the missing range. All the ten pieces stress strong melodic themes and allow Arbenz, Mehari and Veras enough space to suggest their own individual, improvised interpretations of the themes. Mehari’s touching ballad «Let’s Try This Again» highlights his beautiful, warm and elegant tone as well as his poetic sensibility and his conversational interplay with Veras and Arbenz. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s «Olha Maria» emphasizes the sensual side of this trio while «Vibing with Morton» stresses a dreamy, minimalist texture. Ornette Coleman’s «Race Face» takes Coleman’s harmolodics into a steamy Latin walk. This album is closed with a hard-swinging version of Eddie Harris’ classic «Freedom Jazz Dance», a piece that will be covered also in the coming albums of this project.
These condensed musical thoughts make perfect sense.
Hermon Mehari (tr), Nelson Veras (g), Florian Arbenz (dr, perc)