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«Spring Road 16»

«Spring Road 16» is the first posthumous album of the great Japanese double bass album Tetsu Saitoh, documenting his free-improvised recording with two long-time comrades – French sax player Michel Doneda and remarkable piano explorer Frédéric Blondy, made by France Musique on at Radio France in Paris in April 2016, three years before Saitoh passed away prematurely. Saitoh began to collaborate with Doneda in the nineties, and they kept collaborating in different formats, mostly with other Japanese collaborations, but their first recording, «M’uoaz» (Scissors, 1997) was done with fellow-French percussionist Alain Joule. Their first duo album was titled «Spring Road 01» (Scissors, 2002). Blondy joined the duo in the first decade of the millennium («Carré Bleu: In Memory Of Bernard Prouteau», on Saitoh’s label, Travassia, 2007).

True to this trio’s non-idiomatic approach, the two extended pieces are titled «No End Road», and this album, like «Spring Road 01» was recorded at the beginning of the spring. Doneda, Blondy and Saitoh are imaginative sonic explorers and «Spring Road 16» distills their inquisitive, individual approaches to sound, sound as an elastic, tangible material, as well as their attentive, collective strategies for free improvisation. The two pieces are intimate, ebb and flow according to their own, free and mysterious logic, and avoid any virtuosic showmanship.

There is a strong sense of vulnerability in this meeting. The extended breathing techniques of Doneda, extended bowing techniques of Saitoh, and the extended inside-the-piano of Blondy inform this recording, vibrate and resonate constantly until becoming one fragile sonic entity. The subtle and attentive dynamics seek such rare and poetic points of departure, where the reverberating sounds themselves lead these gifted improvisers ahead and suggest deeper wisdom about the art of the moment.

The dynamics of the trio become more intense but also more abstract and introspective on the 28-minute of «No End Road 2», but the expanded framework enables Doneda, Blondy and Saitoh to sketch a more detailed, darker and more tense texture. This poetic piece highlights the profound affinity of these idiosyncratic musicians, their generous approach as improvisers and, obviously, emphasizes the great loss of Saitoh.

Eyal Hareuveni

Tetsu Saitoh (b), Frédéric Blondy (p), Michel Doneda (ss, sopranino s)

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