Michel Benita & Ethics – River Silver
(ECM. 475 9393. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
This delicate record from bass player Michel Benita and his international quintet is an exquisite example of “less is more”. Understated and intricately balanced, it is nevertheless full of ideas and emotion. The quieter it gets, the more it has to say. Quiet can be exciting.
This is perhaps seen clearest on the contribution of Philippe Garcia‘s percussion. His playing has a gentle quality, a very light touch that is sometimes barely audible. But every note counts; he doesn’t need to be demonstrative to make his playing have an impact.
Featuring Mieko Miyazaki‘s koto – a harp-like instrument – and Eivind Aarset‘s guitar, there is a lot of texture in the music. The koto often takes the role of a rhythm guitar, allowing Aarset to add layers of structure beneath. The melodic content comes largely from the lyrical, soulful flugelhorn of Matthieu Michel – and from Benita himself.
The music crosses the borders of several genes – jazz, folk, and world musics. Yeavering, by Kathryn Tickell, is based on a Northumbriam folk tune; Lykken, which translates as “happiness”, was written by Norwegian composer Eyvind Alnæs. Miyazaki contributes Hacihi Gatsu, an intricate duet between koto and bass.
Benita wrote the other six tunes, but is definitely an ensemble record. He takes a long solo in the introduction to Lykken, developing into a channel for Michel’s ethereal flugelhorn.
The band create impressionistic soundscapes full of space. Evocative and fluid, the music flows gently on.