Velvet Revolution (Daniel Erdmann, Théo Ceccaldi and Jim Hart): Message in a Bubble
(BMC Records BMC CD312, Review by Frank Graham)
At a certain point in the life of most working groups, things can suddenly click into place. That’s not to say that Velvet Revolution’s first two albums, “A Short Moment Of Zero G” (2016) and “Won’t Put No Flag Out” (2019), failed to impress, but this near flawless set seems to have accelerated their evolution into one of Europe’s most distinctive chamber-jazz ensembles.
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Saxophonist Daniel Erdmann (b.1973, Wolfsburg) is a remarkable player and stylist whose catholic taste guarantees a certain element of surprise. With a firm grasp of post-Coltrane chromaticism and an appetite for freedom, he is at once grounded in the classic traditions of Webster, Hawkins and Young. British vibraphonist Jim Hart should need little introduction, a virtuoso in the line of Gary Burton, while France’s Théo Ceccaldi is, along with Adam Bałdych, one of the most compelling new violinists to have emerged in the last decade.
Each of the album’s nine original pieces are sufficiently open-form to allow boundaries to be stretched and reshaped mid stream, and in contrast to the trio’s earlier albums the writing credits are evenly shared. Ceccaldi’s opening “Maybe Tomorrow” provides a perfect illustration of how the trio works. Hart’s soft marimba-like ostinato establishes a rather pensive mood, the temperature and pace gradually rising as Erdmann and Hart solo with conviction. Its growth is unforced and organic, and each of the trio’s interlocking parts is in perfect synch.
Elsewhere Erdmann’s “Drunk With Happiness” is as playful as it sounds, his free-ranging solo barely tethered by a skeletal folk-blues pattern before the pieces ends in a grand Ellington-ian flourish. The theme from Hart’s “The Velvet Tango” carries a hint of Mood Indigo to extend the air of nostalgia, and Erdmann’s lyrical solo is pure romance. It is Monk who springs to mind on the crepuscular “Mumble Jumble”, and once its tricky theme has unwound Erdmann’s thrilling solo breaks through every wall. Ceccaldi soars above a complex web of interwoven riffs on “Cache Cache”, while “Danke, wirklich Danke!” (“thanks, truly”) finds the trio meandering through a series of atmospheric moods before arriving at a strikingly lucid climax.
Closing with a hint of slightly unresolved ambiguity on Hart’s insistent “The Only Solution”, I simply can’t wait to find out where this trio will go next.