The Jazz World Was Waiting for this Trio
Three of Europe’s longtime leaders in contemporary jazz, now in their senior years, have just launched a CD of twelve pieces that shows what a lifetime of sharing ideas in music can really produce.The result is riveting voyage through their intermingled careers.
“New Stories” (Frémeaux et Associés) by the French trio of pianist and composer Hervé Sellin, bassist Jean-Paul Celea and drummer Daniel Humair is remarkable for improvisations so synchronized that the listener can feel the music come together from three angles in real time. The tracks were mostly composed or improvised by Sellin.
The CD title refers to jazz discoveries, “new stories”, along a lifetime of experience in the genre.
By now, these three old friends can read each others’ musical minds as the free flow of ideas drives them forward. In my life as an American jazz fanatic, I cannot think of another trio so well-matched. Indeed, the jazz world has been waiting for these three planets to align. The trio was formally established just two years ago and this is its only CD as a group.
At the center is the keyboard talent of Herve Sellin, an accomplished musician schooled in the classics who transferred his polished technique into jazz motifs that will taken your breath away. One of his previous albums reshapes the genius of Claude Debussy into his own. He likes to quote Michel Legrand’s observation that “The classics are my mother tongue, and jazz is my living language.”
Sellin, now 66 years old, is as retired as a jazz musician ever can be, based in Paris and teaching one of his friends in beginning piano. He has built a legacy of performing, composing, teaching at the Paris Conservatoire Nationale Supérior deMusique et Danse de Paris (CNSM), and touring in Europe and the United States as a soloist and ensemble leader. One of his students, a retired bassist, composer and band leader, makes three-hour trips to Paris for private lessons with him. He speaks of the master in hushed tones.
Sellin and his partners have, over the years, crossed the Atlantic to work in the birthplace of jazz. They acknowledge a debt to a panoply of past and present U.S. players. Sellin has worked with the late Chet Baker, Bradford Marsalis, tenor sax virtuoso Johnny Griffin and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. I asked him to cite a few American influences in his own development as a piano stylist. He offered these giant names: Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans et Herbie Hancock. Even Johny Griffin, who, one forgets, was a pianist for 15 years.
Jean-Paul Celea, recognized internationally as a preeminent jazz bassist, also was a professor of classical bass at the CNSM in Paris. In the past he studied with avant-garde composer Pierre Boulez. His playing by bow on some of the new tracks is so clean and smooth it can be taken as a woodwind.
Daniel Humair brings a masterful control of tempo and dynamics to the percusion underpinnings of the trio. One friend tells me he can recognize Humair’s super-sensitive playing by the mere striking of his drumstick on a cymbal. He also taught at CNSM.
All three members of the trio taught at the Conservatory at the same time. Their long history of music-making together is what gives this CD its high-level of musicality. Sellin, who organized the lineup of these twelve pieces, does not hog the limelight. He takes care to give space and time to Celea and Humair, and they contribute generously to the end product.
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