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Michel Benita & Ethics Sail Across the 'River Silver' on Gorgeous New ECM Release (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Feb 24, 2016 02:30 PM EST
Michel Benita Double bassist Michel Benita

Take one French bandleader/composer/double bassist in Michel Benita, add a Japanese koto player, a Swiss flugelhornist, a guitarist from Norway who also adds electronics and a French drummer and you have Ethics. River Silver (ECM) cannot be categorized. I like to think of it as an instrumental folk CD but it's so much more.

The key is Mieko Miyazaki from Tokyo. The koto is Japan's national instrument. It's like a 13-string lute with 13 movable bridges along its large fretboard. Its sound is heavenly. Do not think, though, that it is used here merely as exotic color. It winds its way throughout the mix in a key role.

Michel Benita & Ethics have been Parisian stars for five years now. This intuitive double bassist reacts accordingly with every wiggle of the koto as well as Elvind Aarset's guitar and electronics. Starting out as a pure acoustic guitar folkie weaned on the music of Pentangle's Bert Jansch [1943-2011] and John Renbourn [1944-2015], once Benita discovered jazz, there was no looking back. His six originals still contain Pentangle-like traces of Euro-folk. Then there's the traditional Gaelic "Aoidh Na Dean Cadal Idir" as well as Miyazaki's "Hacihi Gatsu," done as a bass/koto duet. "Lykken" is a Norwegian folk song. The title track is a tribute to Paris.

River Silver is Benita's ECM debut as a leader after performing on two Andy Sheppard projects (Trio Libero and Surrounded By Sea). Refusing to be put in a jazz-only box (despite recording for one of the most respected jazz labels in the world), Benita has reached a true simpatico state with producer Manfred Eicher (who makes sure to get the most from Matthieu Michel's flugelhorn). Plus, the fact that Benita has played with drummer Philippe Garcia for years makes their chemistry profoundly organic. This is the type of music that wears well over the course of repeated listenings.

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TagsMichel Benita, ECM Records, REVIEW, Mieko Miyazaki

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