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Enter the Weird World of the Dominique Pifarely Quartet's 'Trace Provisoire' on ECM [REVIEW]

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Jul 12, 2016 04:48 PM EDT | Mike Greenblatt (m.greenblatt@classicalite.com)

Dominique Pifarely

French Violinist Dominique Pifarely leads his quartet on 'Trace Provisoire' (Photo : Jean-Baptiste Millot)

Somewhere deep in the south of France last summer, French violinist Dominique Pifarely convened with legendary ECM guru Manfred Eicher to make his music more jazz-like. Combining Antonin Rayon's piano, Bruno Chevillon's double-bass and the scattershot drumming of the ingenious Francois Merville, Trace Provisoire was born, the jazz was added, but the classical refrains lingered on.

It's a safe bet to say this sounds like nothing you're apt to hear these days. Producer Eicher, 73, for the last 40 years, has actually changed the way a lot of jazz fans listen to music. His esoteric mindset eschews commercial potential for the kind of ticklish ear candy for those with a healthy sense of adventure. After awhile, if you listen long enough, it makes more and more sense to the point now where any new ECM CD -- all produced by Eicher -- is cause for immediately stopping your usual fare, settling into your favorite leather recliner, getting lost in his particular vision of avant-garde jazz and drifting away.

Crazy. Odd. Weird. Spooky. All these words can apply. Somewhere within the constructs of total improvisation -- music made in the moment -- and compositional awareness, Bach meets Monk. Eicher, in the liner notes, calls it "discontinuous canons and strange fugues," the intersection where Italian composer Giancinto Scelsi meets Ornette Coleman.

It starts so slow your mind wanders, but, over the course of eight delectable portions of food you've never eaten, a symbiosis is achieved via the telepathic empathy of the musicians. They've played with each other for years despite only forming this quartet in 2014. It's all rather indescribable, like listening to the fluttering of butterfly wings, but from its humble vague beginnings, a pattern emerges that stokes the senses where by the time a second -- and completely different -- version of "Vague" closes it all out, you sit there mesmerized, wondering about what you've just heard.

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