Yves Robert trombone
Vincent Courtois cello
Cyril Atef drums
Recorded March 2001 at Piccolo Studio, Paris
Engineer: Vincent Bruly
Mixed at Studio Ferber, Paris by Jeff Ginouves, Manfred Eicher, and Yves Robert
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Before In Touch, Yves Robert had inhabited ECM’s wings on only two occasions: as a commentative presence on Heiner Goebbels’s Ou bien le débarquement désastreux and as a pliant sideman on Louis Sclavis’s Les Violences de Rameau. Here the French jazz trombonist dips into the leader pool, emerging with two fascinating sidemen of his own: cellist Vincent Courtois and drummer Cyril Atef—an interdisciplinary combination of instruments, to be sure, but one that lends itself well to the label’s fluid ethos.
Robert gives rise to this self-styled “imaginary baroque” by means of dark seeds and careful germinations. The title piece and its two variations thus triangulate the program, keeping its structure in place, pins of a lepidopteran sound. From first stirrings, the album’s subtitle (“48 Minutes of Tenderness”) makes intuitive sense. Robert’s low animations flow beneath the surface, transporting secrets along breathy avenues toward a non-abrasive core. Passing the extroverted architecture of “Let’s lay down” and on to the introversions of “La tendresse” (incidentally, also the moniker under which the trio performs), this chain of touchstones and drop-off points opens snaking lines from trombone and cello over a rasp of brushed drums. The harmonies are familiar, prelude to the cracks that soon appear, each a bar of light from a venetian blind. Robert’s mastery is full, if subtle, engaging the cello’s central line in a push and pull of harmony. Lungs and fingertips share a dance floor, working their respective crafts with microscopically attuned confidence to Courtois’s bass-like metronome. This inspires scat-like denouement from Robert, at last ending with beautiful duo action between Courtois and Atef that is equal parts Ligeti and Varèse. Colorful drumming further lays down an inspiring primer for Courtois in “L’air d’y toucher,” in which a strong groove emerges with vivid melodic detailing. All of this funnels into the fascinations of “Basculement du désir” and “L’attente reste,” both veils of marginalia floating in the wind.
Bear in mind that In Touch may not be for you. But if you’ve ever found yourself wandering down opaque alleys in search of a haunting, alluring sound, then it may be just what you need.