Oliva/Tchamitchian/Jullian: Stéréoscope (RJAL 397008)



Stéphan Oliva piano
Claude Tchamitchian double bass
Jean-Pierre Jullian drums
Recorded on May 5/6 2009, except songs 1 and 2 (recorded on November 3, 2008)
Mixed on May 28/29, 2009 at Studios La Buissonne by Gérard de Haro, assisted by Nicolas Baillard
Mastered by Nicolas Baillard at Studios La Buissonne
Steinway tuned and prepared by Alain Massonneau
Produced by Marc Thouvenot, Gérard de Haro and RJAL for La Buissonne
Release date: October 22, 2009

It was La Buissonne director Gérard de Haro who discovered pianist Stéphan Oliva’s trio with bassist Claude Tchamitchian and drummer Jean-Pierre Jullian back in 1990, before his studio came to be known under its famed name. Since then, de Haro has engineered 13 of Oliva’s albums as leader, in addition to side projects with other musicians. In 2009, these four brothers in creative sound slipped easily back into their old groove to produce Stéréoscope. The resulting decalogue of Oliva originals, some new and some well-traveled, pays tribute to the 19 years of collaboration and life experience that have spun out from that initial point of contact.

It’s worth noting that quite a few La Buissonne releases open with their title track. An appropriate tendency, as the label’s recordings are often multi-versed poems, and like poems organically take names from their opening lines. The introductory feel of this one is the equivalent of a wide establishing shot, inclusive of a landscape far bigger than the characters on whose lives we will soon zoom in.

A more energetic system of transportation guides us through memories short and sweet in “Labyrinthe” and “Cercles,” and all with an ecumenical style. “Neuf et Demi” is another example of the trio’s geometric interplay, swinging and gone too soon. Likeminded triangles roll across the backdrops of “Cecile Seule” and “Hallucinose,” content to offer a lullaby in shadow to “A Happy Child.” As bass and piano joining in chorus over a splash of brushed drums, we understand the value of unbroken chains.

Still, there are moments when specific talents dominate our vision without force. Jullian’s drumming, for instance, is evocatively spotlighted in “Portée Disparue,” an examination of cymbals as windows into missed opportunities. Tchamitchian’s bassing is likewise the focal point of “Bangkok,” shifting from abstraction to traction without so much as a bump in the road (I would point also to his arco playing in “Nostalgia”). And Oliva’s pianism, at times wonderous, flows through “Cortege” like a river without end. This leaves us to behold the mountains of “Sylvie et les Americains” and “Illusion Desillusion.” In both, the inevitability of life is turned into a song without words.

Fans of ECM’s most lyrical piano trios, such as those of Stefano Battaglia and Bobo Stenson, will feel right at home here. If that’s you, then don’t hesitate to open the door (it’s unlocked), sit right down, and warm yourself by the fire.

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