Trio Zéphyr: Travelling (RJAL 397029)

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Trio Zéphyr
Travelling

Delphine Chomel violin, vocals
Marion Diaques viola, vocals
Claire Menguy cello, vocals
Piers Faccini lyrics and voice on “I Saw the Time”
Recorded between Spring 2016 and Spring 2017 at Studios La Buissonne by Gérard de Haro, assisted by Anaëlle Marsollier
Mixed April 10-12, 2017 at Studios La Buissonne by Gérard de Haro
Mastered by Nicolas Baillard at La Buissonne Mastering Studios
Produced by Gérard de Haro & RJAL for La Buissonne
Release date: November 3, 2017

After what I felt was a tragic misstep in their La Buissonne debut, followed by the triumph of its follow-up, Trio Zéphyr returns with a travel diary in both the physical and metaphysical sense. “Eleï” takes immediate control of this precious journey, as if you have been dreaming for a long time, only to awake and find yourself in a train car headed to an unknown destination. This combination of mystery and anxiety feeds your memories of a life that may or may not have been yours. Melodic and textural details assure you, however, that hope will be waiting on the next platform. In light of this development, “Colline” feels like a photograph kept in your shirt pocket: a portrait of someone familiar yet whose name has left a rectangular blank in the photo album of your mind. Does it belong to your childhood or to that of another? Is it your mother or someone without one?

The lyrics of “I saw the time,” as sung by Piers Faccini, remind you of when watches used to mark more than the passing of hours and days. By their gentle force of suggestion you feel the blood of this music flowing through your veins. Backed by the trio’s own voices, its songcraft turns still images into moving ones, as if unpausing a family movie. Those voices continue in “Kourgane,” plowing through snow and debris, while “Soleil disparu” extends that feeling at a more harmonic level, turning outer movement into inner. Even when taking “Refuge,” you find your soul aching with the need for a shoulder to cry on. Once purged of your grief (for whom you do not know), you bid farewell in “Oumano,” the singing of which writes on the fogged window a letter you read over and over until the temperatures on both sides of the glass equalize. Like the tender interludes that wave at you along the way, it speaks of times past to inspire faith in the future.

Trio Zéphyr with Steve Shehan: Sauve tes Ailes (RJAL 397012)

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Trio Zéphyr
Steve Shehan
Sauve tes Ailes

Delphine Chomel violin and vocal
Marion Diaques viola and vocal
Claire Menguy cello and vocal
Steve Shehan percussion
Recorded on August 9-11, 2010 and March 7-9, 2011 at Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Mixed and mastered on September 8, 2011 by Gérard de Haro and Nicolas Baillard at Studios La Buissonne
Release date: June 12, 2012

Trio Zéphyr returns for its second La Buissonne collaboration, now joined by percussionist Steve Shehan. Their previous effort for the label sadly left me feeling high and dry, but in this instance I am happy to say the trio has achieved something magical. From the first notes of the title track, we are transported to sound-world of personal integrity, organic landscaping, and locomotive transport. The sense of purpose is palpable in the playing, the writing, and the recording. And while before the singing felt strangely disjointed from its surroundings, now it is fully integrated. The gentle chant, for example, that threads “Taladjinata” is alive like the very earth, and Shehan’s clay drum adds just the right amount of ether to remind us of the sky above.

The focus, however, is on the trio’s evocative sense of structure. In the framed cello of “La Barque” and “L’Euphrate” we encounter portraits of time personified. The latter’s churning currents and sostenuto denouement pictures our lives as the moon reflects upon water. The mournful singing of “3 Cycles” weaves a song for all humanity, rising and falling in tune with the sun. The most dreamlike passages are reserved for “Perle,” in which sand and storm are calmed by the touch of peace-loving hands. From “Indella” to “Grenade,” the trio examines trauma under a melodic microscope, so that by the time we lay our heads down in “Luna,” we can be sure of having come full circle, laden with the burdens of those who have no voice to be heard.

Pierre Diaz/Trio Zéphyr: Jours de vent (RJAL 397009)

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Pierre Diaz
Trio Zéphyr
Jours de vent

Pierre Diaz soprano saxophone
Trio Zéphyr
Delphine Chomel violin, vocal
Marion Diaques viola, vocal
Claire Menguy cello
Recorded on September 4/5, 2008 and November 5/6, 2009
Mixed on May 28, 2010
Recorded and mixed by Gérard de Haro at Studios La Buissonne
Mastered by Nicolas Baillard at Studios La Buissonne
Produced by Marc Thouvenot, Gérard de Haro and RJAL for La Buissonne
Release date: December 2, 2010

Pierre Diaz and Trio Zéphyr join forces as Jours De Vent in this congregation of soprano saxophone, strings, and voices. To start us on our journey, Diaz cradles his soprano in a swell of violin, viola, and cello in the pastures of “Le Lendermain Matin.” As the first of a handful of compositions by Trio Zéphyr, it opens our ears to a distinctly visual world. Other Zéphyr pieces fade into faraway climates. Whether in the arid modalism of “Au Coeur Du Dromadaire” or traveling along the locomotive tracks of “Como Lobos” (a highlight for its changing colors), their sense of movement is always purposeful and technically sound.

Diaz’s music is attuned to a darker past. Each of his contributions, but especially “Se Acaba Mi Soledad,” upholds the forgotten victims of the Spanish Civil War as a lens of refraction through which to view our own complicity in collective amnesia. As a quartet, he and the trio peel back even more layers to that tragic history in their collaborative writing. The mournful drawl of “Hasta La Luvia” and microscopic details of “…Je M’envolais” give us plenty to ponder, while the lilting “Agua Linda” pulls us from a spiral of despair into brighter days.

The only aspect of this program that pulls me from its spell is the singing. Though at its gentlest it is a lullaby, when emotions run high, as in the mounting tensions of Diaz’s “Abuela,” it loses focus and, despite its passionate delivery, feels derivative of a certain Orientalist vision of the East. Voices do, however, play an important role as archival beacons in “Erisa” and “Brume,” and the trio’s own do achieve an understated balance of the corporeal and the spiritual in “J’ai Rêvé Que…”

Then again, sometimes aesthetics should not concern us when crying out for salvation against the horrifying backdrops we humans create. All the more reason, perhaps, to throw buckets of honest reflection over those images until their evils become transparent.