A wonderful album, and it will be fascinating to hear where the saxophonist takes is music going forward.

ECM 2783 / 586 2768

Matthieu Bordenave (tenor & soprano saxophones); Florian Weber (piano); Patrice Moret (double bass); James Maddren (drums)

Recorded October 2022

Upon hearing Bordenave’s La traversée release in 2020 (his debut as leader for ECM) I was immediately a fan. The music had a gentle floating aspect to it that was as calming as it was intriguing and showed a keen musical mind at work as a composer and a razor-sharp improviser.

The earlier album took inspiration from the Jimmy Giuffre 3 of the 1960s, but Bordenave was never one to shackled by influences and has simply explored the chamber jazz implied by the format and then moved on.

For The Blue Land the saxophonist has retained the services of pianist Florian Weber and Patrice Moret on double bass and expanded the line-up to a quartet with the inclusion of drummer James Maddren. Whereas this could have greatly impacted the rapport built up by the trio, Maddren’s tasteful plying has brought an added depth to the music. Bordenave increases the dynamic and timbral range of the group still further by adding the soprano saxophone to his already potent tenor playing and brings to the table some exciting material for the quartet to conjure with.

Bordenave’s compositional palette is full of colour and the four musicians are superbly placed to add subtle shades or bold splashes as the course of the music dictates. The saxophonist treads a fine line between the written score and the improvised and his trust in the quartet to interpret the mood of the piece is what makes the music so special.

Not discarding the chamber jazz that was such an integral part of La traversée, Bordenave has instead brought small fragments of melody to see how they can be developed by the quartet and if the fragments can be connected to form the basis or structure for the performance.

The theory is put into practice in a music that is built up of many small parts or moments and often linked intuitively. Bordenave’s melancholy solos tenor statement on ‘Refraction’ is joined by Weber’s piano who then takes the music gently forward. Moret’s bass line is sparse and Maddren’s presence at the drums is felt as much as heard and yet the combined effect is moving and quite powerful.

The drums take the lead on the following ‘Distance’, and again it is Weber that picks up the cues and enters first. The bassist steps in and the trio explore the music initiated by Maddren from a rhythmic as well as lyrical standpoint before Bordenave wades in with some weighty tenor playing. As if breaking the spell of the trio, Bordenave leads the music along another path.

Taking a lighter more exploratory road is the opening ‘La Porte Entrouverte’ with the long piano introduction that is then joined by soprano saxophone and bass. Maddren’s entry is again timely and understated with some delicate brushwork.

The soprano saxophone however is not sweetness and light as Bordenave looks to explore the instrument’s sonic possibilities on the appropriately titled ‘Timbre’ and is in stark contrast to his playing of the straight horn on Coltrane’s ‘Compassion’. The only non-original of the set, Bordenave and Maddren generate some heat and Moret also wades in with a fine solo.

Matthieu Bordenave holds back some of his most evocative and expansive tenor playing of the album for the closing ‘Three Peaks’, a beautiful melody that is perfectly captured by quartet and developed with precision, control and a quiet passion that is wholly in keeping with what has been heard before.

A wonderful album, and it will be fascinating to hear where the saxophonist takes is music going forward.