Monday, August 26, 2013

Pascal Le Boeuf and Pascal's Triangle

Known equally for his use of electronics, Pascal Le Boeuf has an intriguing acoustic release, Pascal’s Triangle (Nineteen Eight Records). Le Boeuf leads a trio with bassist Linda Oh and drummer Justin Brown on a collection of originals that reflect influences as diverse as Radiohead, Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau. About the recording, he said, “This album is a collection of original music meant to highlight the conversational voices of the individuals in the band. We trust each other's choices and share an orientation towards self-expression through group improvisation.”

Le Boeuf originally conceived the recording session for Pascal's Triangle as a jazz/electronic cross-over project. The compositions the trio recorded were connected to a larger vision involving layered recording techniques and replacing electronic instruments in beats that were sequenced in Le Boeuf's computer prior to the session. While he believed this conception was successfully realized (and will be issued in the future), he found he “enjoyed the spontaneity of the more acoustic songs, and when I took the electronics away, the compositions all had an intimate conversational feeling.” The result is the present release.

The leader’s piano opens wistfully on the first selection, Home in Strange Places, before Oh and Brown enter with with a fervent passage followed another plaintive solo passage. Variations on a Mood is aptly titled with the performance moving from relatively quiet passages to more energetic ones (suggesting The Bad Plus at times). The leader exhibits a precise, fluid attack with bassist Oh anchoring the trio as Brown drives the performance forward with a mix of precision and energy. Song For Ben Van Gelder is a lovely lyrical performance with embellishments added from Roberts with his restrained use of brushes. The energetic gist of What Your Teacher … is built on a spicy latin underpinning while the short solo performance, Jesse Loves Louise, exhibits a pastoral mood with LaBoeuf precise, uncluttered playing here. Oh is especially outstanding on Revisiting a Past Self where she sets up the performance and takes a strong solo.

In the CD era, this is a relatively short recording of 33 minutes for its 8 tracks, but that might be the only quibble about the playing of Pascal LaBoeuf and his trio. LaBoeuf’s imaginative compositions and playing, with their shifting moods and tempos, are complemented throughout by the marvelous playing of Oh and Roberts resulting in this fine piano trio recording. When he adds the electronics of his original conception, it will be interesting to hear the result but Pascal’s Triangle is marvelous as is.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Pascal LeBouef leading a quintet performing Variations on a Mood.

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