Emler, Tchamitchian, Echampard: The Useful Report

French piano trio with maximalist resources works minimally to evoke a variety of emotional states and intriguing notions


French pianist and composer Andy Emler is a musician whose minimalism emerges through a door that remains part opened on a roomful of pianistic resources. He’s a maximalist with minimalist tendencies and the founder in 1989 of the MegaOctet, a big band in which improvising musicians from genres including jazz have found accommodation. Twenty years ago, he and two other MegaOctet players, bassist Claude Tchamitchian and drummer Eric Echampard, formed a trio. The Useful Report is their fourth album.

That door opens and closes regularly on a disc notable, like the titles of its 11 Emler charts, for a variety of emotional states and intriguing notions. The cover art is icily Polar, so the environment and climate change may be pointers – or not (there are no liner notes). A few numbers segue into each other and the longest, No Return, is split into climax-terminating sections that may suggest a narrative encased in formal structure. If so, it’s an absorbing story.

The Document emerges like some subterranean machine whose blocks of quick four-to-the-bar are separated by Emler’s gliding and leisurely modulations. Its moto perpetuo continues in The Real, the piano backed by an ever-mobile bass against a steady rock beat and given to interior shape-shifting; a final sustain segues into The Fake, in which plangent piano chords top an arco bass drone against tinkling cymbals. That bowing marks an eerie coda which merges into The Lies, where the music makes its way uncertainly in a troubled space.

That Emler’s minimalism is self-imposed on a fully-equipped keyboard arsenal is illustrated by Indecisions (Part 1) – a beautiful piano solo – and Indecisions (Part 2), in which he drops chords like melting wax on to a thread of ferocious African drumming before the journey processes. The limpid Broken Glace has snatches of arco bass and piano in unison, a device which reappears in the third section of No Return, offering a further linkage. It’s all sonically exciting.

Are we living in a golden age for the jazz piano trio? Discuss.

The Document; The Real; The Fake; The Lies; The Worries; The Resistant; The Endless Hopelude; Indecisions (Part 1); Indecisions (Part 2); Broken Glace; No Return (48.30)
Andy Emler (p); Claude Tchamitchian (b); Eric Echampard (d). Pernes-les-Fontaines, France (No date given).
La Buissonne RJAL397041