Florian Arbenz & Kirk Lightsey: Conversations #6 Radix & #7 Synopsis

The Swiss drummer's collaboration with Detroit pianist Lightsey adds novel touches to a programme rich in post-bop standards


Florian Arbenz’s Conversations series, set to reach a dozen volumes, has surely been one of the most interesting musical by-products of the global pandemic. Starved of opportunities to play in front of an audience, Arbenz’s home studio became the crucible in which he and invited guests would unleash their creative energies.

Conversations #6 and #7 maintain the high standards of their predecessors and bring two contrasting views of Arbenz’s longtime mentor, the octogenarian Detroit piano legend Kirk Lightsey.

At just under 35 minutes in length Conversation #6 is a concentrated hit, the intrepid duo covering a vast swathe of musical terrain. Lightsey’s incisive lines are buoyed by a propulsive but unconventional swing, strangely reminiscent of Tony Oxley, on the deeply spiritual opening medley.

Parker’s Ah-Leu-Cha takes some skittish rhythmic twists, and Arbenz’s rich electro-acoustic timbres on traditional Swiss folk song Leuget Vo Berg Und Tal are as brilliantly effective as they’re unexpected. Shorter’s Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum settles into a relaxed blues shuffle, while the fractured arrangement of Freedom Jazz Dance shows that Lightsey still relishes the opportunity to take a few risks.

Conversation #7 places Lightsey at the heart of a fiery post-bop quartet with Arbenz and his old friends Domenic Landolf and Tiber Elekes. More conventional than the duo in the sense that the quartet’s post-Coltrane lexicon is now so ubiquitous, the playing is nevertheless exemplary. Nothing is held back on Arbenz’s urgent Evolution, Seeds showcases Lightsey in classic ballad mode, and Landolf delivers a burning double-time solo on Pinocchio. His bass clarinet adds pastel hues to the quartet’s reading of Ah-Leu-Cha, while Lightsey’s elegant Habiba burns on a long fuse.

It closes with a breathless reading of Tyner’s Blues On The Corner, which doesn’t appear on the track listing. The ghost of Elvin Jones must surely be smiling as Arbenz’s group rips it up.

CD1: Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child / Wade In The Water; Ah-Leu-Cha; Leuget Vo Berg Und Tal; Dancing With Kirk; Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum; Freedom Jazz Dance; Epilogue: Pee Wee (33.25)
CD2: Evolution; Seeds And Blossoms; Pinocchio; Ah-Leu-Cha; MasBlue; Habiba; Blues On The Corner (43.55)
Arbenz (d) with Kirk Lightsey (p); Domenic Landolf (ts, bcl); Tibor Elekes (b). Basel, 15 & 16 April 2021.
Hammer Records