Leipold, Bucher, Lo Bianco: Ostro

While inspired by the ethereal yet earthy sound of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 this Swiss trio adds elements of Feldman, Takemitsu and more

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Swiss guitarist and composer Samuel Leipold’s remarkable solo album Viscosity was one of my favourite records of 2021. Although it’s very different to the more traditionally leaning Ostro, the two albums have much in common. Revealing a thoughtful musician who appreciates form, dynamics and texture, they suggest Leipold is happy to forgo the conventions of instrument and genre in pursuit of a grander vision.

This trio can trace its origins to a conversation between Leipold and his Swiss Jazz Orchestra colleague Jürg Bucher about their mutual fascination with the Jimmy Giuffre 3. An invitation to participate in a studio session in Bern during the Covid-19 suspension provided an opportunity to experiment with the idiom, and in an utterly inspired piece of casting they called upon Lucerne-based bassist Luca Lo Bianco to complete the trio.

Despite its obvious musical debt to the open-textured and conversational improvisations of the JG3, Ostro is not a straightforward tribute. True there’s an achingly beautiful cover of Giuffre’s Afternoon, and Giuffre’s characteristic sense of melancholic introspection looms large, but the late American’s legacy is more a point of departure than a strict musical blueprint.

Take the dreamlike intro to Harmonium, which betrays Leipold’s interest in composers Feldman and Takemitsu, while the intro to Lo Bianco’s Thanatos explores the drone-based vocabulary and temporal indeterminacy which were explored so brilliantly on Viscosity. Elsewhere Bucher’s lyrical playing on Brandlift captures the essence of Giuffre, and the aforementioned cover of Afternoon is pure poetry. The bouncy Another Try is relatively propulsive, while the unresolved clarinet phrase left hanging in the album’s final bar is a wonderfully Giuffre-esque touch.

Leipold’s seductive compositions would surely shine in any musical setting, but in the hands of this super-interactive trio they become portals into some of the most sublime chamber jazz imaginable.

Discography
Zoncolan; Harmonium; Brandluft; Afternoon; Thanatos; Ondulation; Soma; Another Try; Three Clarinet Pieces I (41.30)
Leipold (elg); Jürg Bucher (cl); Luca Lo Bianco (b). Bern, Switzerland, March and November 2021.
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