Faraway So Close is a trio offering from pianist Guillaume de Chassy, whose previous recording, Piano Solo (Bee Jazz, 2007), was completely engrossing in its trenchant beauty. This album projects the same depth, sincerity and directness of communication as the former one, but in a trio setting. Music is mysterious in the manner in which its affects are felt. The piano, with its mechanical action, adds a further layer to the puzzle, as Jon Balke made clear on Book of Velocities (ECM, 2008). De Chassy's keyboard touch is remarkable for its liquid clarity and supports his seeming endless supply of ideas, both melodic and harmonic.
Pianist Guillaume de Chassy insists that Silences is inspired by the example of clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's late-1950s trio recordings. To be sure, like those records, this album is marked by intimacy and introspection, a strong clarinet sound and no drummer. But Silences, recorded at a French abbey, doesn't sound much like Giuffre's records—nor indeed, like much of jazz, at first blush. It's not at first clear just what this piano-clarinet-bass formation is up to. The helpfully titled "Birth of a Trio" provides clues. It shows just how much this music shares with jazz—improvisation, first of all; and empathy, the musicians listening closely to each other, as for example when de Chassy's piano sidles up to Thomas Savy's soaring clarinet.
A sequel to Wender's Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of desire), it again follows a group of angels in the German capital who look longingly upon the life of humans.
"…Countertenors David James and David Gould shape Machaut's almost Faulknerian top-voice syntax into affecting emotional statements, and even listeners new to medieval music will become ensnared in the poet's quest for the slightest glance of regard from his unattainable Lady. (…) Still, it's been a while since a major disc of Machaut motets was released (this disc contains 18 pieces, a few of them sacred), and if the Hilliard Ensemble doesn't close the book on this music, they nevertheless interpret it beautifully for our times." ~allmusicguide
Tre Fontane, an ensemble of young performing musicians from Southern France, land of the troubadours, whose music they have explored extensively, have devoted the present recording to the major French Ars Nova composer Guillaume de Machaut, and leading Italian composers of the trecento, using the Codex Faenza as a central reference. Most of the time they remain fairly close to the Faenza variations on the vocal originals, with occasional extemporization.
…Of course, nobody can coax the impact out of a dissonance like the Hilliard Ensemble. Countertenors David James and David Gould shape Machaut's almost Faulknerian top-voice syntax into affecting emotional statements, and even listeners new to medieval music will become ensnared in the poet's quest for the slightest glance of regard from his unattainable Lady…
This is the second recording of Machaut's music by the all-male Orlando Consort (countertenor on top), and their way with Machaut is excellent. They have a nice, light tone in the secular pieces that contrasts with the more severe Gothic Voices, and they convey the weighty, ceremonial quality of the big motets. Machaut goes far enough back that nobody can be sure of how it sounded (and the graphics for this all-vocal album show a painting including instruments), but if you like the unaccompanied approach, this will do as well as anything for putting the basic sound of Machaut in your head. And "basic," in the best way, describes this album in another respect as well: the booklet notes by Anne Stone (given in English and French) give the most complete, and more importantly most enthusiastic, introduction one could ask for in a few pages to Machaut's stylistic world.