Simon Moullier (vib), Luca Alemanno (b), Jongkuk Kim (d)
Bar code: 8427328436229
On his sophomore album, Countdown, vibraphonist Simon Moullier ups the ante from the high bar that he set on his impressive 2020 debut, Spirit Song. Comprising separate sessions from 2017 and May 2020, Spirit Song projected what Moullier describes as a “sci-fi” aura, revealing his extreme chops, capacious improvisational imagination, and mastery of the art of molding musical narrative via composition, arrangement, orchestration and production.
Moullier, showcases these attributes on Countdown, an individualistic, erudite acoustic trio encounter with Luca Alemanno on bass and Jongkuk (“J.K.”) Kim on drums. Moullier says, as an homage to “the great composers and pillars of jazz.” [...]
—Ted Panken (From the inside liner notes)
"Time, and more specifically timekeeping, remains a fundamental component of jazz. Rhythmic signatures frequently form the basis of musical momentum, doubling as the chassis atop which melodic and harmonic development occurs. Countdown is French vibraphonist Simon Moullier’s ode to and exegesis on both the pleasures and perils of time in such contexts. It’s also a follow-up to his 2020 debut, stripped away from the protections of a larger ensemble setting. Bassist Luca Alemanno and drummer Jongkuk Kim are equally dialed in to the cause and the music is an inviting variation on math-minded jazz that never gets lost in the tall weeds of chops for chops' sake.
Moullier picks a particularly challenging prospect as both title piece and opener, John Coltrane’s sticky wicket steeplechase. Velocious and vertiginous, it’s a dizzyingly ornate and accelerated excursion, but all of the moving parts are audible from start to breathless stop. Moullier’s mallets advance the melody and sturdy, swinging braid of Alemanno and Kim matches him at every move. The remainder of the program is a passel of standards, starting with Thelonious Monk’s “Work.” Another finely spun theme statement caroms through an obstacle course of suspensions and deviations. Once again, the three players are in synchronous step, adding accents and flourishes, keeping a close collective eye of the figurative stopwatch undergirding their interaction.
“I Concentrate on You,” “Nature Boy” and “The Song as You” reference different signposts on the songbook spectrum. The trio attacks and devours each of them with undisguised relish. Moullier’s educational background includes studies in classical and ethnic percussion, in part through study at Berklee College of Music. Those early influences contribute not only to his palette, but also a staunch refusal to rely on tropes or gimmicks. It’s an unwritten credo shared with his colleagues with evidence apparent all over these interpretations. Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” is unmistakable and yet still leagues different from the composer’s various conceptions in its bridging of slow burn melodic maturation and incremental rhythmic tension. Time as a resource and measure of expression is most definitely on Moullier’s side.
—Derek Taylor (July 1, 2021)
"Countdown, the quicksilver John Coltrane étude, has a reputation fearsome enough to rival its more famous familial counterpart, "Giant Steps." To record the song at any point in the post-Coltrane continuum is to plant a flag —as have a handful of ambitious souls, from Kenny Garrett to Brad Mehldau to Joey Alexander. Now here's vibraphonist Simon Moullier with an album, his second, named after the tune. What are we to think?
Well, listen first. You'll hear that Moullier has an ingenious set of strategies for breaking up the theme, and the proficiency to make it flow when he so desires. His trio, with Luca Alemanno on bass and Jongkuk Kim on drums, matches every flicker without missing a beat. "I was always curious to find way to create within the confines of these great tunes," Moullier tells Ted Panken in the liner notes. Throughout Countdown, which also includes pieces by Mingus, Monk and Dameron, that curiosity pays off, with interest."
—Nate Chinen (June 15, 2021)
"New music for vibraphonist Simon Moullier, in his second album, Countdown reveals his super-cool skills, capacious improvisational imagination and mastery of the art of shaping musical narrative through composition, arrangement, orchestration and production. Modern jazz with infinite blue notes for this, acoustic trio with Luca Alemanno on bass and Jongkuk ("J.K.") Kim on drums. The tributes to Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Toninho Horta, without forgetting the refined contemporary sound of African American music, always looking forward. Ten tracks and ten ideas to confirm its flexibility. Vibraphonist, composer, producer and bandleader, Simon Moullier has distinguished himself as one of the leading voices of his generation. working with jazz masters such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, John Patitucci, Danilo Perez, Gerald Clayton.
This album is a personal statement not only as a vibraphonist but also as an improviser, planning every possible language. Less electronic and more acoustic jazz for a truly intriguing cd, where we find Moullier's ability on vibrations is always a fact, but also his ability to find a rhythm section like that of Alemanno-Kim, impressive able to jump inside and to perform at a high level deserves compliments. Hot House, Beijo Partido and The Song Is You, among the most glamorous things."
—Giuseppe Maggioli (May 31, 2021)
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