I first discovered, with pleasure, Swiss guitarist and composer Samuel Leipold in 2020 through his solo CD Viscosity which, according to the album's creator, featured inspirations from Toru Takemitsu to ambient. Instead, in Ostro, Leipold — along with clarinetist Jürg Bucher and double bassist Luca Lo Bianco — inserts reinterpretations of Jimmy Giuffre and, no less, Igor Stravinsky among entirely original (composed and improvised) material. Let me begin by saying that the fresh work has unequivocally validated my initial positive response.
Because of the way the instruments are combined, there is plenty of leeway for the listener to develop a variety of viewpoints, each based on a distinct angle of sound projection depending on the "guide timbre" one selects. It appears that Leipold, intentionally or not, shaped the sessions such that the musicians, relying more on instinct than anything else, could alternate playing the role of catalyst within a counterpoint that remains translucent throughout, and often teetering on a perceptible melancholy (despite a pronounced penchant for angular geometries).
Notwithstanding a mostly clean guitar tone and the bass's familiar pulse (and drone, in Lo Bianco's own "Thanatos"), this reviewer most enjoys the complete lack of support for any jazz cliché. The melodic cues, mainly handled by the clarinet, are intelligible yet not always easy to commit to memory. They span from a thematic straightforwardness frequently associated with film music to prominent register jumps, fortunately eschewing the scalar jargon that gives rise to innumerable platitudes.
Citing preferences is typically silly, but the outstanding "Ondulation" is perhaps the best place to start if you want to know what to anticipate from the trio's clear-headed poetry. Even when reiterating the program in shuffle mode, the constancy in mood, style, and interpretation of the inner signal — translated into expressions at the same time succinct and profound — can be heard clearly. However, don't overlook the subtleties of timbral juxtaposition that distinguish a few moderately experimental passages. While some spurious resonances pose a mild threat to the record's atmospheric stability as a whole, you'll soon understand that their placement is tactically ideal, if probably involuntary.
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