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Fabian Willmann Trio - Balance (Clap Your Hands)

12 April 2022

With Balance, Berlin saxophonist Fabian Willmann inaugurates not only his career as a leader, but also brand new Swiss label Clap Your Hands. Joined by bassist Arne Huber and drummer Jeff Ballard, Willmann explores the chord-free trio that’s proven so fruitful for other horn players across jazz history. With no harmonic cushion, the saxist leans into the melody for original songs like the funky “Everything is Something” and the languid “Trees, Birds, River, Sky,” letting the riffs carry the tracks more than the solos. That’s an approach Ballard is particularly comfortable with after years playing with Brad Mehldau, Chick Corea and Mark Turner in the equally chordless trio Fly – few drummers are as sensitive to the tune as he is. Things take a turn for the angular when special guest Asger Nissen enters the picture, as he does on three tracks here. The way his alto intertwines with and bounces off of Willmann’s tenor on “Last Song” and “Intro” adds discordant tension to the otherwise accessible melodies. The Trio dip their toes into exploratory jazz on the Huber-penned “Royal,” surveying the seemingly empty space around the notes and stepping forward to see what’s hidden there. A solid first album for both musician and his new label.