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Matthieu Bordenave - The Blue Land (ECM)

22 January 2024

Whether on tenor or soprano, Matthieu Bordenave favors a plush tone and a winding, almost slithering technique that sounds like it’s searching for the heart of a piece. As such, the French saxophonist has gathered like-minded musicians around him, including pianist Florian Weber, bassist Patrice Moret (both of whom recorded with Bordenave on his ECM debut La Traverseé), and new recruit James Maddren on drums. The arrangements weave from the dreamy mysticism of the title track and “Three Four,” which turns Moret loose in the center, to the rhythm-driven “Timbre” and “Distance,” which lets Maddren lead the band into more rollicking territory. The effect would find as warm a reception in psychedelic chill-out room as it would in a chamber music hall. That the band can fit John Coltrane’s “Compassion” into Bordenave’s concept without a hint of a square peg in a round hole tells us how rigorous the leader’s vision is, and how perfect his band is for it.