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Fabian Willmann Trio — Balance
(Bandcamp Clap Your Hand CYH0002, 2022, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-06-20

Balance Cover art

With Balance, German tenor saxophonist Fabian Willmann makes his debut as a leader of a trio featuring bass (Arne Huber) and drums (Jeff Ballard). Asger Nissen joins on three tracks playing alto sax. I’m not familiar with Huber, though he has several albums as a leader and has worked as a sideman with quite a few other musicians; Ballard is a veteran of many sessions with Chick Corea, Maria Schneider, Brad Mehldau, and many more, as well as recording under his own name. The sparse instrumentation serves the arrangements well, allowing lots of space for each musician’s subtleties to shine. Huber and Ballard make a great rhythm section, creative and flexible, capable of both sparse atmospheres and propulsive grooves, and there’s nothing else cluttering up the mix to obscure what they’re doing. Willmann is a fine tenor player who usually plays with a fairly sweet tone, though he isn’t averse to squeezing out an expressive squawk here and there. I wouldn’t describe this as high-energy jazz, but it stops short of being sleepy or smooth, and it’s certainly not nostalgic. The tracks with Nissen are particularly enjoyable, providing opportunities for interplay between the two saxes. Their parts are arranged contrapuntally rather than in harmonies, and the contrasting solos are a lot of fun. Balance is a fine debut, and a great example of how satisfying a chordless ensemble can be in the right hands.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Fabian Willmann

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