Marcel·lí Bayer (tenor & alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet, plus a touch of piano)
Alexandra Garzón (visuals)

Solo musical projects always fascinate me, and especially with instruments we’re not used to hearing unaccompanied. The piano and the guitar for example, both have a strong tradition of solo performance; but drums, bass, and – in this case – saxophone, are usually experienced with another noisemaker. So, in the solo context, they maybe have to work a little harder, dig a little deeper, can’t rest on a foundation of tradition…

Marcel·lí Bayer is a ‘name’ on the Catalan jazz scene. His first album was recorded with a nonet, featuring Lee Konitz; his second was a quartet; this, his third, is just him (where next?!) The 25 pieces were recorded in an 11th century church in Avinyó (restored in 1680, hence the title) and were composed with the venue in mind.

This is simple music in the sense that the melodic statements are short (a handful of notes) and straightforward. However, the complexity comes from the repetition, the overall structure of shifting moods, and the variations on the themes. Taken alone, each piece is a direct expression of one facet of the composer, player, and the instrument used. Taken as a whole, the performance was a highly emotive suite of loss, happiness, elegy, mourning, celebration, and – just occasionally – sheer frustration, even anger. (If you need a touchstone, think Jimmy Giuffre around his “Free Fall” period – not the same, but certainly related.)

Seen live, the addition of some atmospheric lighting (i.e. darker than usual in Robadors 23) and the on-screen visuals from Garzón added to the ambience and dramatic mood.

Suffice to say, I was impressed enough to buy the CD afterwards and the recorded version fully captures the live experience. It’s a late but definite entry to my Best of 2014 list.

If you’re intrigued, listen and/or buy here:

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