Trio Libero

Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford

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UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard’s second ECM album introduces his freely lyrical new trio with Michel Benita and Sebastian Rochford. All three players share a sense of stylistic open-mindedness. Drummer Rochford is one of the young players changing perceptions of British jazz with bands Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland. Algiers-born French bassist Benita, who cites Charlie Haden and Scott LaFaro as influences, has played with Archie Shepp, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz and in the ELB trio with Nguyên Lê and Peter Erskine. Repertoire here includes originals by Sheppard, Benita and Rochford, plus group improvisations and the standard “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” In all contexts, interaction is highly creative, as Benita and Rochford respond perceptively to Sheppard’s melodically and rhythmically inventive lines. Recorded July 2011 at Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera, Lugano.

Featured Artists Recorded

July 2011, Auditorio RSI - Radio Svizzera, Lugano

  • 1Libertino
    (Andy Sheppard)
    03:40
  • 2Slip Duty
    (Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    03:39
  • 3I'm Always Chasing Rainbows
    (Joseph McCarthy, Harry Carroll)
    04:17
  • 4Spacewalk, Part 1
    (Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    03:13
  • 5Dia Da Liberdade
    (Andy Sheppard)
    04:20
  • 6Land of Nod
    (Andy Sheppard)
    03:46
  • 7The Unconditional Secret
    (Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    04:01
  • 8Ishidatami
    (Michel Benita)
    03:48
  • 9Skin / Kaa
    (Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    06:09
  • 10Spacewalk, Part 2
    (Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    03:50
  • 11Whereveryougoigotoo
    (Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    03:41
  • 12Lots of Stairs
    (Sebastian Rochford)
    03:14
  • 13When We Live On The Stars...
    (Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita, Sebastian Rochford)
    04:04
The opening Libertino, a typically light-stepping Sheppard melody, somehow manages to create the idea of a witty lament. Wispy tenor-sax fragments turn into quiet snare-drum tattoos peppered with sonorous tom-tom accents. A single standard (I'm Always Chasing Rainbows) is a Jan Garbarek-like soprano sax drifter quietly prodded and pulled by Benita's bass. The long-note and bowed-bass Spacewalk Parts 1 and 2 have a pristine, shivery beauty, and the closing When We Live on the Stars has a slow and sonorous pop song quality. It's low-key, but glowing with life.
John Fordham. The Guardian
 
Saxophonist Sheppard´s chirpy tone and improvisatory alertness have made him a master of his trade for years but this co-op trio with bassist Benita and drummer Rochford - who strokes skins in the intensely musical manner of Paul Motian - puts him on a whole new level. All contribute material, and there´s a lovely, oblique version of "I´m always Chasing Rainbows", but the entire album is suffused with a spacious, questing feel that begs for further development in live performance.
Phil Johnson, The Independent
 
This is an album of stately elegance and beauty. Featuring 13 tunes over its 51-minute length, it flows gracefully from one track to the next. Balance and poise in this context are everything for this is music that unfolds before you rather than grabs at your attention. [...] It's the subtlety of the interplay and sense of freedom that this record exudes that makes it so special. It's rich in colours of autumn and winter, at times austere but never gloomy, while on occasions the warmth of spring hints at renewal. A truly gorgeous piece of music-making.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
 
Pensive saxophone, ruminative bass and occasional cymbal splashes combine to conjure the gentle ripples of a pleasant backwater on a summer’s day. Andy Sheppard delivers stately themes with a breathy tone, bassist Michel Benita adds counterpoints and drones and Seb Rochford decorates each line with well-timed brushstrokes and exquisite control. Each track is a delight of swaying tempos, unresolved tensions and subtle textures […].
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
 
Bass und Schlagzeug wirken gemeinsam wie eine Bassflöte, deren tiefes Atmen sich um die weichen Linien des Saxofons legt. Eine ungeheuer menschliche Seelenmusik.
Wolf Kampmann, Eclipsed
 
This mix of spontaneity and familiarity infuses everything the trio play with improvisational tension, each player clearly having a firm grasp on the outline of each pieace, but able to plot his own highly distinctive and original path within it. The resultant music incorporates not only Sheppard´s great strengths - a sure ear for an affecting melody, a sculptural approach to his saxophones´ sound, an ability to move seamlessly between freedom and structure - but also Benita´s extraordinary versatility and Rochford´s uncanny ability to choose precisely the right cymbal/skin stroke to push the music along and subtly embellish the band sound. The overall effect will perhaps remind many ECM aficionados of Paul Motian´s various albums for the label, but Trio Liebero´s strength comes from the grace and elegance with which three utterly distincitve talents have been able to gel to form a unit that consistently lives up to its name.
Chris Parker, London Jazz
 
Der englische Saxofonist Andy Sheppard. Sein Schlagzeug spielender Landsmann Sebastian Rochford und der französische Bassist Michel Benita nennen sich Trio Libero und machen als solches eine sehr zarte, sehnsuchtsvolle, ätherische, luftige und trotzdem kompakte Musik, in der die Melodien wunderbar klar im Raum stehen.
Ssirus W. Pakzad, Musikmarkt
 
 
  The opening Libertino, a typically light-stepping Sheppard melody, somehow manages to create the idea of a witty lament. Wispy tenor-sax fragments turn into quiet snare-drum tattoos peppered with sonorous tom-tom accents. A single standard (I'm Always Chasing Rainbows) is a Jan Garbarek-like soprano sax drifter quietly prodded and pulled by Benita's bass. The long-note and bowed-bass Spacewalk Parts 1 and 2 have a pristine, shivery beauty, and the closing When We Live on the Stars has a slow and sonorous pop song quality. It's low-key, but glowing with life.
John Fordham. The Guardian
 
Saxophonist Sheppard´s chirpy tone and improvisatory alertness have made him a master of his trade for years but this co-op trio with bassist Benita and drummer Rochford - who strokes skins in the intensely musical manner of Paul Motian - puts him on a whole new level. All contribute material, and there´s a lovely, oblique version of "I´m always Chasing Rainbows", but the entire album is suffused with a spacious, questing feel that begs for further development in live performance.
Phil Johnson, The Independent
 
This is an album of stately elegance and beauty. Featuring 13 tunes over its 51-minute length, it flows gracefully from one track to the next. Balance and poise in this context are everything for this is music that unfolds before you rather than grabs at your attention. [...] It's the subtlety of the interplay and sense of freedom that this record exudes that makes it so special. It's rich in colours of autumn and winter, at times austere but never gloomy, while on occasions the warmth of spring hints at renewal. A truly gorgeous piece of music-making.
Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
 
Pensive saxophone, ruminative bass and occasional cymbal splashes combine to conjure the gentle ripples of a pleasant backwater on a summer’s day. Andy Sheppard delivers stately themes with a breathy tone, bassist Michel Benita adds counterpoints and drones and Seb Rochford decorates each line with well-timed brushstrokes and exquisite control. Each track is a delight of swaying tempos, unresolved tensions and subtle textures […].
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
 
Bass und Schlagzeug wirken gemeinsam wie eine Bassflöte, deren tiefes Atmen sich um die weichen Linien des Saxofons legt. Eine ungeheuer menschliche Seelenmusik.
Wolf Kampmann, Eclipsed
 
This mix of spontaneity and familiarity infuses everything the trio play with improvisational tension, each player clearly having a firm grasp on the outline of each pieace, but able to plot his own highly distinctive and original path within it. The resultant music incorporates not only Sheppard´s great strengths - a sure ear for an affecting melody, a sculptural approach to his saxophones´ sound, an ability to move seamlessly between freedom and structure - but also Benita´s extraordinary versatility and Rochford´s uncanny ability to choose precisely the right cymbal/skin stroke to push the music along and subtly embellish the band sound. The overall effect will perhaps remind many ECM aficionados of Paul Motian´s various albums for the label, but Trio Liebero´s strength comes from the grace and elegance with which three utterly distincitve talents have been able to gel to form a unit that consistently lives up to its name.
Chris Parker, London Jazz
 
Der englische Saxofonist Andy Sheppard. Sein Schlagzeug spielender Landsmann Sebastian Rochford und der französische Bassist Michel Benita nennen sich Trio Libero und machen als solches eine sehr zarte, sehnsuchtsvolle, ätherische, luftige und trotzdem kompakte Musik, in der die Melodien wunderbar klar im Raum stehen.
Ssirus W. Pakzad, Musikmarkt
Trio Libero, convened by UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard, proposes music of graceful lyrical invention and emotional depth. On the debut recording of this free-spirited group, freedom is extended to melodies given room to breathe and to grow. There is space in the music and independence for each of the players, space for individual expression, as well as the possibilities for dialogue and interaction at any moment. From the beginning of the trio association of Andy Sheppard, Michel Benita and Sebastian Rochford, all these options were evident. To explore the group’s creative potential and to develop repertoire, early in 2009 Sheppard set up a residency for the trio at Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh.

“I basically locked the trio in a room for four days and said let’s just improvise together, record everything and see what we come up with. I’d brought along some tunes as well, of course. This was the start of the band. We seemed to be able to improvise virtually complete tunes. Afterwards I just spent some time harmonizing and editing and so on.” Some of the material created at that first exploratory session would resurface on the ECM debut, recorded two years later (in July 2011) at Lugano’s Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera. The piece here titled "The Unconditional Secret", for instance, is “more all less a straight transcription of a free improv dating from the Aldeburgh residency.” A modus operandi was thus established: “Improvise, write it down, develop it, then replay the tune with fresh improvisation: a trio libero.”

If 2009 was the beginning of things, the musicians, individually, had been crossing paths over a much longer period. Michel Benita and Sheppard collaborated on occasional gigs in the 1980s, when Sheppard lived in Paris, meeting up again six years ago to tour with pianist Rita Marcotulli. Then Sheppard invited the bassist to join him in a project at the Coutances Jazz Festival in 2008. Headlined “Melody Gainsbourg”, it was a celebration of the music of chansonnier Serge Gainsbourg, and quite some distance from the present project. The drummer on the gig was Sebastian Rochford, making this the first occasion when all three players had been on the same stage at the same time. “Seb and Michel were clearly having a ball playing together, and that was when I started to think about the Trio Libero idea. I just felt that anything was possible with these guys.”

Already in 2002, Sheppard had approached Rochford after seeing him play at Ronnie Scott’s Club. “We did a few gigs over the years, but it wasn’t really until the Coutances project that we had a chance to work together more intensively.”

Active across a slew of genres as songwriter/composer and producer as well as exceptionally creative drummer, Seb Rochford has played with a boggling diversity of artists. Amongst them: Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Herbie Hancock, Marc Ribot, David Byrne/Brian Eno, Stan Tracey, and the Britten Sinfonia under Joanna MacGregor. An early member of indie rock band Babyshambles, Rochford’s own groups and projects include Polar Bear, new band Jyager Bear - with MC Jyager, Pete Wareham and Shabaka Hutchings -, avant-garde rock trio Big Dave, electro-acoustic quartet Fulborn Teversham, and Silver Birch, the new line-up of the band formerly known as Acoustic Ladyland. Rochford’s interest in playing jazz was, he says, originally triggered by seeing an Andy Sheppard concert in his hometown of Aberdeen when he was 15 years old. He has cited the influence of Elvin Jones and Martin France on his development of a personal drum style that rarely lingers long on the ride cymbal.

All three band members are leaders, united in their open-mindedness. Algerian-born Michel Benita, who has played with some of the strongest names in jazz, had Dewey Redman in his first quartet alongside Rita Marcotulli and Aldo Romano. A 2008 album “Ramblin’” reflected a love of country music, bluegrass and folk. He has also collaborated with Japanese koto player Mieko Miyazaki, Vietnamese guitarist Nguyên Lê, and proto-rapper Jalal from the Last Poets. An internationalist at the heart of the French scene since the early 1980s, Benita honed his craft in the jazz clubs and concert halls of Paris playing with an extensive roll call of visiting players, expatriates and local musicians – the list includes Archie Shepp, Horace Parlan, Billy Hart, Joe Lovano, Bobo Stenson, Joe Diorio, Gordon Beck, Enrico Rava, Dino Saluzzi, Lee Konitz, Harold Danko, Jon Christensen, Nils-Petter Molvaer, Joshua Redman, Tom Harrell, Roy Haynes, Charlie Mariano, Peter Erskine, Kenny Wheeler, Steve Kuhn, Kenny Werner, Enrico Pieranunzi, François Jeanneau, Daniel Humair, Michel Portal, Toots Thielemans, Martial Solal, Michel Legrand, l'Orchestre de Lyon and many more.

The prodigiously gifted Andy Sheppard famously took up the saxophone at 19, inspired by Coltrane, and played his first gig with it three weeks later and was soon touring and recording with Bristol-based band Sphere. After a period in Paris where he worked with groups including performance art band Urban Sax, he returned to the UK in the mid-80s, recording the album “Andy Sheppard” for Antilles/Island, with Steve Swallow as producer, the beginning of a long musical association. Since then Sheppard has recorded for labels including Blue Note, Verve, Label Bleu and Provocateur and played and written trans-idiomatic music for ensembles of every size (his Saxophone Massive project has included 200 sax players) as well as for theatre, film, dance and mixed media. Collaborators over the years have ranged from Nana Vasconcelos to Han Bennink, from Joanna MacGregor to Keith Tippett, from L. Shankar to Kathryn Tickell. He has played with numerous key jazz artists, including the exceptional composers George Russell, Gil Evans and Carla Bley. Sheppard has recorded extensively with Carla Bley for the ECM-distributed WATT label and can be heard on her albums “Fleur Carnivore”, “The Very Big Carla Bley Band”, “Big Band Theory”, “Songs with Legs”, “The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church”, “‎4 x 4”, “Looking for America”‎, “The Lost Chords‎” ,“Appearing Nightly”, and ‎”The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu”.

Sheppard recorded his first ECM leader date in 2008. “Movements In Colour”, featuring an international line-up with John Parricelli and Eivind Aarset on guitars, Arild Andersen on bass, and Kuljit Bhamra on tabla, was warmly received by the press: “A subtle and well-balanced showcase … featuring music which is elegantly performed and sonically mellifluous. … Sheppard’s natural melodic sense and textural skills are in their element in a sequence of pieces which range from gentle folkiness and Latin lilt to a yearning, quasi-symphonic approach” (BBC Music Magazine).