Michel Benita – Looking At Sounds (2020) [FLAC 24bit/88,2kHz]

Michel Benita – Looking At Sounds (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88,2 kHz | Time – 01:02:56 minutes | 1,09 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © ECM

Algeria-born bassist Michel Benita, long a mainstay of the French jazz scene, introduces his revised quartet. Swiss flugelhornist Matthieu Michel and French drummer Philippe Garcia are retained from Benita’s Ethics band, and the quartet is completed by Belgian keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin. Dumoulin’s swirling, floating sounds and colours – he sounds like no other Fender Rhodes player – have inspired Benita to write evocative new music for the group. The repertoire also includes a bewitching cover version of Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “Inutil Paisagem”, the freely improvised “Cloud To Cloud”, and a touching solo bass interpretation of Jule Styne’s “Never Never Land”. Looking At Sounds was recorded at Studios La Buissonne in the South of France in March 2019.

A musician at the heart of the French jazz scene since the early 1980s, Michel Benita (born in Algiers in 1954) honed his craft in the clubs and concert halls of Paris, working with an ever-changing cast of visiting stars, local players and expatriates. The original bassist in France’s Orchestre National de Jazz, he is by temperament an internationalist, welcoming the different accents and independent viewpoints that players from diverse regions can bring to group music. Benita made his ECM debut as a member of Andy Sheppard’s Trio Libero, in 2011, also appearing on Sheppard’s Surrounded by Sea (2014) and Romaria (2017). His first disc as a leader for the label was River Silver, recorded in 2015, with his group Ethics.

The quartet on Looking At Sounds retains Swiss flugelhornist Matthieu Michel and French drummer Philippe Garcia from the Ethics line-up and adds Belgian keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin. Largely responsible for the textural qualities of the revised group’s music Dumoulin uses his Fender Rhodes in a subtle, painterly way. His enveloping colours swirl around the harmonic framework of the pieces and imaginatively support the flights of the flugelhorn. If Matthieu Michel’s is often the lead voice, Benita’s group concept favours collective creativity over chains of solos. He encourages his musicians to build upon the melodic ramifications of the tunes and to “melt into a total, global sound,” a policy well-illustrated on the tune “Body Language” here.

With the exception of Matthieu Michel, who plays only flugelhorn on this recording, with a free, lyrical flair sometimes reminiscent of the late Kenny Wheeler, all members of the group make discreet use of electronics. Benita will periodically add a bass drone from his laptop. Garcia integrates real-time sampling into his percussive work. And Dumoulin processes his Rhodes through many effects boxes, pedals and reverbs to create a luminous patina of sound – see for instance the beginning of the title track, “Looking At Sounds”, whose name is its programme. “I like using a little electronics, as an additional instrument, almost, or to give the music a new direction,” says Michel Benita “even if our group spirit and our sense of dynamics are more those of an acoustic band.”


1. Michel Benita – Dervish Diva
2. Michel Benita – Berceuse/Gwell Talenn
3. Michel Benita – Looking At Sounds
4. Michel Benita – Barroco
5. Michel Benita – Slick Team
6. Michel Benita – Cloud To Cloud
7. Michel Benita – Body Language
8. Michel Benita – Elisian/Inutil Paisagem
9. Michel Benita – Islander
10. Michel Benita – Low Tide
11. Michel Benita – Never Never Land