Photo: Jean-Baptiste Millot
Jerome Sabbagh's newest project, is a trio with guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Daniel Humair. The music is a mix of compositions by Sabbagh and free improvisations. Sabbagh, Monder and Humair recently released I Will Follow You (Bee Jazz, 2010). Here is an excerpt of the liner notes of the album, written by David R. Adler:
On his well-received quartet albums North (2004) and Pogo (2007), the Paris-born, New York-based saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh put forward original music of great drive, assiduous craft and disarming warmth. And a centerpiece of these outings was his fluent, natural rapport with Ben Monder, one of the most sought-after guitarists of our day, a player of boundless versatility and imagination. I Will Follow You, a deft and highly spontaneous encounter with Geneva-born drummer Daniel Humair, brings the Sabbagh-Monder partnership to the next stage.
Humair, 72, was one of Europe’s first-call drummers at a particularly fruitful time in jazz history, and his experiences gigging with the likes of Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon and Eric Dolphy continue to inform his every step as an improviser (and painter, incidentally). In recent years he has made records with Tony Malaby, Ellery Eskelin and others on the leading edge of today’s creative music scene. One album in particular, Full Contact (Bee Jazz, 2008), with Humair, Malaby and pianist Joachim Kühn, caught the ear of Sabbagh. And as it happens, Humair had expressed admiration for Sabbagh’s 2008 Bee Jazz effort One Two Three — which highlighted the young saxophonist’s skill and personal touch with standards in a chordless trio setting. After a brief encounter and a gig with bassist Joe Martin in Paris, Humair and Sabbagh set plans in motion for I Will Follow You.
On this disc we hear three distinct personalities finding common ground, brainstorming a program of free improvisations as well as compositions by Sabbagh. “There was no rehearsal,” Sabbagh says. “The pieces I wrote, with one exception, have no chords after the heads, and they don’t require time or even want time. A lot of the takes ended up very short, and yet we didn’t talk about length beforehand at all. We all shared a sense of, ‘Don’t do too much, don’t linger, don’t spoil it.’”
[…] Whether free or notated, brand new or reaching back to the dawn of modern jazz, the sounds of I Will Follow You evoke a sense of connection, a way of working that stresses both individuality and partnership. “I like a situation where whatever I’m doing, I’m inspired to give it my all,” Sabbagh says. “I want it to be something clear in its intent. There’s a feeling of commitment on this record that I like. It’s something I look for in music in general, and certainly something I try to cultivate in my own.”
David R. Adler
New York, June 2010
Jerome Sabbagh Quartet
Photo: Christian Ducasse
“Memorable tunes with assured performances […] Pogo sounds contemporary and vital, and the band delivers one of the year’s strongest ensemble performance.”
–Peter Margasak, Down Beat, 4 stars
The Jerome Sabbagh Quartet plays modern, organic music that can appeal to listeners beyond the traditional jazz audience as well as regular jazz fans. Jerome Sabbagh seeks directness above all in his writing and likes his compositions to sound like actual songs. The quartet has recorded two critically acclaimed albums, North (Fresh Sound New Talent) and Pogo (available on Sunnyside in the US and on Bee Jazz in Europe).
In Ben Monder (guitar), Joe Martin (bass) and Ted Poor (drums), Jerome Sabbagh has found some of the most talented musicians of this generation and like-minded accomplices. Ben Monder plays “nearly unsurpassable jazz guitar” (Ben Ratliff, New York Times) and has performed with a variety of artists, including Lee Konitz, Paul Motian, Tim Berne and Jack McDuff. He has appeared in over ninety CDs as a sideman and has four as a leader. Known for his warm sound, facile ear, and harmonic flexibility, bassist Joe Martin has performed with a wide variety of artists, which includes Kurt Rosenwinkel, Andy Bey, Mark Turner and Art Farmer. Ted Poor has an uncanny ability to shape the music and a refreshingly unique, organic approach to playing the drums. He has been increasingly in demand in today's jazz scene and plays with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Aaron Parks, Donny McCaslin, Cuong Vu and Chris Potter.
Jerome Sabbagh Trio
Photo: Emrâ Islek
"You don't find many post-bop era musicians recording programs of all standards; fewer still choose to do them in a pianoless trio. French native Jerome Sabbagh relishes the challenge with One Two Three (Bee Jazz) and his nerve pays off. Avoiding any of the usual stylistic cliches, Sabbagh lets these compositions speak for themselves. He's not afraid to simply play the melody, although when the spirit strikes him he can spin out inspired improvisations."
–James Hale, Down Beat, 4 stars
For the last five years, I have been playing standards regularly in a trio format in various clubs in New York City. I started out at the Bar Next Door, in the West Village. In the beginning, I didn't take much time to prepare for these concerts. I would spend most of my energy practicing the saxophone and writing music for my quartet with Ben Monder, Joe Martin and Ted Poor, a band with which I still play today. I naively thought that playing standards in a trio would be comparatively easy. Boy, was I wrong...
In a trio, a saxophonist plays much more often. You need skills, imagination and stamina. You don't get the benefit of a guitarist or a pianist whose accompaniment might help you pace or spark you to reach greater heights and whose presence gives you the opportunity to rest.
In a trio, the genius of the masters and the depth of their legacy are both inspiring and daunting. I find that to be true in jazz in general but perhaps even more so with this particular instrumentation.
In a trio, most of all, the sparseness of the setting casts a shining light on the basic elements of jazz: melody, rhythm, harmonic ideas. A saxophonist alone with a bass player and a drummer constantly makes instinctive choices in these matters, as all improvisers do, but in a trio, these choices have even more impact on the direction of the music. More thought out choices also have to be made, from selecting a repertoire of inspiring songs to play on to figuring out who to play with. It's an opportunity to understand who you really are and to work on becoming who you want to be.
Ben Street has always been one of my favorite bass players, ever since I heard him in Kurt Rosenwinkel's quartet when I first moved to New York. His mastery of the basics of jazz and his willingness to keep exploring them serve him well in many different musical endeavors and he has a very strong musical identity. Among all the musicians I know, he is one of the most devoted to his art.
I first played with Rodney Green when Ben Monder asked me to sub for him last minute at the Bar Next Door. From the very first notes, I knew that we were bound to play together. Rodney quickly became my favorite drummer to play trio with. I love his sound, the way he listens and how well he develops ideas.
As in my previous albums, I chose to record all in the same room, to be as close as possible to a concert setting. I hope you will enjoy One Two Three.