Album Review: Philippe Lemm Trio’s ‘First Steps’ is a mastery of musical movement

It is a special trio that can creatively deliver concepts of movement and dance from a seemingly conventional piano, drums and bass configuration.

The Breakdown

Outside in Music 8.0

First Steps sees the Philippe Lemm Trio come through in unique style and displaying fantastic form, both of which have been well-honed during the past ten years of consistent touring and creating. Partly a reflection on the past 12 months, this record celebrates the life of Lemm’s long-time friend and collaborator, pianist Angelo Di Loreto, who unexpectedly passed away last year. First Steps is one of the last of Di Loreto’s musical recordings.

Jeff Koch’s bass perfectly complements Lemm’s percussion work, with Di Loreto’s beautiful keys intertwined throughout each track. Lemm’s background in dance undoubtedly exerts influence on the pace and sound, as well as traditional folkloric dances and rhythms, and general reflections on life in lockdown. The result is a refreshing soundscape with a strong concept of movement.

“2020 felt like an uncertain choreography. We had to practice slow dancing by ourselves and learn to manouvre without references. Music is my first step to connect to you, the listener, the observer, the dance partner.”  

Philippe Lemm

Lemm’s music is a fine dance for the ears, clearly showing he is a man of movement first and foremost. This is immediately apparent, as opening track The Kiln (released as a single last month) drives forth and shows the intricate interplay between each musician. Kalief is a moving ballad featuring guest soloist Simon Moullier on vibraphone, and is dedicated to the memory of a young African American man who was proven to be innocent of a crime, but not before he had spent several years in prison and ultimately, committed suicide.

The fluctuating intensity of Di Loreto’s piano in Malambo is a high-energy example of what Di Loreto would jokingly refer to as “cardio jazz”. On the track, he demonstrates his unique ability to play both delicately and with satisfying power.  

In addition to original compositions, the album also includes unique covers like Joni Mitchell’s sensitive, reflective River, as well as the volleying melodies of Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel.

Lemm, Koch and Di Loreto first met a decade ago as students at Manhattan School of Music, where they quickly bonded as an impassioned musical trio. They played at such esteemed institutions as Bimhuis (Amsterdam), North Sea Jazz Festival, the Blue Note (NYC), Ronnie Scott’s (London), and the Kennedy Center (Washington D.C).  Di Loreto was named ‘Best Soloist’ after the trio won the 2015 B-Jazz International Contest in Belgium.

What makes Philippe Lemm trio so special is their ability to creatively deliver concepts of movement and dance choreography from a seemingly conventional piano, drums and bass configuration. The result on this album is a rich ebb and flow of sounds, recognizable but still unique.

First Steps is out now through Outside in Music

Listen to it here

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