AMN Reviews: Naima – Bye (2016; Cuneiform Records)

Jazz-inflected Spanish threesome Naima returns with their fourth album, Bye. While the group’s choice of instrumentation (with Enrique Ruiz on piano and synths, Luis Torregrosa on drums, and Rafael Ramos Sania on bass) is not new, their approach to the piano trio is anything but conventional.

Naima does not shy away from comparisons to The Bad Plus, which is perhaps the most well-known piano trio of the last decade or so. And like that outfit, Naima gives a nod to the jazz tradition, but then departs for more adventurous waters. Nonetheless, Ruiz, Torregrosa, and Sania explore deeper oceans and harsher weather. While there is an element of playfulness to some of the nine tunes on Bye, there also is an underlying darkness as well. They go on to bridge tense atmospheres with tightly-coupled rhythms and catchy, yet angular, melodies. In addition, their use of synths adds a level of aggression and dissonance to the mix.

Content-wise, six of the tracks are originals, two with alternative takes included. Naima also covers Elliot Smith‘s Can’t Make a Sound, which is a highlight of the album, and Jaga Jazzist‘s Animal Chin.

The result of all this is a release with broad appeal – traditional jazzheads and fans of the avant-garde alike will find much to enjoy on Bye.

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