Sebastien Ammann’s Color Wheel, ‘Resilience’ (Skirl)

Pianist-composer Sebastien Ammann’s quintet offers lovely yet challenging music on Resilience, the group’s second recording. The writing is lyrical, touched gently by melancholy. But it’s also intricate, moving in unexpected directions through changes in mood and tempo.

Ammann’s writing neatly blurs the line between improvisation and composition. It’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins on pieces such as “Yayoi” or “Castello di Traliccio.” None of this delightful ambiguity would work if it weren’t for the ensemble’s pellucid, beautifully balanced reading of the scores and their ability to spontaneously generate parts that fit into arrangements like mortise and tenon joints.

On “Afterthought,” alto saxophonist Michaël Attias creates a smooth, unbroken sequence of interlinked melodies that fits seamlessly with Ammann’s writing. Trombonist Samuel Blaser is equally apt on “Resilience,” matching his prayerful solo to the simple, soulful tune. The writing and performing are full of rhythmic subtleties and frequent changes, and bassist Noah Garabedian and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell make every transition sound smooth and logical without calling attention to themselves. Like their bandmates, they are committed to making music that sings and flows, that’s full of mystery and beauty, that sounds like the moment in which it was created. — Ed Hazell

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