I am thinking of the responsibilities of an accomplished improviser. An inborn ability of handling an infinitude of acoustic circumstances to synthesize the “feel of the instantaneous” while still respecting a series of norms; social norms, if you will. The necessity of keeping the ego in check; sensibly understanding when restraint is preferable to emphasis; and, in that regard, the development of a high-yielding intercommunication with equally gifted performers. To all of the above, add the obvious need of involving an eager audience in what’s being expressed; or, in the worst case scenario (not infrequent in large-scale jazz festivals), of having to oppose — when not conform — a potentially enriching joint sonority to a gathering of distracted, and frequently noisy people.

Conversely, the inquisitive listener looks for a mix of sudden openings, dramatic suspensions of disbelief and enlightening confirmations, all of this possibly occurring beyond any conventional “expectation”. Simon Nabatov, Barry Guy and Gerry Hemingway — respectively piano, double bass and drums, for those born today — are among the men for the job when it comes to that. Luminous — recorded in 2015 at Cologne’s Loft — comprises over 77 minutes of skillful interaction. It is, purely and simply, an album for connoisseurs; at the same time, its variable intricacy never translates into difficulty for the sake of it. These gentlemen seriously mean every note they emit, turning creative clairvoyance into a sonic concreteness which is both poetic and clear-sighted.

The music’s extemporaneous traits are defined by a common lack of trust for standardized “freedom” and unfruitful presuppositions. A detailed analysis of the interstices between quietness and talkativeness can be followed by a turbulent outburst; a single instrumentalist may build a little castle of sand for a few instants, only to become one with the foam of his comrades’ dynamizing ripples a minute later. The moments where “tranquillity” rhymes with “conformity” are rare, the musicians privileging paths of untainted intuition amidst constantly shifting, and often severely atonal contrapuntal volumes. This notwithstanding, at any given moment they stop on a particular pitch, reiterate a fragment of phrase, or produce whispering overtones to confirm their position in the improvisational topography. Either collectively, or by glancing at each other while contemplating on the instrument, they systematically manage to reach the unstated destination.