My review of Nicolas Masson's new quartet date for ECM, Travelers, today at All About Jazz.

Following two recordings for ECM Records as a member of the cooperative Third Reel (including the trio's self-titled 2013 debut), reed multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Masson strikes out on his own with Travelers, his first album as a leader for the label.

Third Reel's Swiss/Italian lineup of reeds, guitar (Roberto Pianca) and drums (Emanuele Maniscalco), along with its emphasis on collaboration and interaction over individual focus and overt virtuosity, has rendered the trio the torch bearer for the late Paul Motian's trio with guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano, which existed for more than 25 years until the drummer's passing in 2011. And Third Reel may have come first chronologically, when it came to releasing its music on ECM, but the quartet heard on Travelers is, in fact, celebrating ten years together this year, though the group has released but one previous recording, Thirty Six Ghosts (Clean Feed, 2009), under the name Nicolas Masson Parallels.

Beyond those familiar with Third Reel and the trio's 2015 follow-up Many More Days, or those fortunate enough to have caught the trio in performance (including a wonderful set at the 2013 Enjoy Jazz Festival in Heidelberg, Germany), two members of Masson's quartet on Travelers will also be known to fans of ECM's releases from the past decade.

After releasing two trio recordings in 2004 and 2007--the second, Ailleurs (hatOLOGY), representing the start of his longstanding relationship with bassist Patrice Moret, who is also a member of Masson's quartet--pianist Colin Vallon moved to ECM for 2011's sublime Rruga, and has remained with the label ever since. In addition to releasing two additional trio albums, both Vallon and Moret can be heard on Albanian singer Elina Duni's two ECM dates, beginning with 2012's Matane Malit. While two very different projects, a similar attention to space, detail and motif-driven improvisation (not to mention the increased chemistry shared by the Swiss pianist and bassist) have distinguished Vallon and Moret, irrespective of the context in which they find themselves.

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