Toine Thys tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone – Karl Jannuska drums – Sam Yahel Hammond organ – Hervé Samb guitar
In between projects and musical collaborations in Europe and Africa, Brussels saxophonist Toine Thys recorded his third album as a trio, ‘The Optimist’, in New York with some major names from Jazz and African music.
Desertions, snowstorms, cancelled flights, fires and calendar issues; everything seemed to go against the creation of this new album. With unbeatable energy and optimism in the face of all the trials, Toine Thys finally managed to bring these magnificent musicians together in a New York studio to record this album.
Two great musicians with whom the saxophonist often plays are there: the Franco-Senegalese guitarist Hervé Samb (Salif Keita, Lisa Simone, David Murray, Youssoun Dour) on electric and acoustic guitars and the Canadian drummer Karl Jannuska (Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Mark Turner, Baptiste Trotignon).
Enthusiastic and intrigued by the music and mix of personalities in this group, the American organist Sam Yahel, sparring partner of Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Norah Jones and Maceo Parker, joined the team and stepped into the repertoire with brio.
The trio turns on the axis provided by Thys’ Hammond organ and music. The compositions, rooted in groove, are influenced by soul and African music. The playing of Hervé Samb on several of the tracks brings the music even further, either through his hypnotic accompaniment (check the acoustic guitar on the album’s first track, ‘Lullaby of Goun¬ghin’), or his intoxicating solos. At times, the stronger tracks make room for some mystery and gentleness, carried by Thys’ bass clarinet and the warmth of Sam Yahel’s gospel feel.
Thys’ compositions evoke trips in West Africa (Lullabye of Gounghin and The Optimist), late nights after the Carnival celebrations in Binche (Masks & Feathers), the loss of his friend and singer Wassyl Slipack in Ukraine (Cosmic Wassyl) or are dedicated to hotheads.