Scopes’ co-leaders, bassist Tom Berkmann and drummer Mathias Ruppnig, are an indivisible rhythm section, while pianist Tony Tixier emits one upward current after another to support the flights of alto saxophonist Ben Van Gelder. When the latter bows to Tixier’s synthesizer, the effect is akin to splicing an animated scene into a live-action film. Tixier takes that eagle-eyed vision and runs with it, traversing all manner of terrain with a free and easy step. The mood is smooth, yet barbed enough to find purchase in some unexpected places.

“Aquaponies” is a calm forest through which Van Gelder’s trail of melodic breadcrumbs mark the promise of return. Ruppnig gives the scene a 3D quality it might not otherwise have, as does Berkmann on “Balance.” So much of what follows, be it the vistas of “Whistle” or the gesture of farewell that is “Mode,” is infused with a refreshing collectivity. That said, Tixier deserves credit as the band’s central nervous system. Whether priming the canvas of “Alter Ego” or threading the needle of “Nostalgia,” he brings just the right amount of color to monochromatic landscapes-—and vice versa. The result is a sound that, given some time to age, wouldn’t be out of place on ECM.

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