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Pulcinella: Bestiole (2014)

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Pulcinella: Bestiole How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Pulcinella shares its name with a character from the Commedia dell'Arte—he figures rather charmingly on the band's website—and declares its mix of jazz, rock, tango and Baltic traditions to be "delocalised jazz." Presumably this refers to the music's international identity—no single place can lay claim to the Pulcinella sound. Bestiole, Pulcinella's third album since saxophonist Ferdinand Doumerc brought it together in Toulouse in 2004, showcases a quartet whose breadth of musical vision moves from fast, energetic, dance rhythms to gentle, melancholy, ballads.

Pulcinella's combination of straightforward and engaging melodies, infectious rhythms and joyous performance shines through on tunes such as the snappily-titled "Garez Vous Chez Vous Dans l'allée Vous Emmerdez Tout le Monde"—a manic slice of Gallic swing. Flying insects feature on two more energetic tunes—the stop/start jaggedness of "Raksi Chaparak (la Danse du Papillon)"; with Doumerc's flute evoking the darting dance of the butterfly; and the insistent flight of "Le Moustique Ambitieux."

There's a sweeter and more reflective side to the Pulcinella songbook. With its repetitive hook, gentle melody and warm, comforting, mix of mandolin (from guest musician Patrick Vaillant, trombone (courtesy of another guest, Daniel Casimir), glockenspiel and metallophone, "Envoûtement" sounds as if it was made for an ambitious musical box. "Sur le Pavé la Lune," written by Vaillant, has a similar sound but its eerie atmosphere is unsettlingly dramatic. "Morphée" features Jean-Marc Serpin's bass on its opening chorus, the stately melody at first encouraging the sleep suggested by the title before moving into a dreamlike, possibly nightmarish, scenario. The flowing 6/8 meter of "Christiania" gives the tune a graceful feel, at once lovely and rather sad.

Across the eleven tunes on Bestiole Pulcinella reveals itself to be a band with the power to move its listeners—to happy abandon and to quiet reflection. Neither is easy, to do both so well is a testament to Pulcinella's talents.


Track Listing: Garez Vous Chez Vous Dans l'allée Vous Emmerdez Tout le Monde; Ni Vu Ni Connu; Christiania; Sur le Pavé la Lune; Morphée; Raksi Chaparak (la Danse du Papillon); Le Moustique Ambitieux; Tu Parles Trop; Nager; La Tarantelle; Envoûtement.

Personnel: Ferdinand Doumerc: saxophones, flute (6), metallophone (7); Florian Demonsant: accordion, kaval (6, 11); Jean-Marc Serpin: bass, metallophone (11); Frédéric Cavallin: drums, metallophone (5), glockenspiel (10, 11); Patrick Vaillant: mandolin (4, 8, 11); Daniel Casimir: trombone (4, 8, 11).

Record Label: ENJA - Yellowbird

Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde


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