Nearly a decade after its concert appearance in Paris, this all-star quintet has finally made it onto record. The Dreyfus Night, first convened in Paris in 1993, was in its second reincarnation, and the highlight of five gluttonous hours of music was a star-studded band pulled together by label head Francis Dreyfus. The much-hyped group included three Miles Davis alumni alongside guitarist Bireli Lagrene and pianist Michel Petrucciani.
As one might expect from the fusioneering cast, the performance carries unmistakable echoes from Chick Corea (drummer Lenny White) and Miles Davis (saxophonist Kenny Garrett and bassist Marcus Miller). But the presence of Lagrene and Petrucciani helps round out a jazzier sound, and that quite honestly is exactly what the program needs. The three extended tunes, clocking in around seventeen minutes apiece, all share a sense of joy and mutual exploration.
Marcus Miller plays a dominant role in the proceedings, contributing two of three compositions and some very active, forward playing. "Tutu," penned in honor of the Nobel Prize-winning Bishop, comes from Miles' absolutely disastrous record of the same name. Fortunately this funky resurrection comes brightly alive, due in large part to a soaring alto solo by Kenny Garrett, which rises to a searing climax and eventually comes back down to earth, only to yield to a virtuosic blues-tinged effort by Lagrene. Miller pops and bounces all the way through.
The group pauses for breath duing Miller's pensive piece "The King Is Gone." As the tune progresses, Miller and Petrucciani introduce more and more swing until the pulse simply vibrates with understated energy. Everyone solos. As the pianist's "Looking Up" breaks through at the end, the quintet heads into an upbeat, percolating samba. This tune, the real highlight of the record, takes maximum advantage of the rhythm section's interlaced pulse: White and Miller are equally percussive, and it's actually a bit of a challenge to sort them out. (That's not a reflection of the sound quality, which is amazingly clear and balanced throughout.)
While listeners attuned to any of these individual players will find some very inspired playingespecially from Lagrenethe real strength of the recording lies in their ability to work together as a unit through a range of moods and styles. Whatever your expectations, the combination works quite well.
Personnel: Marcus Miller: electric bass; Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone; Michel Petrucciani: piano;
Bireli Lagrene: electric
guitar; Lenny White: drums.