First, François Théberge: the man who likes to bring a twist to his tale. Second, the musicians: players who can vision the craft of the leader and augment it with their approach. Third, the instruments: brass and some unusual wind instruments that give the music a distinctive air. Fourth, the title: Elenar, a play on L and R for line and rhythm, which gives one the sense of direction, abetted by the fine balance struck between structure and freedom.
Line and rhythm form the base from which Théberge takes off, but he also paints his music in rich hues and uses change of mood and pace effectively. When line and rhythm emerge on “Elenar,” the former is set up by Paul Imm on the bass before the horns come in and take rhythm into an odd meter. The juxtaposition lets the saxophone curl notes before the bass clarinet and flugelhorn glide in and smoothen the skein. Before they are done, Alain Jean-Marie grooves into both parameters on the piano, his left hand punctuating the chords for the traipsing ministrations of his right.
There may be “Less Sphere” on the charts but there is a deep, strong groove on this tune. It bops along mighty fine, the swath cut on the tenor before the other horns come in and filter the innate passion of the song. A funky whorl greets “Chicane” and then the ensemble closes in, weaving the texture with an ornate pace that is consummate grace.
Théberge intersperses the longer tracks with short tunes that even in the minute of their existence cast an indelible die. A fine album, by any means.